Enchanted (7/10)

The trailers for this made it look like some awful desperate Disney attempt at making a movie without Pixar’s help by giving us the gimmicky premise of a classic Disney princess getting stuck in the real world, or more specifically, New York City. Going into this film, I had heard some good buzz about Amy Adams’s performance, but that was about it. I still wasn’t expecting anything particularly good, but boy was I pleasantly surprised. Enchanted is a film that is unbelievably cheesy in so many ways, but unlike some films that want to force sap down our throats, like Fred Claus (which, yes, I liked, but still), the sap in this one goes down like sweet honey.

 

The film opens with some breathtaking HANDDRAWN animation. Yes, that’s right, handdrawn, and it’s even more beautiful than the trailers promised. I sat there in a daze most of the time, simply marveling at how fantastically captivating it was. It recalls back to the days of Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, with a touch of modern flourish to it like Tarzan and Mulan. Hardly a speck of CGI is to be found in the first ten minutes of the film, and I was so in love with this cartoon world that it was almost painful to be thrust into the real one. How could anything in the real world equal the magical wonder of these cartoons?

 

Amy Adams, that’s what, who played Jim’s temporary girlfriend in “The Office.” In that role she showed that she could play a relatively annoying character while still managing to elicit audience sympathy, especially when Jim broke up with her. In Enchanted, as a princess-to-be, Giselle, who is rudely and literally pushed into the real world by a jealous and protective stepmother of the prince she was going to marry, she channels the spirit of the classic Disney princesses effortlessly, like Snow White, Aurora, and Cinderella. No trace of the more modern Belle, Jasmine, and Jane are to be found. Her charm and effusive joy in the role are positively bewitching, and she more than anything else in the entire affair perfectly exemplifies the film’s title. There were times when her naivety got on my nerves a little, but this was only towards the beginning and I quickly warmed up to her. Perhaps what’s most impressive, though, is that she believably takes her character from a state of complete ridiculous happiness to a world-weary cartoon character in just an hour and forty-seven minutes, and she does it subtly and believably, without a hint of typical live-action Disney corniness. The rest of the cast isn’t as good as she is, but they are still very entertaining.

 

Patrick Dempsey as her live-action love interest is actually the worst of the bunch – he spends a lot of the time confused and can’t come even close to living up to Adams’s performance. To his credit, though, he doesn’t try to overact to compensate, but instead simply lets Adams shine. James Marsden as Prince Edward is a perfect channeling of the brain-dead one-note Prince Charmings of the classic Disney, without being too obvious about it. Freddie Prinze Jr., in Scooby-Doos 1 & 2, went completely the obvious route, emphasizing Fred’s stupidity to the point of being ridiculously annoying and completely unlikeable. Marsden’s Edward, by contrast, is simply and incredibly endearingly affable and clueless, a man on a quest who won’t be stopped by mere reason. I couldn’t help but always thinking of Steve Coogan, though, who has shown he can play a tongue-in-cheek character like no other, like in Around the World in 80 Days and Night at the Museum. As as second choice, though, Marsden was a good one. Susan Sarandon as the evil stepmother is of course fantastic, but when he finally makes it into the real world it seems like she has a few too many layers of makeup on, and it really distracts from her character, as her animated side had barely any discernible makeup on at all. Timothy Spall, who plays Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter series, plays a wonderfully confused evil henchman to Sarandon’s stepmother. Idina Menzel, who starred in the Broadway musical Wicked, plays Dempsey’s girlfriend in a role that seems like it was created merely to cause problems and add a bit of a cutesy ending. She’s a pretty face, but little else.

 

The soundtrack is also worth mentioning, as it is composed by the legendary Alan Menken, who did the music for such Disney classics as Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, the Little Mermaid, and Hercules. Some of Enchanted’s songs are a little repetitive and self-consciously cheesy, but they fit the tone of the world so perfectly that it is a small complaint.

 

Enchanted is nothing revolutionary. The thing succumbs quite often to the conventions of the genre, and the only real difference between this flick and any other Disney animated princess feature is that some of it takes place in the real world. It’s not completely predictable, but it’s no Hitchcock, and that’s okay.One thing it does do, though, and in a surprisingly effective way, is all the while going along with all the cliches of a princess flick, it plays with them too, questioning what happily ever after actually means, and never really giving us solid answers. Sometimes its modern elements seemed fairly questionable, as in one scene where Dempsey walks in on Adams showering and a floating towel, carried by a couple of birds, is the only thing keeping her nude from from any kids in the audience. Why add a scene like this? Obviously, so Dempsey’s girlfriend could have something to be jealous of. Duh. But in a movie directed at kids, inclusion of this sort of material seems a bit out of place. Adams’s naivety in these situations, though, is positively endearing. In the end, Enchanted is a fun and better-than-expected Disney flick with some great performances, beautiful animation (and some pretty good CGI toward the end), and a story that succeeds in being cheesy and heartwarming without seemingly forcedly schmaltzy. It’s a movie any fan of the classic Disney princess films should see, and one that most will love.

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One Response to “Enchanted (7/10)”

  1. whatever happened to is it me, Freddie Prinze Jr., anyway?

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