Mark Reviews Movies

ENCHANTED

3 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Kevin Lima

Cast: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, Timothy Spall, Rachel Covey, Idina Menzel, Susan Sarandon

MPAA Rating: PG (for some scary images and mild innuendo)

Running Time: 1:47

Release Date: 11/21/07


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Review by Mark Dujsik

There are probably a few actresses who could play the role of an animated Disney princess come to life, but let's be thankful it's Amy Adams who is playing it. There are a couple of things that could go terribly wrong with the part. First, even the slightest trace of irony, and the role falls apart. Second, it's a part that requires lots of syrup and goody-goody feelings and gumdrop wishes, and it could get annoying really fast. Adams plays it just right so that we believe her and don't want her to get whisked away to the land of long ago and far away ASAP. She is—not to use a titular pun (because I hate those), but to use the only appropriate word for her performance—enchanting in this role.

The film itself isn't quite at that level. Enchanted is cute, to be sure, and its opening act finds the studio amiably satirizing its cash-cow genre with the kind of precision only a group of insiders can achieve. It's quite a lot of fun, but just as the film hits its stride, it loosens its grip on the comedy and falls into the commonplace, becoming just another entry in the Disney princess genre but with homages to predecessors and in the real world instead of the animated one.

It's sadly hard to remember now the charm of traditional, 2-D animation, but here we start off in the world of Andalasia, bright, cheery, and hand-drawn. The evil queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon) never wants to resign her throne, and so for years, she makes sure her stepson Prince Edward (James Marsden) never has the opportunity to meet a maiden with whom he could fall in love. While Edward and his sidekick Nathaniel (Timothy Spall) are hunting a troll in the forest, he hears the song of fair maiden Giselle (Adams), who spends her day creating a fake prince to kiss with the help of her talking woodland friends.

The troll hears the song and runs toward it, and after a fight, Edward comes out victorious, taking Giselle back to the castle where they will marry the next day. Furious over the event, Narissa disguises herself as an old hag, tricks Giselle into approaching a "wishing well," and pushes the damsel into it, sending her to "a place where there are no happily-ever-afters." Giselle arrives in live-action form in that place: Manhattan. Shoved around by New Yorkers, Giselle tries to find her way back home.

She finds aid in the form of Robert (Patrick Dempsey), a single father and divorce lawyer, who tries to tell his daughter Morgan (Rachel Covey) that he's going to ask his girlfriend of five years Nancy (Idina Menzel) to marry him. His wife left him and Morgan long ago, and he's stopped believing the fairy tale version of love and doesn't want his daughter to have those expectations either. Robert finds Giselle trying to enter the castle-motif billboard for a casino. He takes her in after his daughter wonders aloud if Giselle might be a real princess, and Giselle, so happy with her good fortune, enlists the help of New York's native creatures—pigeons, rats, and roaches—to clean Robert's apartment while singing a happy tune.

Bill Kelly's script plays around with this mixture of the naïve and the real, and the quick punch line to that musical number is a riot. Edward has also entered the city, searching for his future princess and saving peasants from the monster that is public transportation. Nathaniel comes in on Narissa's orders and tells the befuddled construction crew working on the manhole that serves as the dimensional vortex that he's looking for a prince.

The highlight of the marriage of fantasy and reality is a musical number in Central Park. Giselle starts singing, street musicians begin to accompany her, and Robert wonders how these folks know this song he's never heard before. It's a sequence that adds credence to my theory that most people have a secret desire to participate in a spontaneous musical number. Things become more formulaic later on, as Robert and Giselle begin to feel an attraction and he tries to teach her that love isn't just meeting someone and marrying him the next day. There are some nice scenes between the two and, later, between Giselle and Morgan, who takes Giselle shopping and asks, "Is this what it's like to go shopping with your mom?"

Adams holds the whole thing together, taking what could be an insufferable role and making it appealing. She somehow pulls off a scene in which her character experiences anger for the first time, gets exhilarated over the feeling, becomes angry again, and then shifts to, well, horniness (Kids won't get it, but it's there). It all leads to a climactic fight with Narissa (who, alas, points out all of the ironies) and her dragon form in the real world that pays homage to Beauty and the Beast, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and, oddly, King Kong.

While the buildup and the climax don't quite live up to Enchanted's setup, this is still a pleasant experience that plays around with a tried and true formula. It's so tried and so true, though, that even when trying to poke it in the ribs, the film can't help but embrace it.

Copyright © 2007 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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