Before The Princess and the Frog revisited the princess genre (with iffy results), Disney created Enchanted, a modern mish-mashing of classic fairy tales and contemporary cynicism. The animated beginning could easily have been a rejected idea from the Disney Renaissance, but the overtly saccharine telling is clearly meant to be a contrast for the rest of the film. Once Giselle actually gets to New York and its live-action acrimony, the real humor starts flowing from the disparity between her naiveté and our world’s unfriendliness.
While Edward is certainly not the perfect prince of Disney’s early films, Enchanted succeeds in its combination of opposites by being both realistic and idealistic. Based on Giselle’s first encounters with New Yorkers, she would be justified in considering it the least nice place on earth, but later on, as she explains to Robert the importance of affection, all of Central Park turns into a completely willing musical cast. This serves to accentuate how innocence and idealism can bring out the best in people, even when the world can seem so hostile at times. At the same time, Giselle’s introduction to the joys of the real world convince her these are preferable to the unsubstantial romance she had known before with Edward. That point, of course, doesn’t apply to everyone since Nancy, apparently fed up with the pitfalls of “real” relationships, obviously preferred the love-at-first-sight kind of courtship.
This is the film that hoisted Amy Adams to stardom, at least for me, and continues to be the role in which I always envision her, one of innocence. Her voice, face, and acting all lend themselves to her upright damsel persona. Roles that have allowed for this image, such as in Doubt or Night at the Museum 2, play to her strengths, while films where she attempts to act the “bad girl,” such as the recent American Hustle, just don’t seem to fit her. Patrick Dempsey took a break from Grey’s Anatomy to play single father Robert, who may be a pessimist but has obvious appeal for Nancy and Giselle. James Marsden portrays Prince Edward as an entertaining buffoon, but I do wish he had more to contribute to the plot. Susan Sarandon and Timothy Spall look like they’re enjoying their hammy villainous roles as Queen Narissa and bumbling servant Nathaniel. Lastly, I had no idea who Broadway star Idina Menzel (Nancy) was at the time, but after hearing her in Frozen, it’s a shame she didn’t get a chance to sing in this film: her one song with Marsden was cut.
The choreography and songs, written by winning duo Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, are outstanding, a welcome return to the good old days of both Disney excellence and classic musicals. The show-stopping “That’s How You Know” is particularly awesome, but the fact that all three of its Oscar-nominated songs lost (not unlike the previous year’s Dreamgirls) is a crying shame.
The film isn’t all good, of course. Certain scenes toward the end vacillate between an homage and a ripoff of Disney classics, and some scenes involving Pip the chipmunk, such as his defecation and Nathaniel’s cruelty toward him, were unnecessary. Still, Enchanted brings Disney’s animation to life in a fresh and funny way that my family watches whenever it’s on TV. It’s enchanting.
Best line: (a child-stressed mother, played by Judy Kuhn from Pocahontas, when she sees “Prince Charming” Edward) “You’re too late.”Artistry: 6 Characters/Actors: 8 Entertainment: 8 Visual Effects: 9 Originality: 6 Watchability: 9 TOTAL: 46 out of 60
Next: #162 – Rain Man
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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