Movie Review: Enchanted
By Matthew Huntley
November 30, 2007
You can really only say good things about Enchanted. It's sweet, clean and cute, and it's able to be these things without getting on your nerves. The movie is pure entertainment, a high-concept diversion that dutifully takes its audience away for two hours, fortunately without sacrificing charm, wit or credibility. We may know exactly where it's taking us, but the journey towards its destination keeps us smiling.
The movie centers on the idea of a fairy tale world colliding with the real world. It's part satire, part comedy, part fantasy-romance. In a way, I'm impressed Disney was so willing to mock itself by lampooning its own bread and butter, especially when the studio has a reputation for taking so much pride in its library of animated features.
Enchanted starts off like the best of them: a fairy tale book opens and introduces us to Andalasia, an animated world intentionally made fluffier and more saccharine than the same kind found in Snow White and Cinderella. Here there lives a red-headed maiden named Giselle, who joyfully sings with her forest animal friends about magical things like true love's kiss.
When an ogre suddenly attacks Giselle's tree house, the dashing Prince Edward comes to the rescue, saves Giselle, and within seconds, proposes marriage. Oh, if only life was so easy.
But Edward's evil stepmother, Queen Narissa, won't allow her kingdom to be taken away by her son's new bride. She transforms herself into an old woman and pushes Giselle down a magic well, the other end of which leads to a place where there are "no happily ever afters" - that is, the real world New York City.
Giselle (Amy Adams) is now a real human being and is shocked when this strange new world fails to greet her with the same warmth and liking as her friends in Andalasia. Granted, the New York City depicted in Enchanted is only dark, mean and cold by Disney standards, but the people here still push, yell, honk, steal and offer no help to strangers, especially those in big white wedding dresses who climb out of sewer holes.
The only kindness Giselle finds comes from a lawyer named Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and his daughter Morgan (Rachel Covey). Morgan spots the wandering Giselle trying to enter an artificial castle and convinces her dad to put the nice lady up for the night. Robert thinks Giselle is a wee bit peculiar, but sees she's basically harmless. Of course, Robert is a widower and he begins to develop feelings for Giselle despite his plans to marry his girlfriend Nancy (Idina Menzel).
Meanwhile, Prince Edward (James Marsden) arrives in New York to find his lost bride-to-be. He's accompanied by his sidekick Nathaniel (Timothy Spall) and a punchy little chipmunk named Pip. Poor Pip was used to speaking in Andalasia, be now he must now resort to gesticulation to get his points across. Nathaniel, who's secretly in love with Queen Narissa, does what he can to sabotage Edward and Giselle's meeting, even trying the old poisoned apple routine.
You can pretty much tell where Enchanted is headed, especially if you're wise to Disney classics like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or Sleeping Beauty. This movie even provides its own fire-breathing dragon and spontaneous song and dance numbers.
But Enchanted works best when it recognizes the frivolity of Disney fairy tales and simultaneously pays heed to them, all with a cheerful sense of irony. Robert educates Giselle on subjects like dating, death and anger, concepts that are unheard of in Andalasia. It was refreshing to see she was actually open to them instead being scared and anxious.
At the same time, Giselle's fairy tale powers continue to work in New York City. She can still call out to her animal friends (only instead of deer, blue birds and rabbits, the city offers pigeons, rats and roaches) and even break into song and dance on the spot. The movie's most inspired scene takes place in Central Park when Giselle randomly sings "That's How You Know" and everyone around her joins in.
What's surprising about Bill Kelly's screenplay is that it allows Giselle to look sane even outside her element, suggesting "crazy" people like her can fit right into our world. The filmmakers refuse to accept either place in Enchanted - New York City or Andalasia - as the one and only "reality." After all, isn't reality relative to everyone living in it, be they three-dimensional humans or two-dimensional cartoons?
Enchanted isn't the first Hollywood production to show a movie world mixed with the real world. There was Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), John McTiernan's Last Action Hero (1993) and Wes Craven's Scream (1996). All these films deconstruct movie worlds by placing them side by side with our own, typically with a fish-out-of-water formula.
After watching Amy Adams, I realized she may have been the only actress to play Giselle. Like all the classic Disney princesses, Adams possesses a button nose, pale skin and big blue eyes, which add to her cheery innocence. The same goes for James Marsden, who's pitch perfect as the egotistical yet gentlemanly Prince Edward. We readily accept Adams and Marsden as fairy tale characters not only because of their looks but also because of their gleeful dispositions. Dempsey is also charming as Robert, who goes along with Giselle's naiveté out of the kindness of his heart.
I'm not sure Enchanted could have gone wrong, not with its familiar concept, Disney brand name and broad ideas. Even so, director Kevin Lima approaches it with a high and fresh enthusiasm, and we gratefully allow the movie to steal us away.