The Number One Movie in America: Enchanted
By Sean Collier
October 8, 2021
There’s a very plausible alternate universe where perennial Oscar bridesmaid Amy Adams has a Best Actress trophy.
The 2007 live action (mostly) Disney hit was well received and popular, earning $127.8 million, good enough to rank as the 20th top-grossing movie of that year. It’s an impressive 93% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes; Roger Ebert called it a “heart-winning musical comedy that skips lightly and sprightly.” And much of that praise was heaped on Adams, who was certainly a known quantity — she had already been nominated once, for “Junebug” — but established herself as an effortlessly charming movie star with “Enchanted.”
Meanwhile, the pickings were unusually slim in the lead category that year (an aberration, as Best Actress is usually more competitive than its counterpart). Marion Cotillard went on to win the prize for a powerful turn as Edith Piaf in “La Vie en Rose,” but after that, it’s hard to imagine who was close to the trophy. Julie Christie was nominated for “Away From Her” in a pure lifetime-achievement nod with no chance of winning. Elliot Page was well reviewed in “Juno,” but not seen as a threat to steal the prize. Cate Blanchett was there, inexplicably, for the sequel “Elizabeth: The Golden Age.” And Laura Linney was firmly in happy-to-be-nominated territory for “Savages.”
Adams was nominated in the Comedy or Musical category at the Golden Globes; she lost to Cotillard, thanks to a somewhat-suspect classification of “La Vie en Rose” as a musical.
Had that bit of category shuffling not been committed, though, it’s feasible to wonder whether Cotillard would’ve had enough steam to mount a proper run at the Oscar; performances not in English have a famously tough path to the podium. Perhaps, then, Adams would’ve had room for a nomination — and, in a year without a powerhouse frontrunner, is it not feasible that a crowd-pleasing, widely-seen star turn would’ve scored the upset win?
Perhaps. There’s one thing in the way, though: “Enchanted” isn’t all that great.
It’s good, to be sure. It’s a feast of references and gentle self-deprecation for Disney fans, a pleasant if uninventive romcom and an altogether nice time at the movies. The songs aren’t particularly memorable (even though three of them somehow managed Oscar nominations), though they’re beautifully choreographed and staged. There’s relatively little wrong with “Enchanted,” and plenty to like about it.
Ultimately, though, it’s something of a half-measure. Disney would much more thoroughly deconstruct its own core mythology a half-dozen times over the next decade, with the likes of “Frozen,” “Brave” and even “Ralph Breaks the Internet” walking through a door that “Enchanted” only slightly opened. When it’s subversive, it’s hilarious — the whole “Happy Working Song” sequence is great — but the more it becomes just another Disney plot toward the end, the less interesting it becomes.
So, then, yes, there’s a world where “Enchanted” earned Amy Adams an Oscar, stopping her impressive 0-for-6 run at the Academy Awards before it had a chance to really get started. In that world, though, “Enchanted” would’ve been a slightly better movie.
Will she finally get her prize for next year’s belated sequel, “Disenchanted,” set to premiere exclusively on Disney+?
No. No she won’t.
“Enchanted” is the subject of the latest episode of The Number One Movie in America, a look back at past box-office champions. Each episode’s film is drawn at random from a list of every number-one movie since 1977. Please listen and subscribe!
Next time: Four mutants start an impressive streak.