It had to have
been hard resisting the urge to wink at Enchanted.
These days, fairy tale characters know perfectly well that
they're in a fairy tale, right? After Shrek taught our children
three lessons in post-modernism, Enchanted should
only follow suit. Instead, director Kevin Lima plays the
material straightforwardly and with great sincerity, giving
us a new fairy tale that's still knowing but that restores
magic -- and innocence -- to the genre.
Giselle (Amy Adams) does seem to be aware of fairy tale
conventions. Alone in a woodland cottage, she sings merry
tunes and enlists her forest friends to help her build a
model of the handsome prince she saw once upon a dream.
Of course, he
can't be too far away, and Lima packs all the standard elements
of happily ever after into a wild fun six or seven minutes.
One neat twist in writer Bill Kelly's script: Prince Edward
(James Marsden) has the evil step-mother, the magnificent
maleficent Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon).
from many past Disney villains, Narissa settles on the first
and best of wicked queens by becoming an old crone. At first,
though, a poison apple seems too much effort, and she coaxes
the about-to-be-married Giselle to a wishing well. (Any
bets on whether Disneyland's wishing well will get a re-theming
With one push,
Giselle falls into New York City. Times Square can almost
compete with the magic of her homeland of Andalasia, at
least for a moment. Then reality sets in, and if you let
them, Giselle's travails might remind you of how simple
and powerful a kind word can be.
That kind word
involves meeting divorce attorney Robert (Patrick Dempsey)
and his young daughter Morgan (Rachel Covey). While he tries
to accept that Giselle has stepped out of a fairy tale,
she tries to convince him that love can be more wonderful
than his broken heart believes.
As one teen
audience member said after the screening, "it was so cheesy
and …and …it was great!" Lima isn't afraid of cheese, but
he also doesn't pile it on. Subtly weaving in references
to other Disney movies, he's about recapturing that childlike
belief that dreams do come true, while tempering it with
the realization that life has to have its pain, too.
work, though, without Adams. This woman becomes a star in
Enchanted. Sincere and luminous, she never lets us
think she thinks there's a joke here. From Giselle bursting
into tears when she discovers the concept of divorce to
the moment she realizes her true love may not be who she
thought, Adams makes a simple character into a living, breathing
complex human being.
And then, under
Lima's direction, she leads New Yorkers into the most magnificent
musical number in a Disney movie since The Little Mermaid's
Sebastian extolled life "Under the Sea." For four minutes,
even the most die-hard anti-musical person has to get swept
up in it, pure joy captured on screen.
Some might complain
about the Disneyfication of New York, but Enchanted
makes a great case for it.
Let me be fair,
though, because it's not all about Adams. If, like Woody
Allen, you've always found yourself more attracted to the
evil stepmothers, then you will find your apotheosis in
Sarandon. Likewise, Marsden seems born to play a handsome
prince - though the plot follows the predictable path for
Marsden; there's always some more interesting "other guy"
competing with him, whether mutant, super or just simply
Two real flaws,
too, though not enough to burst the shiny bubble of this
film. Lima and Kelly rush the ending, with Lima awkwardly
staging a final confrontation with Narissa that promises
a lot and delivers very little. Though the director pays
amazing tribute to past Disney princesses - Jodi Benson
(Ariel), Paige O'Hara (Belle) and Judy Kuhn (Pocahontas)
all have cameos - he wastes the great Idina Menzel as the
woman who would become stepmother. She gets a few scenes
to really act, conveying dawning heartbreak in the world's
only 4/4 waltz, but she starred in Wicked and RENT,
for gosh sakes. Let this woman sing!
she sings the closing song to Beowulf, but not even
a snatch of a song here.)
A great movie
carries you past the flaws, and so does Enchanted.
There's a new princess in town, and she's going to make
it safe for us to be kids again.