By JANE WILSON, Special To The Bulletin | Published November 22, 2007
Disney’s latest offering, “Enchanted,” melds animation to live action to create a romantic tale that charms from beginning to end.
“Enchanted” begins as a standard Disney princess story. Giselle lives in a cottage in the forest of Andalasia, dreaming of the day she will meet her handsome prince and experience true love. Prince Edward, likewise, hopes to meet the girl of his dreams but is being distracted by his manservant Nathaniel, who is under orders from Edward’s evil stepmother, Queen Narcissa, to keep the young man hunting trolls. Narcissa does not want Edward to marry, because, once he does, she will be replaced on the throne and will no longer be the center of attention. Despite Nathaniel’s best efforts, Giselle and Edward meet, and, of course, fall immediately in love. Their road to “happily ever after” takes a detour, though, when the queen lures Giselle to a magic fountain and pushes her in.
Giselle emerges from the other side of the fountain through a Times Square manhole in New York City—a place, according to Narcissa, that knows nothing about “happily ever after”—and this is where the story really begins. Giselle meets Robert, a handsome lawyer who has been burned by love and is about to settle for a lukewarm relationship that will provide some stability for his young daughter. Of course, meeting the beautiful would-be princess causes some difficulties with those plans, and the rest of the movie follows how Giselle and the other animated characters fare once they enter the “real” world and try to return events back to normal.
Director Kevin Lima does a fine job switching from the animated world of Andalasia and the live action world of New York City. The concept of dropping Disney fantasy characters into “real” life is an interesting one, and the screenplay, by Bill Kelly, has a lot of fun with it. When the Andalasian characters first emerge into New York, they are overwhelmed by the crowds, and their sincerity and bravado makes a humorous contrast with the hurried impersonality they find on the streets of the city.
Although not a classic Disney tale, with a soundtrack by composer Alan Menken and lyricist Stephen Schwartz and top-rate production values, “Enchanted” deserves a place in the Disney pantheon. While the film makes a few good-natured jokes about the classic Disney fairy tale tropes, it never ridicules the fantasy. Giselle’s friendship with various cute woodland animals does not translate well in the real world when she summons the wildlife of the city to help her clean. The rats, pigeons and cockroaches that appear are not quite as appealing as the animated deer and bunnies, but they do a fine job with the mess, inspiring the funny “Happy Working Song,” a tribute to “Whistle While You Work.”
Throughout, although there are some twists to the traditional Disney fantasy, “Enchanted” is more of an homage than a parody. The essence of the Andalasian characters is never really affected by their experiences in the real world; instead, the New York characters learn from the animated ones that everyone needs to find the joy in life, that it’s better to be sincere than cynical, and that true love conquers all. Even though it’s the princess that slays the dragon, in true Disney fashion there is a happily-ever-after ending for all concerned.
Amy Adams is absolutely adorable as Giselle, her good nature and wide-eyed charm perfect for the role. Another standout is Susan Sarandon, perfectly evil and over the top as the wicked Narcissa. Patrick Dempsey as Robert and James Marsden as Edward are a trifle bland, but adequate, as the romantic interests, while Timothy Spall is interestingly oily as Nathaniel.
Perhaps the best performance of the film comes from an animated character. Pip the chipmunk, Giselle’s best friend in Andalasia, finds that he can no longer speak when he enters the real world. This, in addition to people’s natural aversion to rodents in the real world, creates several difficult situations for the animal. The CGI version of Pip’s attempts to communicate make for some of the funniest moments of the movie.
Filled with family-friendly fun, “Enchanted” is a romantic, crowd-pleasing treat for the holidays.
Jane Wilson, a local writer and movie enthusiast, holds a doctorate in English from the University of Georgia. She is a parishioner at St. Pius X Church, Conyers.