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107 min.
Release Date

Enchanted features the Disney Corporation poking fun at itself, or at least its animated features of yesteryear, and contemporizes the classical cartoon princess for the modern setting. In doing so, it cheapens its own classics, but acknowledges some true enough absurdities about fairy tale storytelling.

We begin with roughly 15-minutes of 2-D animation, in the style Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves epitomized. Lonely Giselle (Amy Adams) is a combination of several iconic princesses—she dreams for her handsome Prince Edward (James Marsden), with whom she shares true love at first sight, to rescue and eventually marry her. But Edward’s evil stepmother Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon) wants to keep her throne, so she tries to eliminate Giselle with a poison apple. Sounds familiar, right? Instead, Narissa throws Giselle into a well, wherein she falls until arriving in the 3-D version of modern-day New York City. Writer Bill Kelly handled similar territory (sans cartoon) with his script for Blast from the Past, where a protagonist from one world faces the harsh reality in another.

And when I say 3-D, I don’t imply that audiences must endure silly paper spectacles; I mean live-action, which for moviegoers remains 2-D, but for Giselle it does not. Take, for instance, the cartoon animals. As cartoons, bunnies bounce with a pronounced springing boingboing, skunks remind us of Bambi’s Flower, and the birdies are expert seamstresses comparable to those in Cinderella. Giselle’s loyal chipmunk friend Pip has a talkative Disney animal voice in cartoon form; in live-action, Pip remains animated, but by more realistic CGI, and his voice reduced to squeaks. And then there are the CGI rats, flies, and cockroaches that replace the cute, cartoon furballs—they answer to Giselle’s musical calls for help. (If only more vermin would answer to melodic hails, perhaps we could sing them into disposing of themselves.)

Faced with our harsh reality, Giselle is slapped with the idea that love doesn’t last happily ever after. So it’s no surprise that she meets Robert (the bland Patrick Dempsey) and his daughter Morgan (Rachel Covey). Robert is a divorce attorney whose wife left him; his pessimistic outlook on love is the antithesis of Giselle’s. Despite their differences, they fall for each other, even if it seems awkward for us that Robert loves a woman who acts like an eight-year-old girl.

Broken hearts are found everywhere, as Robert’s current girlfriend Nancy (Broadway star Idina Menzel) and Prince Edward suddenly realize that they’re not wanted. Much of the movie deals with the harsh reality of romance, as opposed to magic and sorcery. Later on, however, the evil queen arrives in live-action to muck things up, taking us back to traditional fairy tales, and ending the satire. Thus ends the fish-out-of-water story for, I suppose, a minor requirement to the central conflict. And Sarandon does a fine job, under a foot of makeup, disappearing into her villainess role, even if her too-delicate voice does not.

Amy Adams looks the part of a cartoon princess, with her narrow nose, pointed chin, and chirpy voice. Her exaggerated mannerisms are so perfectly emphasized that we believe she’s come from a fairy tale universe. Notice the glint in her eyes, which gives her a look as if she’s off somewhere frolicking. The same goes for Marsden, whose chiseled jaw and massive nostrils embody the blank Disney prince stereotype we’ve grown accustomed to. Their behavior and dialogue never allow their presence in the real world to feel ordinary, rather always like fleshed-out cartoons, which is the intended effect and never ceases being funny. Much of this movie does not work, but what works extraordinarily well are the hilarious, committed performances by Adams and Marsden, who may as well be cartoons made real.

Songwriter Alan Menken worked on Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, and a number of other Disney classics. He brings his ironic lyrics to Enchanted, which, in a shy way, help to point out why breaking into song usually only works in cartoons, unless you’re Gene Kelly. Enchanted’s lampooning of Disney animation finishes up in the third act, when the story falters and instead relies on clichés, becoming as sappy as sappy gets. I only wish the satire could have maintained itself enough to avoid the compulsory fairy tale battle and happy ending. That said, the movie offers enough laughs and heart that it’s impossible not to recommend for fans of either Disney animation or romantic comedies.

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