Enchanted

 


Robin Clifford 
Enchanted

Enchanted
Laura Clifford 
Giselle (Amy Adams) has everything a fairytale princess should when she meets handsome Prince Edward (James Marsden) and they instantly fall in love. They plan to marry the very next day but the prince’s evil stepmother, Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon), has other plans in “Enchanted.”

Robin:
Helmer Kevin Lima, working with the original script by Bill Kelly, takes traditional fairytale animation a la Snow White,” “Cinderella” and “Sleeping Beauty” and combines it with live action that represents a truly unique and enchanting romantic comedy. It is also a showcase for its stars, especially Amy Adams, and a genuine film for all ages.

Things start off in typical Disney animation form when we meet Giselle, a pretty innocent who believes in true love and has a magical influence, with her beautiful voice, over the woodland creatures. She knows that her love is out there somewhere and this belief is met when handsome Prince Edward sweeps her off her feet. They fall immediately in love and plans to wed are put in motion. But, Edward’s wicked step mom, fearing that the new princess would replace her, hatches a nefarious scheme to eliminate the threat to her throne.

Posing as an old crone, she dupes Giselle, on her wedding day, to make a wish in a magical well. As Giselle leans forward to make a wish – of course, to live happily ever after with her prince - the crone gives her a shove and the would be princess falls into the well and lands, in of all places, underneath a manhole cover in Manhattan. Now a stranger in a strange land, she wanders the mean streets in search of her home.

Giselle is definitely a fish out of water amid the hustle, bustle and noise of New York. Caught in the rain trying to get into a palace (in fact, a billboard) she is taken in by a young girl, Morgan (Rachel Covey), and her reluctant father, Robert (Patrick Dempsey). Dad just wants rid of the strange young woman but things get complicated when Prince Edward (no longer animated) arrives in the city with his manservant, Nathaniel (Timothy Spall), and Giselle’s best friend in the whole world, the chipmunk Pip, in tow. Unbeknownst to the prince, though, is the fact that Nathaniel is spying for the queen and has orders to give Giselle a poisoned apple.

Disney sticks to what it knows about fantasy filmmaking, using its classic animations to infuse the live action with the back-story that sets the stage for Giselle’s adventures in finding true love. But it is the getting there that provides the charm, making Enchanted” thoroughly entertaining and fun for all.

Amy Adams is pitch perfect as the pretty Giselle, both animated and live, giving her wide eyed innocence and wonder – and brains. James Marsden is proving to be a versatile actor and he inhabits Prince Edward with goofy charm and bravery – and he is funny! Patrick Dempsey has the usually thankless role as the comedy’s straight man but he is up to the task, giving Robert dimension and understanding. Timothy Spall is made for the role of Nathaniel and he succeeds in making the life action character feel animated. Susan Sarandon is merely okay as the composite bad guy character gleaned from the abovementioned classics.

The well-crafted combination of traditional 2D animation, sharp CGI, fantastical fun and solid storytelling make this an deserving entrant into the Disney pantheon of classic family entertainment. And, it should garner some awards attention at year’s end. There are songs galore that make this a big hit for the kids (not to mention the 2D and CGI animals) and intelligence of story that make it no chore for their parents. It is also has enough humor, wit and charm to be something that adults without children can go see - without embarrassment. I give it a B+.

Laura:
In animated Andalasia, Giselle (Amy Adams, "Junebug," "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby") has everything she needs to attract a Prince for True Love's Kiss - perfect beauty, a soprano singing voice and the friendship of woodland creatures including her best friend, chipmunk Pip.  But when Prince Edward (James Marsden, "X-Men: The Last Stand," "Hairspray") heeds her call and offers marriage, his mother, the evil Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon, "In the Valley of Elah"), is determined to keep her throne and plays upon the bride-to-be's good nature by pushing her down a wishing well.   Giselle is thus transported from her world of fairy tales to the harsh realities of real life midtown Manhattan where her sunny optimism will leave cynical New Yorkers surprised that they are "Enchanted."

Well, maybe not right away and maybe not *quite* everyone, but Disney's gloriously tongue-in-cheek parody of its own princess genre is notable for how it's G-rated heroine makes us realize how far a bit of innocence and optimism can uplift our outlook in today's untrusting world.  Amy Adams is pitch perfect bringing an amalgamation of Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cindarella to life and is utterly charming doing so.  She is Disney's best hope of a live action Oscar nomination since Johnny Depp sailed on to one in 2003.

In classic fish-out-water fashion, Giselle tries to apply her world view to New York City, beginning with her emergence from a Times Square manhole. And in classic New Yorker fashion, passers-by give the hoop-skirted belle barely a glance.  In short order, her tiara is stolen by a homeless man and she's doused by rainfall, but hope reigns supreme, especially when Giselle spies the 'Palace' she's been searching for (actually the billboard fronting of a run down casino).  That's where she meets NYC divorce attorney Robert (Patrick Dempsey, "Freedom Writers," TV's "Grey's Anatomy") as his young daughter Morgan (Rachel Covey, "Duane Hopwood"), recently denied the fairy tale book she'd asked for, spies a real live Princess.  Robert finds the act of a good Samaritan difficult to undo and before he knows it his curtains have been turned into frocks and his singing houseguest is cleaning house with an army of rats (and one small, gray mouse) and pigeons (in the film's most hilariously inspired scene - yes! helpful cockroaches clean the tub!).

Of course, all this domesticity is misconstrued by Robert's long time girlfriend Nancy (Idina Menzel, "Rent"), who is nonetheless wooed back by a disbelieving Robert with Giselle's advice.  And if he's surprised that works, imagine his dilemma when her real life Prince really does arrive, accompanied by a most 'animated' chipmunk.  But Giselle and her Prince are not the only ones to have traveled through that 'well-hole' - Edward's duplicitous assistant Nathaniel (Timothy Spall, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire") is in thrall of the queen, but when he fails to fell Giselle, the Queen herself makes an appearance - right in time for the Kings and Queens ball.

Director Kevin Lima , who has experience in both sides of Disney's film house with 1999's "Tarzan" and "102 Dalmatians," gets the balance of self-winking parody and real romantic comedy just right, with a riotous central song and dance number in Central Park that's a real winner.  Unfortunately, the film, which has been floating on whimsical imagination, is tugged a bit to ground with its last act.  Susan Sarandon's evil queen no longer has a need to dispatch Giselle by the time she appears, and her transformation into a giant dragon is all a bit too much CGI for an animated/live action film combination. Furthermore, Giselle and Robert's final scene high atop a NYC building feels all too stagebound.

Still, until then, the story is a winner, Adams is wonderful (as is Marsden, who understands how to work an oversized character - see "Hairspray"), and the smaller CGI-created creatures, particularly Pip, are delightful.  Songs by Alan Menken ("The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast") and Stephen Schwartz (Disney's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame") may not be instant classics, but they're perfectly placed within this film.

From its opening narration by Disney icon Julie Andrews ("Mary Poppins") to Narissa's final appearance, "Enchanted" will leave you so.

B+

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