I stopped watching Disney movies a long time ago. And I don’t mean the Bruckheimer or the Pixar films. I still see those. Though I missed Cars. No, what I’m talking about, are the Disney films with talking animals and fluffy songs. I stopped watching those, not because I outgrew them, but because they lost their charm. I missed Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and pretty much everything since which mainly consists of direct-to DVDs. Whatever charm they were missing they got it back in spades with Enchanted, and they really don’t even need a story, all they have to do is keep the camera trained on Amy Adams beatific face and there’s enough charm for 50 movies to come, and lucky for the audience that’s what the director has chosen to do. Her eyes are so big and full of life in this film that one can imagine her as one of those silent film bomb shells, innocent yet someone you can never stop dreaming about. And without the 100% commitment she gives to the role, the film would have been obnoxious as all get out. To be cute for a minute or two, or even a line of dialogue is a tough sell sometimes, but Adams keeps it going and keeps it fresh for two hours. So even parts of the script that could have been stagnant are alive. Slow down Phil, but what is the film about you ask?
The story entails one of my least favorite devices…bringing someone into the modern world who doesn’t belong there. It’s always the cop out storyline for a series with no legs left. Anyone remember Beastmaster 3 or He-Man: Masters of the Universe? Thought not. But so it goes, the film begins in a lush 2-D hand drawn world. I forgot how much more lovely a hand drawn world can be. And we zip into the story as James Marsden as the unintentionally vain Prince Edward who discovers his Princess, Giselle (Amy Adams), in the woods. After playing sour pusses in both the X-Men films and the last Superman film you can feel Marsden really letting go and enjoying himself. They are to be married almost immediately. But the Wicked Stepmother, Queen Narissa, Susan Sarandon who spends most of the film doing voice work for a Queen who also happens to be a witch, won’t stand for the marriage and pushes Giselle into a deep…really deep pit. The first 15 minutes of film whip by so quickly and slyly you miss the clever ideas that are setup that will soon spill forth and be smartly turned on their heads through the rest of the film.
The first shot we see of Giselle as a real person pretty much sold me on the rest of the film. It’s a surreal moment in which she sits on the underside of a manhole, the lights spilling through the tiny holes in the metal. There’s no gravity, it’s just a void and a doorway. It’s mesmerizing in its simplicity and use of camera positioning. We know her hair should be hanging the opposite direction, but it does not. There’s magic in the air, and it stays. The writer Billy Kelly and director Kevin Lima bring to life the real world and fantasy world in creative and enjoyable ways, including Giselle interacting with the animals of New York during a hilarious musical sequence. Giselle meets Robert Phillip (Patrick Dempsey), as a divorced man who handles divorces. Dempsey gives my favorite performance of his since Can’t Buy Me Love, and his daughter who yearns for a Mother. And there’s a potential other Mother in the picture. Needless to say sparks begin to kick up between Robert Phillip and Giselle but not before becoming friends and not before Giselle learns what a date is! And before Robert Phillip remembers what it’s like to not think so practically and learns to trust true love again. Can you guess that they end up thinking somewhere in the middle? It’s really great stuff. Hopefully a movie that will help young girls realize that love doesn’t always mean having a fantasy man sweep you off your feet, but it’s something that can grow and be nurtured, and be just as wonderful.
The colors of New York City are vibrant and the costumes accentuate the vibrancy. Production Design: Stuart Wurtzel, Art Direction: John Kasarda, Set Decoration: George DeTitta Jr, Costume Design: Mona May. These are the people that bring this world to such lush life, especially during an incredible musical sequence in Central Park that was almost too much to take in with all of the colors and wonderful choreography.
It’s only a matter of time before the Queen’s minion Nathaniel (Timothy Spall) who has fun learning not to hate himself, fouls everything up enough that the Queen feels like she has to come through and destroy the fun. I’m a huge fan of the dragon in Sleeping Beauty and unfortunately the moment the wicked Queen comes through the portal it feels like she gets declawed. There’s no more real menace, and when she becomes a dragon herself you feel that she resembles one of those little bookshelf dragons rather than a real breathing and frightening dragon. Remember the octopus lady from The Little Mermaid, she was scary! Instead they stick the Queen as Dragon with a bunch of silly self-referential dialogue not suited for Shrek 3. Why they felt the need to force the cleverness of the situation at that point I know not, because they did such a superb job of keeping it balanced up until then.
But small complaints. This film was a joy to watch and has sent Amy Adams to the top of my list of actors to keep track of.