Review: Enchanted

In case you haven’t noticed, it has been a while since Disney Studios has had a hit movie. Other animation studios like Pixar Animation (which Disney acquired a few years ago) have been running rings around Disney, much to the disgruntlement of Disney stockholders. Enchanted, now playing everywhere is Disney’s latest attempt to prove it has its mojo back. The result is this very satisfying but not totally enchanting mixture of animation, CGI and live action.

Reviews for the movie have been solidly positive. Based on a 3:20 p.m. showing over the holiday weekend, which was nearly packed, Enchanted has enchanted the public as well. Disney shareholders can now breathe a little easier. It is hard to say if Enchanted marks the revitalization of Disney Studios or whether it is a one-time wonder but its success must be taken as an encouraging sign to both shareholders and diehard Disney fans.

If you are reading this you probably know the plot. If not, here is a brief summary. Giselle is an animated princess waiting in her home in the woods for her Prince Charming (well, Prince Edward in her case) to find her and marry her. Of course if Prince Edward marries someone, his evil stepmother Queen Narissa (played by Susan Sarandon) gets demoted, so Queen Narissa pulls out all stops to ensure this does not happen. Fate of course intervenes; the Prince finds the Princess, they fall instantly in love and of course plan to get married the next day. As Giselle enters the castle the Queen takes the form of an old lady who manages to waylay her. She sends her to a place where she will not only not be a threat, but where life is not like in fairy tales. In short she ends up coming out of a manhole in the middle of Times Square. As you might expect this is where animation reverts to live action.

It is too bad that Giselle (who is wonderfully played by Amy Adams) didn’t pop out of a manhole cover in Greenwich Village. She might have felt more at home in her princess costume there. Instead the hopelessly naïve Giselle is left to appeal to the kindness of New York City strangers. She eventually encounters Robert, a high priced divorce attorney (Patrick Dempsey) whose cute six-year-old girl Morgan (Rachel Covey) latches on to Giselle as something like the mother she does not have. Prince Edward, who of course must rescue his true love, eventually shows up as does Pip, Giselle’s pet chipmunk. Queen Narissa eventually also sends her besotted aide Nathaniel to make sure Giselle is poisoned before Prince Edward can rescue her.

Giselle shows she is a real fairy princess and soon has New York City rats and cockroaches cleaning Robert’s apartment. She also pulls a Scarlett O’Hara and makes a new dress out of Robert’s curtains. Slowly, some of Giselle’s naiveté wears off as she adapts to our strange and harsh world. Along the way though movie buffs are treated to lovely songs by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz. We also get both subtle and overt parodies of classic movie moments, including a scene in Central Park right out of the opening of The Sound of Music, and an ending scene that clearly had King Kong in mind.

Overall Enchanted is good spirited fun with a few hilarious moments but with a generally predictable feel to it. Yet what Disney family movie is not predictable? So in the insular world of Disney films, Enchanted is somewhat daring. Amy Adams (currently 33) is dead on as a fairy tale princess although her age suggests Giselle must have been waiting for Prince Charming for quite a long time. This is a scientifically designed chick flick that is also filled with plentiful humor that delivers the goods. The women around me in the theater were definitely enraptured.

Perhaps it takes a male perspective to find some flaws in this movie. While Amy Adams is delightful, and James Marsden plays Prince Edward with a fine comedic style the movie still feels too formulaic. The various CGI animals, which I now take as a given, generally annoyed me. Perhaps the director worried that if he strayed too much from convention the movie would be less successful. From the stockholder’s perspective, he likely made the right call. Still, Enchanted is not the best movie in this genre I have seen this year. While you will enjoy and likely even delight in Enchanted, if you missed Stardust, which played in theaters this summer, you should rent it. In my opinion, Stardust is the better movie and delivered the real enchantment and delight that I was looking for. Mark me, Enchanted is a very well done movie that you will doubtless enjoy. Yet if Hollywood were going to award any movie for best-realized fairy tale, Stardust would definitely win the award. So if you are pressed for cash, Netflix Stardust and skip Enchanted. It will cost you less and you will enjoy it even more.

Enchanted gets 3.1 on my 4.0 scale.

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