Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Enchanted


Mock Disney

When I first saw the trailer for Disney’s Enchanted, I was only mildly amused. While animated Disney material is more than ripe for skewering, how good could a parody be coming from inside the Mouse itself? The idea of plopping animated characters (and their equally animated sensibilities) in the real world is a good one, but could it be any good as a non-satire? It’s true that Enchanted doesn’t have real teeth, but what is does have works very well, largely due to a good script and a wonderful performance by lead Amy Adams.

Disney cartoon character Giselle (Amy Adams) is looking to marry the man who can give her “true love’s kiss”. With the support of all of her animal friends, she awaits the magical moment that her dream comes true. When stalwart Prince Edward (James Marsden) hears her song, they unite and arrange to get married the next day. Evil Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon) has other plans, however, and sends Giselle plummeting toward a land where “no one lives happily ever after”--the real New York City. Once there, Giselle befriends kind divorce attorney Robert Phillip (Patrick Dempsey), who takes her in despite her odd demeanor. With Prince Edward and the Queen’s stooge Nathaniel (Timothy Spall) in hot pursuit, will true ever get its due?

Amy Adams (Fast Track) is absolutely splendid here, and she jumps into the role with both feet, bringing an energy and wide-eyed enthusiasm that is infectious and charming. She owns this movie, and I was constantly amazed at her daffily intense performance. The other cartoon characters come to life are all good--but she darts about lilting about on feet of air as if she really did come from a Disney cartoon. It’s perfectly convincing, and she really does deserve an Oscar nomination (which would be her second) for the magic she creates here.

I also really liked the fact that the Patrick Dempsey character is not just a one-dimensional love interest thrown in because the story needs one. The script (by Bill Kelly) really pays attention to him, giving him development, his own comic situations that pay off, and real substance. Dempsey (Freedom Writers) lives up to this, and he’s easy to relate to, even in this extraordinary situation. I loved his reactions when he realizes he’s trapped in a musical number. Very funny.

And the whole movie is very funny. It takes advantage of Disney by having access to great animators (giving the setup very good 2D art), copyrighted material (listen for the Muzak playing in Dempsey’s office), and the right to mimic original characters (Narissa looks a lot like Malificent from Sleeping Beauty). The smart script also has a lot of fun with various scenarios, such as when Giselle assumes everyone is kind, and a valiant Prince who is always swinging his sword in every New Yorker’s face.

If the movie stumbles, it’s in the climax that the filmmakers probably felt they had to do, no matter what. It features a lot of action, and a big CGI monster, which doesn’t work at the level the rest of the film does. It’s big and loud, and just not as funny as what preceded it. Comedy of this magnitude rarely works (Ghostbusters is an exception), especially in a film where the small moments hit the laughs out of the park. The final ball would have been a great ending, but oh well. It was still kinda neat.

Enchanted is a fun movie, with Disney literally poking fun at itself and the medium that has endeared it to millions over the years. They have a good time (notice I didn’t say take shots) with musical numbers, talking animals, cloaked villains, and simple heroes. It’s melodrama to be sure, but it’s light hearted, silly, enjoyable and funny. Enchanted is what every family film wants to be, a great time for kids, with lots of asides that will make adults want to come back for another viewing. And Amy Adams.

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