Film review by: Witney Seibold


            I guess with the popularity of such “revisionist” fairy tales like “Shrek” and “Happily N’Ever After,” the old world of the Disney Animated Princess seems to have fallen by the wayside. Whether or not this os a good or bad thing can be argued. Either way, if a Disney animated feature like “Cinderella,” or even the beautiful “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” were released into today’s market of ADD-addled, Wii-playing, cellular-telephone-owning hipster tweeners, it would be laughed out of town. Disney, though, never one to give up anything easily, and always on the cutting-edge of marketing, has decided to play into the hands of the young cynics by making “Enchanted,” a simultaneous sendup and old-timey celebration of the ridiculous purity of some of their own earlier animated outings.


            In an animated opening, princess Giselle (Amy Adams, from “Junebug”) lives in exile with a cadre of friendly talking forest mammals, waiting for her prince to dash to her rescue. Luckily, Prince Edward (James Marsden) is nearby, just waiting to do all the dashing he can. They are untied, and both instantly prepared for the Happily Ever After part. The evil queen (Susan Sarandon), though, fearing the pure-hearted and bird-voiced maiden will push her off the throne, banishes her to a place “without Happily Ever Afters.” You’d think such a place would be a sweatshop in Indonesia, or perhaps the red light district in the poorer section of Calcutta, but it’s actually just modern-day Manhattan. Everyone is live-action, everything is dirty – in a clean way – and Giselle’s ball gown and fluttery belief in true love is spat upon by the locals. She ends up crashing with a jaded single divorce attorney named Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and his 6-year-old daughter (Rachel Covey). In hot pursuit are a live-action Prince Edward, his double-agent sidekick (Timothy Spall), and a talking animated chipmunk that finds it cannot talk once it becomes CGI.


            Giselle’s goodness of heart –as well as her tendency to break into song, and to befriend the local animals – starts out as a thing of confusion and humor (the best sequence in the film involves her singing a working song, cleaning a dirty apartment with the help of roaches and rats), but it’s not long before she has the jaded New Yorkers believing in her, and holding out for true love just like we remember from the old Disney animated features.


            Director Kevin Lima (who has only made films for the Disney corp.) is right in assuming Americans get their little-girl romantic fantasies largely from films like “Cinderella” and “Sleeping Beauty,” so the conceit that the film’s adults are still smitten by such child-like (chaste) romantic idealism that Giselle represents is a valid one. The film also, however, tried to play as a satire on those same ideals, making for a slightly split experience; are we adults, or are we “too grown up?” The film seems to lean in both directions. The film’s finale is noisy, and too loaded with special effects for its own good (a dragon is involved). And if you were wondering if the film would let adult reality or fairy-tale idealism win out… well, remember what Disney has become known for.

             Where “Enchanted” stood out, though, was in the performances of Adams, Marsden, and Spall. Adams is chipper and fun, and never once winks at the camera. She embodies her character so wholly, it’s easy to see why she’s been nominated for acting awards in the past. Marsden, whom I had once written off as a pretty boy, throws himself into the Prince Charming role with enthusiasm. And Spall, well, he brings a special heft to anything he touches.

Published in: on December 8, 2007 at 1:41 am  Leave a Comment  

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