Movie review: Charmed by ‘Enchanted’
Vail, CO, Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY, COLORADO ” Outside of Pixar movies, it’s rare to find a family film that doesn’t pander to some sector of the audience: ‘Shrek’ films have their grating ‘adult’ pop-culture gags, while most animated flicks have scores of easy fart jokes to make the kiddies laugh. But “Enchanted” tells a modern-day fairy tale woven with elements of the classics; told without irony, it feels both old-fashioned and new, and it’s a delight to behold.
“Enchanted” begins in a faraway forest reminiscent of every princess-oriented Disney film you’ve ever seen, right down to the helpful, talking animals and slightly dated animation. The fair maiden Giselle pines for her true love, a Prince who will surely come and whisk her away to his gilded kingdom. It all happens according to plan, but there’s an evil stepmother to muck things up, of course, and in the guise of an old hag she banishes fair Giselle to a most horrid realm ” New York City.
Once in New York, Giselle (Amy Adams) comes to flesh-and-blood life, but her ways remain firmly stuck in the realm of Andalasia, and she flits about the mean city, looking for help or just a smile. What she gets is a bum stealing her tiara.
Enter unlucky-in-love divorce lawyer Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and his shy, fairy-tale obsessed daughter Morgan (Rachel Covey): At the urging of his daughter, Robert takes in this bizarre “princess” who seems just plain crazy, what with her constant singing and talk of true love. He has problems of his own, including a demanding fiance (Idina Menzel).
Meanwhile, gallant Prince Edward (James Marsden) follows through the rabbit hole looking for his princess, prancing about like a buffoon and slaying transit buses. The evil stepmother, Queen Narcissa (Susan Sarandon), is hot on his heels, though, and sends her sniveling sidekick Nathaniel (Timothy Spall) to sabotage the proceedings.
Nothing in the plot is terribly surprising, but it’s so well-executed and endearing that you can’t help but fall for this mishmash of a fairy tale world and our own. Giselle’s naivete wrings genuine laughs, as when she makes dresses from curtains or bursts into song in office lobbies. One particularly great setpiece concerns Giselle’s summoning of the animals to help her clean Robert’s house; since it’s New York, the cuddly forest animals are replaced by armies of rats, pigeons, cockroaches and flies. It’s incredibly gross and cute, which I’ve never seen combined in such equal measure.
A movie with such a predictable plot lives or dies on the backs of its performers, and I’m happy to say that most of them are outstanding. Adams is incredible as Giselle ” she’s thoroughly committed to the role, and she brings the gestures, expressions and movement of a princess literally to life while also investing her character with flesh-and-blood emotions and touching humanity. Marsden is nearly her equal, and he’s shameless in his devotion in bringing a fatuous, cardboard-handsome Disney prince to the real world.
Spall is excellent as a conniving henchman with a growing conscience, and Sarandon shows up late for some hammy evil-queenery. Dempsey, Covey and Menzel are all appealing and convincingly react with varying degrees of shock, disbelief and acceptance to all the fairy-tale tomfoolery invading their lives.
Director Kevin Lima keeps Bill Kelly’s clever script lean and fresh, and Disney songwriters Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz (“The Lion King”) provide catchy, endearing songs that make for fun set pieces without bogging the movie down.
“Enchanted” barrels along in due time toward a satisfying conclusion, marred only slightly by occasional treacle. It’s a sign of the film’s quality that even the annoying, computer-generated chipmunk grows on you after a while. His final contribution to the action is carried out in much the same way as the entire film: Clever, funny and almost as light as air. It’s an unexpectedly enchanting way to spend a holiday afternoon.