Enchanted on DVD
The three Oscar-nominated songs that were performed on the awards show last month did little to warm me up to the film. In fact I had to leave the room on two occasions. But on one level I was actually looking forward to watching the film because I am fond of the film's star, Amy Adams. She had been genuinely enchanting in a small indie film called Junebug .
Amy Adams and James Marsden in Enchanted (Disney)
Enchanted begins as an animated film employing every Disney clich e of the last half century or so. There's an evil queen, a charming prince, a beautiful heroine, a humorous sidekick and a forest full of adorable woodland creatures. The twist here is that the evil queen (Susan Sarandon) sends the lovely heroine (Amy Adams) out of the animated fairy tale world and into present day New York. (Not entirely a novel idea, the French film Les Visiteurs used a similar device in 1993, and decades before Mark Twain did a reverse time travel with his Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, which made it to the screen with Bing Crosby.) Naturally, the animated young lady, named Giselle, has a bit of trouble adjusting to modern city life. Fortunately Robert (Patrick Dempsey), an urban dweller, and Prince Edward (James Marsden), a cartoon native, both come to her rescue. Although one character proclaims that the turn of events represent a "twist to the story," anyone who's seen a handful of Disney films know exactly where this one is taking us - to happily ever after land.
The animated open tries very hard to be both a loving homage to the Disney cartoons and a tongue-in-cheek send up of them. A difficult line to walk and the film serves up more convention that innovation here. The animation, at least, is refreshing for choosing a more hand-drawn as opposed to 3D CGI look. But it serves up nothing to compare with either Disney at its best or any of the current anime from Japan. The "real" world of New York ends up looking almost as cartoonish as the animated one. In fact in one musical number, Central Park has been transformed into Disneyland's Main Street USA. Maybe the film could have milked more humor from a plot that dropped Giselle into Disneyland where she could be mistaken for a costumed character. Wait, hasn't that been done before too? Enchanted also delivers the revisionist fairy tale clich e of allowing its heroine to rescue herself (see Penelope for another recent example of this).
There are contrived moments to play up Giselle's difficulty fitting in and her inept attempts to get out of her predicament (like knocking on the door of a billboard castle to try and find help). In order to have her sing a cheery clean up song that gets all the pigeons, rats and cockroaches to help requires the prim and proper Robert to inexplicably have an extremely messy apartment. It doesn't make sense for this meticulous character that plans every detail of his life, to have a messy home - except for the fact that the film needs to have him be messy. Then the little chipmunk Pip that follows Giselle to New York discovers he can't speak in this unanimated kingsom, yet none of the other toon characters suffers in transit - the evil queen retains all her powers, and Giselle can still talk to the animals. But again, the plot requires Pip to be rendered silent. It's details like this that hindered my ability to buy into the whole fantasy.
And they lived happily ever after... well what did you expect? (Disney)
The script by Bill Kelly is definitely the weakest link here. It works on stale jokes and clich es rather than clever humor. The Princess Bride was much more adept at both spoofing and revealing affection for the fairy tale genre. But Director Kevin Lima does benefit from good casting. The fact that Adams is only mildly annoying rather than completely grating as Giselle is a testament to her talent. Being bright and sunshiny all the time can be taxing on both the audience and the performer but Adams makes Giselle's cheeriness seem genuine. She's well matched by Marsden's Prince. When he delivers one of his clich ed lines, someone remarks, "Why you said that so straightforward with no hint of irony." And Marsden does manage to pull the role off with the kind of straightforwardness that made Cary Elwes so endearing in The Princess Bride. Susan Sarandon goes way over the top as the Evil Queen and Timothy Spall is funny as her inept assistant, but Dempsey is bland as the man who makes Giselle doubt who her one true love is. I also want to say that it seems a shame to cast Wicked's Idina Menzel in this musical and never let her sing.
Although I remained unresponsive to the film's magic, I did actually enjoy some of the DVD bonus features. I wasn't enamored with the songs but the bonus features about putting those musicals numbers together were actually quite fun. Especially when the director points out how many real and not CGI animals were used in the Happy Working Song. That old school desire to do as much as possible live in camera was refreshing. And the big musical number in Central Park proved interesting for the diverse array of dancer it pulled together from New York. But the bloopers and deleted scenes were painful going, as was Pip's Adventure , a short animated film that looked like it was made up of unfinished FX shots from the movie.
Enchanted (rated PG for some scary images and mild innuendo) did not enchant me but take that with a grain of salt since this is simply not my kind of movie. My fourteen year old son said it was okay to sit through once but then I pointed out that he bailed on the film a half hour before the end, so it didn't seem to hold his attention much either. But the performers at least made the film bearable. For this kind of fare I much prefer The Princess Bride or for a more radical tweaking of fairy tale conventions Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Time Bandits, or The Brothers Grimm.
Companion viewing: Junebug, The Princess Bride, Les Visiteurs, Penelope, Time Bandits, the Brothers Grimm