I wasn’t sure what to expect from Enchanted; was it a genuine hug and kiss to Disney’s beloved and historic past or a cynical grab at past glory much like the company’s pillaging of previous successes for a direct-to-DVD buck? Much to my delight, the answer to this query was the former. Ex-animation director Kevin Lima has assembled the first true Disney movie I’ve seen in years, as timeless and potent as anything from 75 years in the studio’s catalogue. IF you love old fashioned Disney romantic adventures, be they animated or real life, then you’ll absolutely be enchanted by Enchanted.
In a typical Disney fairytale land, a young maiden named Giselle (Amy Adams) is rescued by the daring-do Prince Edward (James Marsden) and is taken to his castle to marry him. This, simply, will not do for Edward’s step mother, the Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon). Narissa disguises herself as an old hag and pushes Giselle into a mysterious fountain under the pretext of an “accident.” The fountain flow ends up in the real world, our world, New York City to be precise. Giselle, ever the princess, finds herself dependant on the kindness of strangers, in this case a divorce attorney and his daughter (Patrick Dempsey and Rachel Covey). Soon, Prince Edward, his squire (Timothy Spall) and Narissa herself follow Giselle into our world to mix things up.
It’s genius in concept and genius in execution. It’s a story told sincerely without the constant drip, drip, drip of sarcasm like in another popular fairytale parody: the Shrek trilogy. It revels in the conventions of Disney magic and while the real world characters are at first unconvinced, it isn’t long before Giselle has everybody under her spell, and frankly isn’t that where we all want to be? Nobody wants to be the gloomy Gus hissing thinly veiled insults from the sidelines.
There’s also a timelessness to the story, which should make it appealing for years. Though it obviously takes place in the present day, there’s really no reason the film shouldn’t appeal to kids 20 or 30 years from now. Part of this is because of the loving way winks and nods to Disney’s past are worked in the look and production design, Narissa bears a striking resemblance to Sleeping Beauty’s Maleficent, while her hag form is an all too obvious reference to Snow White. Less subtle is a reference to “Belle Notte”, a song from Lady in the Tramp turned name of an Italian restaurant in Enchanted. Watch carefully because there are several sly references like this one waiting between the lines for cinefiles.
The real credit goes to the actors though, they are uniformly excellent. Dempsey kind of gets on my nerves playing Dr. McDreamy on Grey’s Anatomy, but in this film I found him charmingly befuddled. Spall made for a perfect sidekick to Marsden’s uber-heroic Prince, he even reminded me of the guy that carried the glass slipper around at the end of Cinderella, he’s the spitting image.
Of course the real star, and what a star-turn it is, is Amy Adams. If you haven’t fallen in love with Amy Adams before, you’ll find it very hard not to do so here. She’s the heart and soul of the movie, another actress in the role of Giselle and the whole thing would have fallen down like a soufflé. It required the actress to hit all the right, sometimes conflicting notes, and Adams is very impressive in the way she makes Giselle a very real person though cut from the animated cloth.
And finally, we get a return to cell animation on the big screen, short time though it is, it is a welcome sight after nearly four years of the CGI onslaught. It’s proof that the Disney crew’s still got it despite being all but shoved out the door after Home on the Range and it’s a tantalizing hint at things to come as John Lassater continues to move the company back to its heritage. The bright colours, the big eyes on the princess, the music, it all hits the right notes and shows that the Disney formula is as potent now as it ever was.
Do yourself a favour and see Enchanted, in fact see it twice. I can’t think of a family movie released this year that even compares in both artistic and entertainment value. Just when you thought you’ve lost all hope in Disney, they come right back up and surprise you and I’m loving it.