Sunday, December 16, 2007

Enchanted

Enchanted is founded on a delightful premise, and in the end, it’s every bit as much fun as you would hope. Amidst the recent onslaught of computer animation, seeing Walt Disney Studios return to their roots (if only for a few minutes) comes like a breath of fresh air. With charming performances and solid execution, Enchanted gracefully walks a tightrope and manages to simultaneously satirize and embrace the classic animated films of the past.

The story opens in traditional hand-drawn animation, a style not used by Disney for several years (though Disney does have a traditionally-animated musical currently in the works for 2009). We are introduced to a new Disney Princess, Giselle (voiced by the phenomenal Amy Adams), whose hobbies include singing, talking to woodland animals, and dreaming of finding her one true love. After being pushed down a well by the wicked Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon), Giselle suddenly finds herself no longer animated and struggling to get by in modern-day Manhattan. She soon befriends Robert (Patrick Dempsey), a single father who helps Giselle almost in spite of himself, and she anxiously awaits the coming of her Prince (Robert Marsden).

Strong performances stand at the heart of this movie, and everyone delivers. Chief among them is Amy Adams, who strikes a charming chord in every moment and makes it impossible not to like her. She’s as sweet and innocent as any Disney Princess of the past, yet she manages to be completely lovable rather than bubbly and annoying. No one could have played it better, and her journey of discovery in New York City is filled with big laughs. One of my favorite moments comes when she sees an apartment in need of some serious cleaning, sings out the window to enlist the help of nearby animals, and ends up summoning an army of pigeons, rats, and cockroaches.

What could have been a cheap gimmick absolutely soars due to the sheer volume of talent involved in the production. Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, the masters behind countless other classic musicals, both for Disney and for Broadway, composed the songs. The director, Kevin Lima, has previously worked on numerous Disney films, both live-action and animated. Who better to satirize the classics than the very people who made them?

Patrick Dempsey turns in a fine performance as Robert, the realist (bordering on cynic) single father who gets caught up in Giselle’s fantasy world of inexplicable kindness and romance. The only character I wanted much more from was Susan Sarandon’s Queen Narissa. Almost every great Disney fantasy features a great Disney villain, and if the script had only given her more, Susan Sarandon could have made Narissa a truly memorable character. Broadway star Idina Menzel (of Wicked) gives a good performance as Robert’s fiancée, but why cast Idina Menzel in a musical and not employ her beautiful singing voice? Every time she appeared, I found myself waiting for a solo that never came.

Viewers of all ages can enjoy this film, though it’s especially fun for true Disney fans, as the plot features iconic elements from other classics, including Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. The theatre I was in was fairly full, but had surprisingly few children in the audience. When the movie ended, the audience burst into applause, and I unashamedly joined in. We didn’t clap because we had seen a perfect movie, or because we had seen anything life-changing. We clapped because we had been part of something fun, the children within had awoke, and most of all (for me, at least), because the Disney magic was back.

Click here to view the trailer.

For the Parents:

MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some scary images and mild innuendo.

Enchanted really is appropriate for kids of all ages. There’s nothing too frightening, and though much of the humor is aimed at adults, there’s still plenty here that kids will eat up. The more serious themes of divorce, disillusionment, and Giselle’s multiple awakenings to reality are handled with great sensitivity and care. Take your kids, but know that you’ll really be treating yourself.

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