Giselle (Amy Adams, “Junebug”) is the quintessential Disney heroine. She lives in a quaint cottage in the forest and sings to her animal friends as she dreams of the prince she will one day meet. As she dreams of this man, making a mannequin of him, Prince Edward (James Marsden, “X-Men”), the quintessential Disney hero, gallops through the forest hunting trolls, with his sidekick Nathaniel (Timothy Spall) close at hand. The two meet and this instantly causes the wicked Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon), who is, you guessed it, the quintessential Disney villain, to become concerned she might lose control of her kingdom, Andalasia. As Edward’s step-mother, she would lose her throne as soon as he marries his one true love. She disguises herself as an old crone and lures Giselle to a wishing well. The queen pushes the young lady in and Giselle falls through before finding herself in New York City. Soon, the Prince learns his one-true love is gone and follows her. In New York, Giselle meets Robert Phillip (Patrick Dempsey), a divorce attorney and single dad of Morgan (Rachel Covey). Morgan, is, of course, captivated by a real-life princess. (Disney Marketing Team alert: Add Giselle to the Disney Princess Line of merchandise!!!!) Robert is more skeptical. Giselle ends up staying with them as Robert tries to help her get back to her country. This makes his long-time fiancée, Nancy (Idina Menzel, Broadway’s “Wicked”) nervous about their relationship. Queen Narissa becomes concerned about Giselle’s whereabouts and sends her henchman, Nathaniel back to New York as well. Unhappy with the progress, she soon decides to go to the Big Apple and take matters into her own hands.
Directed by Kevin Lima (“Tarzan”), “Enchanted” is a fun film to watch, but it isn’t one of the best films you will ever see. Then again, it isn’t one of the worst either. As the film progresses, the quality of the story and the acting become a little uneven, marring the quality a bit.
The film begins in the animated world of Andalasia. Everything in this portion of the film is pitch perfect. From our initial encounter with Giselle, as she sings to the animals in a very “Snow White” like sequence, to the first appearance of the incredibly handsome Prince Edward, who spends every waking moment hunting trolls, the tone and feel of classic Disney animation is captured and presented in a way to poke light fun at it. As soon as the two meet, they decide to marry. The next day. Giselle makes her own dress with the help of her forest friends and arrives in a very- Cinderella like coach. The animation is also very nice and compliments the tone of these segments very well. You almost forget the film will soon thrust us into modern-day New York, leaving this world behind.
As soon as Giselle arrives in Times Square, she takes on the looks of Amy Adams. Adams appeared in “June Bug”, an independent film released a few years ago. In that film, a very pregnant Adams stole the show as Benjamin McKenzie’s (who? He was the star of TV’s “The O.C.”) pregnant wife. It was a delightful performance and she continues to show that quality in Giselle. As the princess-to-be stuck in New York, she has a wide-eyed innocence perfectly capturing the naivety of an animated princess. Living in an insular world, she naturally assumes New York is just like Andalasia. She doesn’t understand that it isn’t and doesn’t understand why it can’t be, so she is determined to bring her Andalasia way of thinking to the mean, gritty streets of New York.
It is a funny, delightful and perfect performance for the role.
In New York, she meets Robert (Dempsey). As Robert is an adult living in the real world, he doesn’t have the same misconceptions about life in New York and is very reluctant to enter Giselle’s dream world. Robert eventually has enough of Giselle’s fantasies, washes his hands of her, and sends her on her way in Central Park. He quickly realizes she will never make it on her own and rejoins her. As they walk through Central Park, Giselle quickly attracts a following and they break out into song, using the sounds and rhythms of New York, the group cavorts throughout the park. Throughout, Dempsey has to remain skeptical, but at the same time show some emotion, any emotion, to make his character human, so it is a strange performance. It is difficult to see the shades of gray (no pun intended) in his performance. He is either smitten with Giselle’s innocence, or determined to maintain his steely New York reserve.
Naturally, he has to, at some point fall in love with her. I think Dempsey and the filmmakers try to make this seem like a gradual thing by showing us the two sides to this character, flipping back and forth between them. But this only serves to make his character seem a little uninteresting. Because these are the only two facets to his character, we need more to make him seem more human.
It doesn’t help that Robert is in a relationship with Nancy (Idina Menzel). I think the filmmakers are trying to portray their relationship as “modern” – they have been together seven years, yet never married. But Nancy just puts up with it, until she finds Giselle in Robert’s arms. Her character just isn’t interesting enough to hold our interest.
James Marsden plays Prince Edward and he is pretty much pitch perfect as well. In the animated sequences, Edward is the type of blowhard nincompoop you would expect in a Disney film – think Gaston in “Beauty and the Beast”. Edward is very nice, but full of himself. When he meets Giselle, per fairy tale law, they immediately decide to marry the next day. They have, after all, met “True Love’s Kiss”, which is the name of the song they each sing separately leading them to meet. When Edward follows Giselle to New York, to bring her home, his attitude doesn’t change at all, but his environment does. He is now in New York City and has to deal with all that entails. But, much like Giselle, he doesn’t understand why this place is different. And decides it can’t be, so he just shrugs off the temporary setbacks he experiences.
In New York, Edward is even more of a nincompoop and has to stumble upon his love in order to find her. Pip, Giselle’s sidekick, a talking chipmunk follows Edward to New York to help him find the princess. In the real world, he can no longer talk and becomes amazed that he has to lead the Prince by the hand to find his one true love.
But the Queen also sends her henchman, Nathaniel (Timothy Spall) to New York. He must do everything he can to stop them from reuniting. When Nathaniel realizes Chip might actually tell Edward where Giselle is, he also tries to subdue the chipmunk.
“Enchanted” starts to unravel towards the end of the film. Susan Sarandon plays Queen Narissa, and during the animated sequences, she is quite good, playing a variation on “Snow White”’s wicked queen, complete with poison apples. But her big moment, during the finale is a bit lackluster. This is no fault of Sarandon’s, who is a great actress, but rather the writer and director. When you would expect her to start pulling every magic trick out of her hat, she is rather simply subdued. But then again, this is only the prelude for the real finale. This is, in and of itself a problem. Because the finale starts of slow and then ramps up to another big moment, it just seems to go on forever.
“Enchanted” is a lot of fun, and has a lot going for it. It is the perfect film for family holiday viewing. Will it become a classic? No. But it will help provide some fun entertainment during an otherwise stressful time of year.