In 2004's Shrek, the creators took delight in the mocking and satirizing of those fairy tales, which Disney spent a lifetime bringing to children and audiences across the world. These were tales of princesses and evil stepmothers, talking animals, magical dwarfs, and even living puppets.
With this new film, Disney efforts to dissuade and knock down all those Shrek jokes and gags, and remind people why we love fairy tales.
ENCHANTED is the story of Giselle, a young cartoon woman who lives in the cartoon world of Andalaysia. Giselle can communicate with animals, and the animals can communicate right back. They are in fact helping her to find the man of her dreams, a man she can marry. Along comes the handsome and dashing Prince Edward.
But, not so fast, this prince with whom she falls in love has a wicked witch of a stepmother named Narissa who wants their impending nuptials destroyed because it would mean Narissa wouldn't be queen anymore. Therefore, Queen Narissa decides to get rid of Giselle, not kill her, but instead banish her from the cartoon realm of Andalaysia and into the harsh, human realm of New York City.
It's not like Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) where you have live actors interacting with cartoon characters. It more resembles that of Cool World (1992) starring Kim Basinger and Brad Pitt, but certainly not with as much dark and as sexual tones as those films. No, this new film is more colorful, cute, and humorous.
What writer Bill Kelly and director Kevin Lima do is take a handful of Disney classics like Snow White (1937), Cinderella (1950), and Sleeping Beauty (1959), put them in a blender, and mix them to form this splendid little concoction. This is also perhaps what makes this movie good. Its familiarity is crucial because this movie harkens back to Disney's golden age of animation and of family-friendly children's and love stories.
Amy Adams stars as Giselle. She can only be described as a hopeless romantic, an eternal optimist, and the absolute epitome of a true princess, though even in the cartoon world of Andalaysia, she isn't one. She has the pretty outward form of Belle from Beauty and the Beast (1991) and the spirit of Julie Andrews from Mary Poppins (1964).
Giselle talks like she just escaped from a Hallmark card. She makes her own dresses Scarlet O'Hara-style, weaving fabric from curtains, rugs, or whatever material she and the animals can find around the house or rather the New York apartment.
In a role, that could have been cliché, Amy Adams makes endearing and totally loveable. Her performance may seem to be simply a damsel in distress or the smitten lass waiting for her man to put a glass slipper on her foot, but no! Adams' Giselle is a heroine indeed, a strong, independent woman whose heart and soul believes in love.
James Marsden (X-Men and Hairspray) plays Giselle's prince Edward who is daring and good-looking but who doesn't take to any reality other than his own, and who rather stumbles upon Giselle and her rescue.
Patrick Dempsey (Sweet Home Alabama and Grey's Anatomy) plays Robert, the lawyer and single father. He takes in Giselle after she becomes lost on the streets of Manhattan, following a fall down a wishing well or Alice-in-Wonderland rabbit hole. Robert rejects the overly romantic ideals and heavy-handed optimism. He's a realist, a cynical pragmatist who doesn't want his daughter believing in fairy tales.
Susan Sarandon (Thelma & Louise and The Client) is the wicked stepmother and is a pure sexy, diva; the kind of vixen one would expect from al the evil Disney villains, selfish and cold.
Timothy Spall rounds out the cast as Nathaniel, the witch's sidekick, a slimy, creepy henchman. Spall, who also appeared in 2007's other big musical Sweeney Todd, is a total scene-stealer and provides a good amount of comic relief.
There are so many serious films, be they weighty dramas, horror films, explosive or bloody action flicks. There's a ton. There has also been an upsurge of comedies that are more and more hardcore, or just stupider and stupider. This film is a welcome change, a good wholesome, love story, that's sweet and very uplifting.
Nominated for three Oscars, all of them in the song category, the best musical number that had me bopping my head and tapping my toe is a reggae-inspired "How Does She Know."
Four Stars out of Five
Rated PG for some scary images and innuendo
Running Time: 1 hr. and 47 mins.