Enchanted is a nearly great movie. A bright, merry, consistently entertaining, fun-for-the-whole-family delight; it’s the movie audiences should seek out this holiday weekend. With high-quality pictures already released this year such as Bridge to Terabithia, and Ratatouille, along with the mildly recommendable Meet the Robinsons and The Game Plan, and now Enchanted, it has been a good year for Disney indeed. Director Kevin Lima, who has directed both animated (Tarzan) and live-action (102 Dalmations) films, takes a creative idea and almost (in the sense that the film isn’t perfect) brings it to its full potential. The movie is partly animated (that sort of pristine animation you can find in Beauty and the Beast), mostly shot in live-action, and all fun.
The beginning of the film introduces us to the cartoon world of Andalasia. As colorful and beautiful as it is, this first 10-15 minutes that sets up our story is flawed. It’s a CliffNotes version of a classic Disney movie; more like a fable than anything else. Set at a seemingly deliberate fast pace, it’s as if the filmmakers are anxious to get us from fairy-tale land to reality. With the way they handle this setup, the audience starts to feel the same way.
Giselle (Amy Adams, 2006’s Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby) is a beautiful fair-maiden whose only friends are woodland creatures. The first of many instances where the film breaks into song, Giselle whistles a tune about how she is longing for her Prince Charming. He arrives in the form of Prince Edward (James Marsden, 2006’s Superman Returns), a handsome, smug, derring-do character who hunts trolls to pass the day away. Looking for his true love as well, he saves Giselle from being devoured by one such troll. Love at first sight strikes and the perfect pair are to be married the next day.
There’s just one problem. Prince Edward’s step-mother Narissa (Susan Sarandon, Mr. Woodcock) is the evil Queen of Andalasia and fears that if Edward marries, she will be dethroned. In the form of an old hag, she leads Giselle to a ‘wishing well,’ which is really a portal from their world to ours. She pushes Giselle into the well to the place “where there are no happily ever afters.” As she ends up wandering around New York City, Prince Edward and Giselle’s best friend, a chipmunk named Pip, enter the portal to find her. Giselle is taken in by a divorce lawyer named Robert (Patrick Dempsey, Freedom Writers) and his young daughter Morgan. Meanwhile, Narissa, fearing that Prince Edward will find Giselle and marry her, sends her shrewd servant Nathaniel (Timothy Spall, 2005’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) to kill Giselle with a poison apple.
Although the entire cast is stellar, Amy Adams is the heart and soul of this movie. She fits the slipper here perfectly as Giselle and pulls off one of the most impressive female leads of the year. She’s charming, hilarious, and brilliantly becomes a fish-out-of-water character who is attuning from living in a fairytale land to living in reality. With every moment that passes in which she is stuck in reality, she becomes more and more human and is completely convincing in this transition. She shines in every scene, especially in an unforgettable musical number set in Central Park that is so well choreographed and directed that it will lift your spirts enough that you might be tempted to join in.
Usually we critics give all the credit to the writers and directors for making films work, but I’m going to divert from that and give all the kudos in the world to the casting crew of John Papsidera, Marcia Ross, and Susan Shopmaker. I don’t remember the last time I saw a film in which every actor was a pitch-perfect match for their character and it’s the biggest reason that the movie is as good as it is. James Marsden is splendid as the bold Prince Edward, and has several memorable moments as he searches this strange land for his true love. Patrick Dempsey is equally as good as someone who tries to teach Giselle about reality and ends up learning so much more from her. Nearly stealing each scene he is in, Timothy Spall as Nathaniel provides numerous laughs and his confrontations with the chipmunk Pip is the sort of humor that reminds us of Disney animated classics. Finally, Susan Sarandon probably benefits the least here as Narissa, but only because she arrives late in the story and is also involved with the weakest sequence in the film.
Like the beginning, the scene in which the final conflict takes place isn’t as good as it should be. It’s like something straight out of Aladdin with Jafar turning into a monstrous snake. This scene involves a dragon and is peppered with special effects; so different from everything in the movie that had come before it. We all know that a happy ending is inevitable so how the movie gets there is important. This scene marked a little bump in the road for an otherwise great film.
The beginning and the final confrontation to Enchanted may fall under the realm of mediocrity, but everything in between is simply splendid. This could be the breakthrough work for director Kevin Lima, whose film is charming and thoughtful. It’s also serious when it needs to be and campy when it needs do be. Bill Kelly’s clever script could also provide him with a career lift as his last project was the boring and convoluted Premonition. Amy Adams should no longer go as unnoticed as she has been through the years and hopefully there are some worthy leading roles in her near future. Praise should be handed to all involved with Enchanted as it could easily go down as a modern Disney classic with it’s ability to entertain audiences of all ages.
||Release Date: November 21, 2007
Rated: PG for some scary images and mild innuendo.
Running Time: 107 min.
Cast: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden
Director: Kevin Lima
Screenplay: Bill Kelly
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
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