Disney again mines the fair maiden narrative--Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty--to bring us a moderately entertaining entry into the holiday movie season.
Relying on fairy tales, princesses and happily ever after, "Enchanted," which opens nationwide today, takes a Disneyfied maiden named Giselle (Amy Adams) out of her chipper, animated life--adored by Prince Edward (James Marsden)--and plops her down in New York City. There she meets divorce lawyer Robert (Patrick Dempsey), who endeavors to teach her how love works in the real world.
It's not a bad hook, and it mostly delivers. Director Kevin Lima tries to make too much out of Bill Kelly's script, and at 107 minutes, "Enchanted" sags a bit in the middle. It never quite hits the perfect stride of Prince Edward's horse, Destiny, but it's an enjoyable holiday ride nevertheless.
After all, "Enchanted" tacks on a talking chipmunk and a put-upon underling (Timothy Spall) for the evil Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon), who's in fact the one who sends Giselle to New York City in order to keep her away from her step-son, Prince Edward.
"Enchanted" begins as an animated tale, setting up the starry-eyed Giselle and her beau. But after a few minutes, we wind up in New York with Giselle, whose obnoxious wedding dress (she's kicked out of the kingdom on the day of her wedding) reminds us of how over-the-top animated tales are.
Giselle soon bumps into Robert, who is himself--surprise--divorced with a daughter. He's about to propose to his girlfriend, Nancy, but this chance encounter with Giselle changes all that. So we have the step-mother theme surfacing in various contexts: Queen Narissa is Prince Edward's evil step-mother; Robert's daughter, Morgan, fears Nancy won't be a good step-mother; and yet Giselle essentially acts as a kind step-mother to Morgan as Robert figures out what to do with this "seriously confused woman."
After all, Giselle spontaneously bursts into song, smiles all the time and speaks of her beloved prince who's coming for her. And that's before she cleans Robert's apartment by opening a window and beckoning help from the animal kingdom … in New York City. That sequence is one of the film's best.
Better than that, however, is a delicious musical number in Central Park, in which Giselle tries to show Patrick that love conquers all. And he needs the help: He's on the outs with Nancy. But Robert doesn't believe in the stuff of fairy tales.
As Robert and Giselle work on finding common ground, Prince Edward furiously searches New York for his lady with the help of the chipmunk. Thwarting them at every turn, however, is the queen's underling, Nathaniel, who is himself trying to knock off Giselle.
The movie extracts a few jokes from the collision of fairy and real worlds: the TV is a magic mirror, the credit card functions as a fairy godmother, and so forth. James Marsden stands out as the prince, and Susan Sarandon plays evil well. Amy Adams musters remarkable energy to play the displaced Giselle—a part which requires near-constant overdrive.
The movie works to a walloping, effects-laden conclusion, which would have brought more impact if we hadn't had to wait quite so long to get there. Nevertheless, this holiday tale isn't a bad one. The music from Disney's go-to man, Alan Menken, doesn't disappoint, and the story itself has enough magnetism to pull us in. Fairy tales endure for a reason.
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.
MPAA Rating: PG for some scary images and mild innuendo.
Reviewer's Note: The queen is a little frightening and intense at times.
Director: Kevin Lima
Writer: Bill Kelly
Cast: Giselle: Amy Adams; Robert: Patrick Dempsey; Prince Edward: James Marsden; Nathaniel: Timothy Spall; Queen Narissa: Susan Sarandon; Morgan: Rachel Covey; Narrator: Julie Andrews.