Enchanted (review)

Toon In, Toon Out

I mean, of course. The sweet silliness of the collective Disney animated fairy tale landscape meets the rough reality of Noo Yawk City? Why didn’t someone think of this sooner? Why didn’t someone think of this sooner and pull it off as perfectly perfectly as Enchanted does? It couldn’t be whispier or more Disney-rific — don’t expect any grand philosophies on life beyond “ain’t true love grand?” — but as a way to pass a couple hours in sheer movie-movie bliss, you can’t go wrong.
Plus, Enchanted is an example of an even rarer cinematic creature: the movie wholly suitable for both kids and grownups, one that neither panders to nippers’ giggle-snort revelment in toilet humor nor shoehorns in inappropriate innuendo supposedly to keep the moms and dads amused. Everyone’s happy, and it doesn’t even suffer from that terrible tinge of being “good for you” in any way. It’s like junk food you won’t get a tummy ache from eating too much of.

I’d say Christmas came early this year, but I’d be risking overselling this one too much.

It’s not really the collective Disney fairy tale landscape we’re thrown into for the first ten minutes or so of Enchantment: it’s a snarky but loving parody of such. Aping the classic hand-drawn Disney toons of old, the land of Andalasia is a realm of troll-hunting princes — that would be the bombastic Edward (James Marsden: Hairspray, Superman Returns); dreamy girls who dreamily dream of meeting their True Loves — that would be Giselle (Amy Adams: Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Catch Me If You Can), who aspires to the job of princess; and wicked stepmother monarchs — that would be Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon: Alfie, Shall We Dance?), Edward’s parental unit who desperately opposes his marriage to Giselle. Oh, didn’t I say? These two kids discover, mostly through song, that they’re each other’s True Love, and decide to get married the day after they meet and warble a duet. They sing a lot, these Adalasians, even the animals, when they’re not talking. The animals, that is. The humans don’t talk so much as declaim dramatically.

And it’s not really the roughest kind of New York Giselle lands in when Narissa banishes her from Andalasia as punishment for being so darn cute and irresistible to her stepson. It’s a fantasy New York: sure, Times Square at night is a bit intimidating, particularly when you’re climbing up through a manhole in the middle of the street, but Central Park is right out of a fairy tale: horse-drawn carriages and wandering musicians, fountains ideal for being serenaded in the vicinity of, meadows suitable for cavorting joyfully upon — the Great Lawn is alive with the sound of music, oh yes it is. (Julie Andrews [Shrek the Third, The Princess Diaries] narrates the film, oh yes she does.) It’s almost fairy-tale-ish, too, that just about the first human being Giselle meets in Manhattan is the guy who will never, ever be able to shake the heartachy appellation McDreamy if he lives to be 125: Patrick Demsey (Freedom Writers, Sweet Home Alabama), as a stick-up-his-butt lawyer who could use a lesson in True Love himself. (Did I mention he’s a divorce lawyer? Of course he is!) Fortunately, his Robert, a single dad, has a young daughter (Rachel Covey) whose brain is full of princesses and fluffy pinkness, and recognizes Giselle instantly for what she is: a ticket to Fantasia.

Screewriter Bill Kelly (Premonition) and director Kevin Lima (102 Dalmatians, Tarzan) hit all the right notes — from falsetto to bass, sweetness and light to Disney dark — with everything from their wrangling of the trip-you-up reality of romance in the nonanimated world, which Giselle begins to learn when Robert starts to loosen up a bit, to the inevitable rampage of the magical evil queen, the word for whom really does rhyme with witch, in that gleefully over-the-top way we expect from our cartoon villains. (The whole cast is note-perfect too, down to the cheery and slightly subversive songs by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, but Sarandon is having the most fun in a wickedly delicious role.) The ten minutes of hand-crafted toon that opens the movie is likely to be the last we’ll ever see from Disney now that CGI has taken over, but it couldn’t have gone out in a more, well, enchanting way.

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