November 24, 2007

Movie Review: Enchanted

What would happen if a Disney princess got unceremoniously dropped into real life? As the grandfather of a five-year-old girl who practically lives in Disney Princess motif, I have to admit the thought crossed my mind more than once. It also crossed minds at Disney, and the new film Enchanted and its cast fulfills most of the promise of the premise.

*** A few mild spoilers exist in this review. ***

Minnesota-based Amy Adams plays Giselle, a very limited young lady from an enchanted-forest cottage who only dreams of True Love's Kiss. James Marsden plays her equally benighted young prince, Prince Edward. When Edward's wicked stepmother Narissa (voiced and played deliciously by Susan Sarandon) reckons that the marriage of the two will strip her of her crown, she pushes Giselle down a wishing well that sends her out of a New York City manhole -- and into the path of Robert and his young daughter Morgan. As Edward, his footman (and Narissa's secret henchman) Nathaniel, and talking chipmunk Pip attempt to find Giselle, all Andalasia breaks loose in the Big Apple.

The movie moves in predictable but entertaining directions. Giselle transforms the people around her, rescuing people from their cynicism with her fetching naivete and earnestness, especially single father Robert, played by Patrick Dempsey. Dempsey rarely finds himself in Prince Charming roles, and even here he fights against it for most of the movie until forced into the position. Everyone will know that a Happily Ever After lies at the end of this movie -- and maybe more than just one -- but the journey is, well, rather enchanting.

The excellent cast keeps the film from drowning in its conflict between treating fairy-tale conventions as both ironic and as straightforward plot points. The audience might miss the symbolism of Giselle biting into a Big (Poisoned) Apple, but it's there. Giselle can charm New Yorkers into a show stopper of a song-and-dance number, while Edward seems less adept at figuring out New York City and its denizens -- attempting to liberate dozens of people from a metal "beast", and getting stampeded when he attempts his own musical number. Giselle and Edward remain true to themselves as characters, but find some wisdom and love in unexpected places, and Adams and Marsden make it feel honest, especially the underappreciated Adams (Junebug, Catch Me If You Can, Psycho Beach Party).

The climax may be a little too intense for young viewers; Sarandon's transformation would have had the Little Admiral hiding behind a chair if she had been there last night. Otherwise, the film has plenty of enchantment for viewers of all ages. If you're looking for a family film with a little bit of magic and a good deal of heart, Enchanted would make an excellent choice.


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