Amy Adams announces herself as a viable new commercial leading lady in Enchanted, a genial family film which finds animated fairytale characters thrust into the real world. The ironic tweaking of film conventions hit the fairytale subgenre in 2001 with Shrek, and has continued since in animated fare Hoodwinked and Happily N’Ever After. Enchanted, however, extends the practice into live action, and while the story at its core is essentially a familiar one, it’s told with such pleasant aplomb, mixing in a few spry musical numbers, that it leaves a smile on one’s face. The Disney brand, combined with warm word-of-mouth and positive-leaning critical support, should give the film a leg up with family audiences on 20th Century Fox’s Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.

opens with an eight-minute animated sequence in which the fetching, innocent Giselle (Adams, above) wistfully sings of waiting for “True Love’s Kiss,” an appeal that is answered by Prince Edward (James Marsden), an enthusiastic and amorous if somewhat dim adventurer. In storybook fashion, the pair’s marriage is immediately set for the next day. This worries Edward’s evil stepmother, Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon), who wants to keep all the power of the throne for herself, so she dumps Giselle into a wishing well, which promptly deposits her in New York City.

There Giselle meets single father Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and his six-year-old daughter Morgan (Rachel Covey). They offer Giselle a place to stay while she waits for Edward to come rescue her, an act of kindness that complicates matters with Robert’s girlfriend Nancy (Idina Menzel). As Giselle’s unflaggingly sunny optimism wears off on Robert and their friendship deepens, he teaches her about quaint real-world courtship like “dating.” The queen, meanwhile, sends her smitten lackey, Nathaniel (Timothy Spall), after the blithely unaware Edward, to prevent any rescue of his bride-to-be. She provides Nathaniel with three poisoned apples and tasks him with finishing off Giselle before eventually deciding to take matters into her own hands.

Adams is a smart, supremely cozy fit for the wide-eyed Giselle, and her performance is both radiant and engaging. With her hair piled high, she appropriates animated fairy tale posture and body movements, deploying the same sort of charismatic naivety that was at the core of her Oscar-nominated performance in 2005's indie flick Junebug. In an industry always on the lookout for leading ladies innately likeable and yet still comedically adroit enough to topline romantic comedy vehicles, Adams is a prime candidate for promotion to the front of the line.

Written by Bill Kelly (Premonition), the movie has just enough parallel adult grounding to serve the story (Robert is a divorce attorney), and its oblique references give Enchanted an extra, winking dimension and shading without making it seem at all bawdy. (Passing mention is made of “what boys want,” and after a misunderstanding that ends with her on top of Robert, Giselle charmingly thinks Nancy is upset because she believes she and Robert… kissed.) There are a few plot holes, and certain conveniences are leaned on hard, particularly in the movie’s finale, but Kelly also finds a few amusing ways to contrast the two worlds, as when Giselle’s morning aria (“The Working Song”) is answered by rats, roaches and other big city vermin, as opposed to the woodland critters of the movie’s opening animated segment.

Tarzan co-director Kevin Lima’s background in animation serves him well, as he helps the cast remain true to the earnest theatricality characteristic of such films. He also oversees, with seamless precision, a park-set sequence that evolves into a full-fledged musical routine. Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz’s collaboration, meanwhile, provides some instantly hummable tunes that already have the familiar ring of classics by the time of their end credits reprisal. For the full original review, from Screen International, click here.


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