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.
Enchanted 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
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
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.