Disney // 2007 // 107 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Michael Rubino (Retired) // March 18th, 2008
This fairytale princess is about to meet a real Prince Charming.
Last year, Disney unleashed one of its biggest non-Pixar hits in years: Enchanted. It's a charming, sugar-coated amalgam of everything people loved about classic Disney.
Enchanted can be summed up quite simply: a peasant girl falls in love with a prince, but before they can live happily ever after they must survive the wrath of the wicked queen. Disney took this standard fairy tale plot and shook it up with a nice injection of real-world cynicism.
Giselle (Amy Adams, Junebug), a beautiful woodland girl, falls in love with the gallant Prince Edward (James Marsden, X-Men); however, before they can wed, the evil Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon, Thelma & Louise) shoves her into a portal that transports Giselle into the center of Times Square, New York. Giselle is rescued from this hostile environment by Robert (Patrick Dempsey, Grey's Anatomy), a cynical divorce lawyer who doesn't believe in true love. Soon both Prince Ed and Queen Narissa are chasing after Giselle in New York, and she's faced with the choice of a saccharine fairytale ending or the imperfect nature of reality.
Enchanted is the sort of movie that makes people remember why Disney used to be great. Sure they're still pumping out some quality films on occasion, but let's be frank, most of that stuff comes from the computer geniuses at Pixar. The hand-drawn animated films of yore died a while back, and even longer gone are Disney's Technicolor feel-good musicals. With Enchanted, Disney comes back with a vengeance, producing an ode to their former selves that melds tried-and-true fairytale theatrics with today's post-modern cynicism. Perhaps it's a way for Disney to come to terms with the current state of its animation department, or maybe they realized the kind of cash cow something like this could be. Either way, they created a movie that's magical, fun, clichéd, and old-fashioned.
I like to think of Enchanted as The Princess Bride meets The Last Action Hero (or, if you want to be more sophisticated, let's use The Purple Rose of Cairo). The classic archetypes of wide-eyed princess, heroic prince, rodent comrade, oafish goon, and evil queen are all introduced in the beginning animated portions of the film. The animation is slick and well-done, with character design along the lines of Sleeping Beauty or The Sword and the Stone. Soon after meeting everyone, however, the characters are shoved into the very real world of New York City. Now not only do Giselle and Prince Edward have to find each other, but they also must contend with heady concepts like anger, unhappiness, and public transit.
There have been plenty of parodies and satires about fairy tales (e.g. Shrek), and now it's time for the originators to take a crack at things. Disney fills Enchanted with winks and nods to previous tales in their animated canon: Nathaniel, the Queen's fat lackey, tries to give Giselle a poison "appletini," the thick Prince Edward thinks the television set is a magic mirror, and no one can understand the animated chipmunk once he enters the real world. Nothing gets risqué -- after all, this is still a Disney movie -- but it was good to see them poke fun at their own. Enchanted is also the quintessential movie for Disney fanboys, as the movie is brimming with inside jokes and auditory references to previous Disney properties.
But do the allusions and horseplay add up to anything substantial? Sure. You don't have to be a big Disney geek to enjoy Enchanted. For one, the acting is great. Amy Adams is truly adorable as Giselle, a character so full of love that she doesn't really have the capacity to become angry. The entire movie hinges on us liking Giselle, who at times seems to be hopped up on some form of Prozac, and Adams pulls it off from beginning to end. She's paired up nicely with the cynical foil, Patrick Dempsey, who plays the cold and sarcastic divorce lawyer. The third wheel in the relationship is Prince Edward, played by James Marsden. While I wasn't a fan of Marsden as Cyclops, he fits perfectly in the hammy role of the Prince, who seems to be always "ha-ha!"-ing as he jumps on and off camera. Prince Edward's sidekick, the Queen's stooge Nathaniel, is played marvelously by character actor Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). Finally, Susan Sarandon plays a small but effective role as Queen Narissa; she really does look like the wicked queen from Snow White. It's a small, but highly effective cast that really is the centerpiece for the movie, more so than its giddy Disney references.
The direction, and overall production, is also top-notch. Kevin Lima, who directed previous Disney films like A Goofy Movie and 102 Dalmations, has a clear understanding for how this movie is supposed to work. The man's been with Disney for a while, and is able to infuse the live-action elements with the feel of an animated film. The only real issue comes with the film's over-the-top climax of an ending. Here, the CGI dragon looks out of place and a little too fake to be believable.
Enchanted gets the usual high-end DVD treatment from Disney, with a quality video transfer that is bright and colorful. The beautiful animation of the first ten minutes gives way to live action that's just as vibrant -- and they even use the old CinemaScope trick where the aspect ratio shifts from 1.75:1 to 2.35:1. Even better, though, is the audio, which comes in both Dolby Digital and DTS. The dialogue sounds good, but the impressive stuff is in the details; the film employs plenty of twinkles and sound effects alluding to previous Disney classics. From the catchy original songs (three of which were nominated for Academy Awards) to the nostalgic sound effects, Enchanted is worth hearing.
This release comes with a few special features worth checking out, but is sadly missing a big one (see the Rebuttal). There is a three-part featurette called "Fantasy Comes to Life," which is a behind-the-scenes look at the three big musical numbers in the film. The featurette touches on the music, choreography, and special effects used in the film; while each segment is only about nine minutes, they're very informative. There are also a number of deleted scenes and bloopers, and a Carrie Underwood music video (which, for some reason, is a not-so-hidden Easter egg). Finally there is a strange, poorly animated cartoon called "Pip's Predicament" that will probably be enjoyed by children, but not by many others.
The biggest issue with the DVD release is the absence of the special feature found on the Blu-Ray version: something called "The D Files." It's a pop-up trivia track that runs while you watch the film and points out all of the hidden references to other Disney movies. It sounds like an incredible feature that would surely enhance the viewing experience...but alas, it was left off of this standard release.
Of course, Disney went to the trouble of putting a button on the special features page that tells you about the Blu-Ray disc -- as if anyone wants to run out to buy the Blu-Ray version after just purchasing the standard DVD. Thanks for rubbing that in our faces, Disney.
Enchanted is probably one of the best non-Pixar Disney movies in a while. It's smart, self-referential, and funny. The casting choices are just about perfect, with Amy Adams and James Marsden being the best of a great bunch. Even if this movie stumbles slightly at the end, reaching that point is so much fun that I can forgive it. This is the kind of project Disney could only take one shot at, and they succeeded.
Guilty of paradoxically making a clichéd idea into a fresh look at old material.
Review content copyright © 2008 Michael Rubino; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Deleted Scenes
* "Fantasy Comes to Life" Featurettes
* "Pip's Predicament" Animated Short
* Carrie Underwood Music Video
* Official Site