When you see how easily an animated fairy tale morphs into a contemporary romantic comedy, you’ll wonder why it’s taken so long for Disney to come up with this movie. Most romantic comedies are essentially tales of storybook love dressed in modern clothing anyway. Enchanted is just a whimsically literal take on that connection. Animated (and by that we mean “cartoon”, not just “lively”) woodland princess Giselle is about to marry her dashing Prince Edward when the evil stepmother/queen puts on her best witch disguise and pushes Giselle into a magic well that leads to — New York City. Meant to be a place with “no happy endings”, this live-action New York is still populated with all kinds of cartoonish people who react humourously to Giselle’s dreamy naivete. Speaking of which, along comes heart-hardened single dad, Robert (played by TV McDreamy Patrick Dempsey) who is a divorce lawyer (talk about “no happy endings”!) and his cute little daughter Morgan. Taken home to their apartment, Giselle just doesn’t realize how different the real world is (after all, she can still call out to her creature friends — only she gets the NYC version — for some help) and so she continues to act like she would in a fairy tale movie while waiting for her prince to rescue her.
What makes this movie fun and charming is the way Amy Adams, as Giselle, really carries off that sparkling earnestness required of a Disney character. Every time Robert gives her that look that says, “This is getting kind of silly, but gosh, I kind of like it” I can’t help but agree. The high point has got to be the huge musical number that takes place in the park. It all begins so naturally, with Giselle talking to Robert about how to express feelings of love. Obviously she needs to sing a song about it, and when street performers start picking up the song and eventually a whole lavish spectacle breaks out, even though you know this would never happen in real life you kind of wish it would. Giselle’s simple and over-romantic ideas help Robert become more romantic as well. However, at one point the real world also makes inroads into Giselle’s personality.
Nevertheless, the movie is not a serious critique of the romantic ideal and it definitely never gets very dark or pessimistic. Events remain comical, aided by the talking chipmunk Pip who also comes over from the animated world but finds that in the real world he can only chirp and squeak. The grandiose Prince Edward is a bit less successful as a fish out of water. His puffed-up heroism doesn’t blend in as well as Giselle’s romanticism.
While the movie veered into such a predictable place as a romantic comedy that I started to groan, it recovered itself in the end by becoming a fairy tale again when Susan Sarandon’s evil queen arrives. Things wrapped up rather nicely and left me with that warm, shallow happiness that you get at the end of all those types of movies from Snow White to Music and Lyrics. There are happy endings on screen — don’t you forget it. (4 out of 5)
What if I made Enchanted?
There’s a sort of subplot about unrequited feelings from the queen’s lackey that just seemed unnecessary and silly that I would have left out. I think there was enough with the main characters dealing with the “complex” emotions of the real world without him going through it as well. I wish there had been more scenes with Susan Sarandon. I think she’s great and she could have really had fun (and we would have had fun watching her) as the evil queen in the real world.
I’m still not sure how I feel about the romantic-comedy-ness of certain parts of the movie, but I don’t know how I would have changed it. At first I thought that maybe Giselle and the other fairy-tale characters could just come to the real world, spread their magic and leave unchanged, but with the way things wrapped up I’m not sure this ending isn’t better. I do think I would have had less of Prince Edward (played by X-Men’s James Marsden) in the real world. It just didn’t work well. He should have crossed over much later and just arrived to rescue Giselle, rather than spending all this time as a rival to Patrick Dempsey’s Robert. His two-dimensional origins were just too obvious. Lastly, what’s up with casting Tony-Award-winning actress Idina Menzel as Robert’s girlfriend only to have her not sing a single note? That’s just wrong.