Enchanted

Enchanted (2007) movie poster

(2007) dir. Kevin Lima
viewed: 11/20/09

It came a Friday, a movie night Friday with the kids, without preparation, without an appropriate film at home from Netflix.  The kids requested an animated film, a little tired of live-action, and I went to the local video store in search of the requested fare.  However, in searching the shelves, we had either seen or owned most of the best animated films, and nothing jumped out at me.  Finally, I landed upon two films that I’d read good reviews of, City of Ember (2008) and Enchanted (2007).  And I wasn’t too sure how either would go down, but in the end we went with Enchanted.

It started off shakily, in a sense, because Victoria was downstairs with us, and while I thought this was a film that would appeal to her princess love, she had seen it and decided that she didn’t like it because it was scary and I think disappointingly non-animated throughout most of it.  Victoria left quite early on and went back upstairs.

The kids were thrilled when it started because it begins as animation, an almost over-Disneyed Disneyified world of dewy-eyed frolicksome forest creatures and a lushly pretty, although generic princess-to-be.  She meets her prince, the affable yet shallow good-natured would-be hero, and is about to get married when his evil mother sends Giselle out of cartoon-land to a land where “things don’t wind up happily ever after”, live action New York City.  And the generic beauty turns into the brightly red-headed Amy Adams.

This is the film that made Amy Adams a relatively big Hollywood name, though she had gotten good reviews and recognition for her performance in Junebug (2005).  Though she’d shown up in a couple of films that I have seen, this was really the first time I saw her in action.  She pretty much delivers the movie, its concept and conceit, a “fairy tale princess” in a fish-out-of-water romantic comedy.  She carries the magic in her performance and makes the whole thing work.

The whole film is a rich opportunity for self-commentary by the Disney studio.  The concept of debunking the “princess myth” which is a huge part of Disney’s financial empire, selling princesses to girls and women by the truckload.  By coming out of the animation, one could see that the banality and blandness of the generic prince and princess are demonstrated.  They love each other generically, they have charm and endless hope (Giselle has never fallen and not been caught by something/someone), but have such a shallow understanding of a universe completely described by simple terms.  The prince never escapes this.  He remains two-dimensional essentially throughout the film, and ultimately takes one “beauty” for his bride as blythely as another.

And while the film is almost making fun of the animated genericism, the film is about the magic of this world as well.  Giselle, even in live-action New York, can still trill out the window and have all the animals (now digitally animated to look three-dimensional) to come and help her clean.  It’s actually the film’s best sequence.  Because in New York, you don’t have chipmunks and rabbits and fluttering bluebirds, you’ve got rats, pigeons, and roaches.  But they all get to work, singing along with her cleaning song (a la Snow White), in a comical play with the theme.

Giselle falls for Patrick Dempsey, the single father with his six year old daughter, the romantic lead.  I’ve never liked Dempsey, maybe for no good reason.  Here he’s fine, sort of like a poor man’s Hugh Jackman.  We all know how this will turn out, it’s a Disney film.

Susan Sarandon is the evil witch queen, again reckoning heavily of Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), turning into an old hag right out of that movie.  She’s also nothing complex, just evil, deluded that she will lose her crown if her son marries, so must kill the would-be princess.  She eventually has to come to New York in live action, too, eventually turning into a dragon, capturing Dempsey who needs Giselle to save him in a nod to King Kong (1933).  And here, the post-modern Disney film shows how Disney tries to cast itself in a modern light, having the princess save the prince in a turnabout of sexual stereotypes.

But it’s not really doing anything but re-endorsing the princess myth.  Because though Giselle decides to stay in the live action New York, she maintains the magical command of the animals, gets all of Central Park to sing along with her (another good sequence), and ends up “happily ever after”.  Even Dempsey’s jilted fiance winds up a princess, marrying the prince and moving to cartoon land.  Every girl gets her prince.

So, the film is quite enjoyable.  The kids both liked it a lot.  Felix thought it was hilarious, somewhat embarrassed and laughing at the sillyness of the delusional prince and princess in the real world.  Actually, they liked it a lot more than I thought they would, all Victoria’s dissent aside.  And I have to say, the singing numbers are the best and Amy Adams makes the film work with her vivacious, bright-eyed charm, embodying the goodness and loveability of the character.

The princess myth annoys me.  The marketing.  The pretense.  The ideology.  And that is definitely an enormous aspect of this film, but still no reason not to enjoy it.

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