the studio gate

the backlot

the screening room
The Screening Room

I liked "Enchanted."

The playful spoof of Walt Disney's fairy tale classics is now on DVD.

"Cinderella" this ain't. Taking an animated, gleeful, and somewhat naive princess out her world and putting her into live-action Manhattan could be a recipe for disaster. Yet everyone involved in "Enchanted" have cast their spell on this clever movie. You might expect that 21st century filmmakers would try to be as cynical as they could in poking fun at Disney's own fairy tales. They have, but they've done it with a smile on their face and an honorable bow to Walt and his animators.    

The film reminded me of a high-concept '80s film that Disney might've made in 1987, but never got around to it. I can imagine writer Bill Kelly pitching this story to the same studio that would eventually make "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" (1988). It is surprising that the film wasn't made back then. It's got high-concept written all over it. I can imagine the studio's princess at the time, Bette Midler, taking the role of Giselle (Amy Adams) to wacky heights. I liked a lot of Disney's films of that period (though many don't hold up too well now), and "Enchanted" probably would've been a nice addition to their roster back then.
Of course times have changed. How does this high-concept movie work today? Very well. I wouldn't say that this film is as innovative as "Roger Rabbit" or as memorable. But it does stand strong on its own. Kevin Lima shows that he's adept at handling both animation and live-action material with considerable poise. He, after all, directed the underrated Disney quick cartoon feature, "A Goofy Movie" (1995), and "Tarzan" (1999). Both of those films showed his talent for directing scenes from broad comedy to emotional scenes. He's done a fine job here in balancing a lot of different elements, including live-action acting, animation, visual effects, and musical numbers.

Essentially, "Enchanted" takes a perky princess, who's animated in good ol' fashioned "2-D," and throws her into the live-action world of modern day Manhattan. She discovers that the real world isn't all peaches and cream, and learns to deal with problems on her own.

Actress Amy Adams is a treat to watch in this film. I got a kick out of her performance. She handles the role of Giselle with charm and courage, never letting herself become cynical at being a princess. It would be easy for her (as well as the screenwriter) to poke tons of holes into the princess myth as seen through Disney's eyes. There is a lot of poking here, but it's done without being mean. Adams is the ideal Disney princess, always happy and always singing. I'd even venture to say that she's even friendlier than some of the Disney princesses my daughter has waited in line to see at Disneyland (though those princess do wear hot costumes and are swarmed by little girls and their moms all day long). Adams is charming and doesn't make me cringe with superficial sweetness. She is the Giselle in this movie. When she sings and calls for the animals of Manhattan to help her clean an apartment, I knew right away who she was poking fun at. I got a good chuckle out the sequence "Happy Working Song," and Adams imbues her role with joy.

Patrick Dempsey and James Marsden play the romantic leads in the film. I've always thought that Dempsey should've been a star after his turn in "Can't Buy Me Love" (1987), a personal favorite of mine from my late teen years. Looking at iMBD, he did a lot of work, just nothing I'd seen. He's been a big star as of recently in TV's "Grey's Anatomy," of course, and I must confess that I don't watch the show. In this film, he's a good father to his little daughter (Rachel Covey) and perfect straight-man to Giselle's goofy princess. Much like Christian Bale, Dempsey puts in a good performance and doesn't call attention to his acting skills. Marsden is very funny as Prince Edward. Just as Adams has fun with the Disney princess legend, Marsden plays up his prince-who-saves-the-day role with amusement.

Susan Sarandon is usually hit-and-miss with me. I remember admiring her back in the days when it seemed she had Oscar written all over her. A roommate I had in college mentioned that he couldn't stand her. I didn't know why, because she was fine actress. I like her. Then maybe his words of wisdom started eating away at me. I don't know why, but then she started to bug me. Her political views aside, she started being Susan Sarandon and not an actress to me anymore. Nonetheless, she can be a fine actress and she's totally splendid in "Enchanted" as Queen Narissa. She seems to be having as much fun as the rest of the cast in this film, and it shows.    

Spoofing a rich animated past such as Disney's could be a disaster. Disney's legendary penchant for fine animation and re-working fairy tales has been spoofed for years. One of my favorites was "9 To 5" (1980), which did a funny send up on "Snow White." Seems to me that in recent years, the spoofs have become harder edged and at times, downright mean. The "Shrek" series does a reasonably decent job in its riffs. "South Park" recently did a violent spoof on Disney, and I'm surprised Disney didn't raise a fuss about that. This is not to say the Disney is immune from being poked fun at. "Enchanted" makes fun of Disney's own past without resorting to cruelty or 21st century cynicism. The film doesn't look at itself and proclaim, "Look how clever I'm being." It knows that some of the Disney classics are sometimes silly and over-the-top. But that's why generations of viewers still love "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," "Cinderella," and even "Sleeping Beauty." "Enchanted" may not be in the same category as those films. Nonetheless, it's an enchanted bit of fun.     

Bill Kallay

Special thanks to Click Communications

Photo: © Disney. All rights reserved.

Quick Glimpse


Playful spoof of Walt Disney's beloved animated fairy tales is a delight

Director: Kevin Lima

Cast: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, Susan Sarandon


Making of, games, etc.



Picture: Very Good
Sound: Excellent

See how many of "Enchanted's" gags you can tie to Disney films of the past

The songs are a lot of fun

Aspect Ratio (2.39:1)

Dolby Digital 5.1

March 18, 2008