Posted on March 18, 2008 at 8:00 am

Fairy tales and modern-day Manhattan find a way to live happily ever after in this adorable Disney story about the adventures of a prince, an almost-princess, and an evil queen in New York City.

The camera zooms in on the famous Disney castle logo and we’re in an only very slightly cock-eyed version of the classic animated fairy tales, with Giselle (Amy Adams), a big-eyed girl with all the hair singing sweetly about her dreams to an array of adorable woodland creatures, including her talking chipmunk friend, Pip. Prince Edward (James Marsden) rides through the forest with his trusty courtier Nathaniel (Timothy Spall). He is singing, too. He hears Giselle and the next thing you know he is rescuing her from an escaped giant troll and they are in love and plan to get married the next day.
But if Edward gets married, he will become king and his evil step-mother, Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon) will not let that happen. Disguised as an old crone, she shoves Giselle, poofy wedding dress and all, into a well. She falls and falls until she comes out of a manhole in the middle of Times Square.
She’s befriended by a single father named Robert (Patrick “Dr. McDreamy” Dempsey) and his daughter Morgan (Rachel Covey). Robert, a divorce lawyer, does not believe in fairy tales, princesses, or dreams that come true, and thinks Giselle is deranged, especially after she cuts up his curtains to make her dress and calls on the urban equivalent of woodland creatures — rats, roaches, and pigeons — to help her clean the apartment. And then the Prince, Nathaniel, Pip, and Narissa show up. Giselle learns that reality has something to offer and Robert has to learn that maybe happily ever after is not a fantasy after all.
The film accomplishes three things at once. First, it succeeds as a traditional, well, almost-traditional fairy tale. All of the core elements are there, from the kiss of true love to the gallant rescue. Second, without disturbing the romantic fantasy, everything just gets tweaked a bubble off prime, at the same time allowing us to enjoy the fairy tale and laugh at it at the same time. And third, it makes that all seem effortless and not the least bit ironic or snarky. No air quotes or winks at the audience, just a fresh, sweet story. And that’s movie magic.
A lot of the credit for that goes to Disney, which gives the fairy tale part of the movie the loving care of its biggest and best classic films. Director Kevin Lima worked on hand-drawn animation blockbusters The Little Mermaid and The Brave Little Toaster and it is a pleasure to see the old school animation done with brushes instead of pixels.
Composer Alan Menken is responsible for the brilliant soundtracks of Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast and Steven Schwartz of Pocahontas . They literally hit just the right note. The songs are tuneful and would fit right into a straight-on version of a fairy tale, but every so often they throw an unexpected rhyme and you realize Giselle is warbling about vermin. And who better to provide the impeccably spoken narration than Mary Poppins herself, Julie Andrews?
It was around the time of Aladdin that fairy tales got their first touch of post-modern spin, with Robin Williams wisecracking and adopting the personas of everyone from William F. Buckley to Groucho Marx as the genie. Since Shrek the basic premises of princesses and heroes and wishes and quests have all been a little snark-ified until some have wondered whether even small children remember what a straight, honest story feels like anymore. The unexpected pleasure of this film is the way it tweaks the tweakers with a sort of post-post-modernism that takes us straight back to an unabashed joy that feels almost new again.
The fish-out-of-water interactions are delightful, especially a musical number in Central Park that is both a tribute to “spontaneous” singing and dancing and a gentle spoof as well. But the heart of the movie in every way is Adams’ performance, completely genuine, utterly sweet, totally present. Giselle may switch to live action the moment she climbs up into Times Square, but Adams is simply sublime in showing us Giselle’s gradual coming to life as she begins to think and feel in three dimensions. Sarandon relishes the role of the evil queen, and is simply stunning in all three forms: cartoon, real-life, and Rick Baker-ized crone. When Pip the chipmunk cannot speak in real life, he resorts to extreme gestures and frenzied charades, which is funny. When they are crystal clear to everyone but the very enthusiastic but slightly self-involved and more than slightly dim Prince Edward, it is very funny. And when it turns out that dreams can come true and a kiss can be just as powerful in real life and in fairy tales, it is funny, and sweet, and wise, and thats as happily ever after as a movie can be.
Parents should know that the movie may be too intense for younger children, with a fire-breathing dragon, a giant troll, a mean witch, an acrimonious couple, and some icky bugs. Characters are in fantasy-style peril. There is some potty humor and there are some very mild sexual references. Characters drink alcohol and one gets drunk. A strength of the movie is the reversal of traditional gender roles, with male and female rescuers.
Families who see this movie should talk about what “happily ever after” means. What were the most important things that Giselle and Robert learned from each other? What should people find out about each other on dates? How does liking yourself affect the way other people treat you?
Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy Happily N’ever After, Hoodwinked, and The Shrek Trilogy, as well as some of the Disney classics that inspired this one, like Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.

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Animation Comedy Family Issues Fantasy Genre , Themes, and Features Musical Reviews Romance

13 Replies to “Enchanted”

  1. I am 17 years old and I loved this movie! It was your tipical romantic fairy tail. They did a great job making this movie because in my opinion it is good for all ages. I want to see it again.

  2. I enjoyed this movie very much. Amy Adams is a wonder and I am sure that Susan Sarandon had a good time with her role. However, I look forward to the day when mature women are no longer presented as the source of ultimate evil. Time and time again we see the “evil queen/step mother” trying to do away with her supposed younger/prettier/sweeter rival. I know that this is a fairy tale but it still is disheartening to me. Walt Disney’s villains were always women. The same goes for C.S. Lewis. I don’t understand what they were afraid of in older women. I will be glad when Humankind finally evolves emotionally beyond this point.
    Thank you
    Josephine E. Ortez

  3. Dear Jewbear : Your statement makes no sense. But please, by all means, do
    cry your OWN river…………..
    Josephine E. Ortez

  4. Dear Josephine E. Ortez
    I agree with what you say about older women. But you make it seem they are more targeted. It really is a story. I dont know the full scale percentage, but there have been alot of male evildoers, as well.

  5. Thanks for the thoughtful comments, Josephine. You’re right that there are a lot of memorable female Disney villains, including the evil stepmother in “Cinderella,” Maleficent in “Sleeping Beauty,” and Ursula in “The Little Mermaid.” All of those are based on traditional sources, so the issue goes back a long way. I was pleased by the way “Enchanted” tweaked some of the gender issues so that Giselle was both the rescuer and the rescued, so perhaps we’ve made some progress.

  6. Dear Billy – In these fairy tales, especially the Disney ones, mature women and older women ARE targeted.
    I feel they do make an impression on young minds and help perpetuate stereotypes. The stereotypes were never valid. They harken back to the myths and fairytales told around campfires etc. Many of those tales were told to marginalize and demonize women who were past childbearing age, who were more likely to stand up to males.
    The idea of the old crone/witch was another invention. During the Middle Ages, women who were accused of witchcraft had their land seized and any extended family member of such a woman had their land seized. It was an excuse by the church for a land grab. It was also a way for males who wanted to practice medicine to get rid of women who healed by using herbal remedies, which were generally effective.
    As far as Enchanted: at least Giselle was able to assist in overcoming the Dragon. Of course, only after she had stupidly eaten the poisoned apple and fallen into a completely passive state. Oh well, change is coming, if incrementally.
    Male evildoers are mostly in live action movies where they are defeated by other men. The ratio of male to female characters seems to be something like 4 men and 1 woman or ten men and 1 woman or women in the background assisting the hero.
    By the way, live action movies called “chick flicks” are, to me, booooorrrring!
    I am not asking for domination by women over men. Just asking for parity.
    Josephine E. Ortez

  7. Don’t forget Cruella Deville as one of the great Disney female villains of all time. In fact, it’s hard to find a male villain anywhere in Disney that is nearly as interesting as the female villains listed by the movie mom. Which reminds me, the make up on the evil queen in this movie was astonishing! Better than anything that animation could do.

  8. Has anyone thought of the fact that these are all fairy tales, geared toward children? To a child, women are supposed to be the nurturers (not that men can’t be but to most children the women in their lives are the main sources of protection and nurturing). Therefore, when the woman is not kind, loving and protecting but in fact the predator it is SCARY to the child.

  9. In both ‘Cinderella’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty’ the older-female villains were offset by the older-female benefactors (ok, so they were fairies, but they were still mature females, right?). What really bothered me more about these movies (and ‘Snow White’) was that the heroines were dim-witted and helpless. At least in the later princess movies we saw strong female leads: Belle’s intelligence was more than a match for the all brawn no brain Gaston. Jasmine was pretty independant for any woman in ANY sultanate, even against the evil (male!) villain Jafar. Ariel may have gone up against a female villain, but she won on her own without having to be rescued by her man. I’m not ready to start claiming that “we’ve come a long way, baby” but I can see some improvement… and I’d still rather have an evil/intelligent female character than a beautiful idiot who stands around waiting to be rescued.

  10. In this movie there is one part, after the prince stabs the bus (or is hopping on cars?) and in the backround a man yells “GET THE F*** OUT OF THE WAY” (or something along those lines)
    it’s not very loud, but it’s there! my young daughter noticed it.

  11. Thanks for the comment, Lyss. I did not hear that in the movie and will listen for it when I watch it again.

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