In this surprisingly sophisticated riff on animated fairy-tale movie cliches, a chirpy animated princess is banished to the real world of New York City, where there are no happily ever-afters.
Beautiful, kindhearted Giselle (Amy Adams) is about to marry handsome Prince Edward (James Marsden) when Edward's wicked stepmother, evil Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon), steps in, shoving unsuspecting Giselle into a deep well that opens onto a busy Times Square street. Poor trusting Giselle, with her poofy wedding dress and sunny dearth of street smarts, is quickly robbed, drenched by the inevitable sudden squall, and reduced to knocking on the door of a billboard illustration of a castle, looking like a bona fide crazy lady. Fortunately, fate delivers her into the reluctant custody of divorced divorce lawyer Robert (Patrick Dempsey), whose little daughter, Morgan (Rachel Covey), loves all things princess and persuades daddy to keep her, at least temporarily. Giselle's presence disrupts every aspect of Robert's life, starting with his plan to propose to sassy Nancy (Idina Menzel), his girlfriend of five years: Nancy, not unnaturally, is furious to find a naked girl in her boyfriend's shower. Giselle also puts a serious crimp in Robert's ongoing efforts to teach Morgan that real life is not a Disney movie, and that it's better to be smart, cautious and self-reliant than to sit around humming "Someday My Prince Will Come." In fact, she starts to make him doubt his own rueful cynicism, even as he tells himself there must be an explanation for the way a simple walk in Central Park with Giselle becomes a full-scale musical production number, or how she got that pair of cooing doves to fly over to Nancy's place bearing a heart-shaped flower wreath.
Though ENCHANTED casts a wide net, its most obvious influence is SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARVES (1937), from Sarandon's busty evil queen to the poisoned apples with which her henchman (Timothy Spall) tries to poison Giselle. And rightly so: SNOW WHITE is the wellspring from which all subsequent Disney animation springs. With the exception of a supersweet ending that ignores the hard truth at the heart of the best fairy tales — that happy endings come at a real price — ENCHANTED works on every level. The script is genuinely clever (love the rats, pigeons and giant cockroaches who respond to Giselle's call for animal friends to help clean Robert's apartment), old Disney hands Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz deliver spot-on pastiches of the blandly pleasant songs on which their careers were built, and the cast consistently opts for subtlety rather than coarse farce. Special kudos to Adams, who nails the distinctive body language of Disney's spunky good girls and manages to make Giselle's relentless optimism seem charming rather than a sign of mental deficiency. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh