Disney winningly sends up its own back-catalogue.
from Chilton, County Durham
, 18 Jan 2008
In the animated musical fairytale kingdom of Andalasia Giselle lands in the arms of handsome prince Edward. Evil queen Narissa, Edward's stepmother, knowing their happily ever after will loosen her grip on power, banishes Giselle to a strange and scary other world- live-action New York.
Enchanted is a sly spoof of, and homage to, Disney's fairy tales especially the instant classics of the studio's second golden age- The Little Mermaid to Aladdin years. It's a straight-faced fantasy-comedy reminiscent of Men in Black and The Addam's Family and the director behind those uneven but perfectly presented franchises, Barry Sonnenfeld, is a producer here. Billy Kelly's witty script and Kevin Lima's confident direction deserve credit of course but Sonnenfeld's influence is palpable.
Central to Enchanted's success is the wonderfully committed Amy Adams as guileless Giselle, wide-eyed, charming and, indeed, animated. It's the sort of bravura comedy turn that can make a film on its own like Christina Ricci's Wednesday Addams or Johnny Depp's Captain Jack. The rest of the cast follows Adams' formidable example- James Marsden's Edward is handsome, dashing and dumb as a stump, hilariously conceited and oblivious to the strictures of reality. Timothy Spall, as his treacherous assistant who ends up calling a radio shrink, and Susan Sarandon as Narissa might have been better used though Sarandon clearly has a ball in her too few scenes. Patrick Dempsey drew the short straw as the straight man Robert, the big hearted lawyer (well- it is a fantasy) who takes Giselle in, but makes an impression anyway- when Giselle starts singing about true love in Central Park he accepts it as another sign that she's touched. When others join in, starting with some buskers and finishing with what seems like half the population of Manhattan, Robert's reaction is cherishable- either he's going nuts or everyone else is and he doesn't like the odds.
There are only a couple of songs (well- two and a half) but they are highlights- fine musical pastiches as you would expect from Alan Menken, a creative force behind the Disney films cited earlier, here working with Stephen Schwartz. Giselle's trilling of a few notes from a window summons willing animals to help with some housework. The motley assembly of pigeons, rats and cockroaches is not quite what she was expecting but they set to anyway and Cleaning Crud up in the Kitchen is just as catchy as Whistle While You Work and much funnier. The mickey-taking show-stopper in Central Park is simultaneously as unabashedly joyous as anything Disney has ever done which is quite an achievement and sums up Enchanted perfectly.
Do take my enthusiastic rating in context for I do love Disney's other animated musicals but this is an exhilarating tonic, a great children's film for adults and (sorry but it's true) utterly enchanting. Let's hope no pallid, money driven, committee designed sequel is in the works
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