(Because maybe if I make the headline as corny as possible, they’ll actually use it.)
No amount of Disney magic can redeem this misguided modern fairy tale. Enchanted, Disney’s most recent attempt at reclaiming its former glory, is the story of a beautiful fairy tale maiden, Giselle, who is thrown—or, more accurately—pushed into the chaos and cynicism of real life in the big city.
About to be married to her one true love, Giselle, played brilliantly by Amy Adams, suddenly finds herself in New York City as a result of the jealous machinations of her predictably evil queen mother-in-law to be.
Unable to grasp this strange new world, Giselle is eventually rescued by Robert Philip, a lawyer, and his 6-year-old daughter, Morgan. Hijinks ensue as Giselle attempts to reconcile the real world with her idyllic storybook worldview.
The opening scenes of the film are promising, with an animated Disney princess-style Giselle waltzing around her room with assorted talking animals in an obvious parody of older, more traditional Disney films. It’s clear—and refreshing—that Disney is ridiculing itself. This self-deprecation continues when cartoon Giselle becomes live action and enters the city, thoroughly bewildered.
People are unfriendly, the weather is imperfect, and her dress is too large to fit through doorways. Salvation comes from an unlikely source, in the form of jaded divorce lawyer Robert (Patrick Dempsey). Any originality that was left in this film flies out the window with an assortment of New York pigeons, which are more adept at vacuuming floors than you might imagine.
As Robert and Giselle spend more time together, it is obvious where the movie is going. She even effortlessly fulfills the long-absent mother role in his daughter’s life. The mandatory musical number in Central Park punctuates their attempts to reconcile romanticism and cynicism, and the plot inches even further into the sparkling depths of Disney predictability. And don’t forget the helpful talking squirrel.
When dashing but intellectually deficient Prince Edward (James Marsden), her supposed soul mate, arrives to save the day with perfect hair and fancy tights, Giselle finds herself torn between two opposing realities. Our conflicted characters are soon joined by the evil queen (Susan Sarandon) as she pursues Giselle with single-minded, homicidal intent.
The main problem with this film is not its predictability, That in itself does not necessarily doom a movie, and many classics follow expected storylines. However, it seems slightly self-defeating for a movie that so clearly ridicules Disney idealism to turn around on itself and emulate the exact thing it seemed to be criticizing.
Enchanted’s brief moments of originality just don’t outweigh its heavy-handed modern chick flick ending. I’m not asking for tragedy and gloom; simply consistency. The protagonist does not undergo a significant change, and remains static. She is allowed to retain her rose-colored view of romance despite her presumably life-changing immersion in “reality.” In the end, this film just doesn’t do anything new.
Mixing fantasy with reality is not a new concept, in literature or film. Some movies just do it better than others. One shining example is Brigadoon. Nobody does optimistic idealism like 1950’s filmmakers, and this movie is no exception. What makes it unique, however, is its brilliant cast and music.
Gene Kelly plays Tommy Albright, a cynical American in Scotland on a hunting holiday with a friend. After getting hopelessly lost, they manage to stumble across the secret, magical village of Brigadoon, which only appears to travelers every 100 years.
More importantly, Brigadoon is home to Fiona, played by Cyd Charisse. Tommy and Fiona fall hopelessly in love, and he finds himself torn between the sleepy, timeless village and his busy life in New York.
Kelly and Charisse, two of the best dancers of their day—or any day, really—are dazzling in this bewitching musical. Brigadoon has charmed audiences for generations with its beautiful songs, stunning dance numbers, and highland flair.
If you want enchantment, this is where to find it.