Oh, Wanderers, you have the joy of my company for the GUST this issue, and this time we’re living a real-life fairy tale with Disney’s Enchanted.
Classic Disney animation meets contemporary urban chaos when a frightened princess is banished from her magical animated homeland to modern-day New York City in a romantic comedy penned by Bill Kelly (Blast from the Past), directed by Kevin Lima (Tarzan), and featuring music by composer Alan Menken and lyricist Stephen Schwartz. Princess Giselle (Amy Adams) lives in the blissful cartoon world of Andalasia, where magical beings frolic freely and musical interludes punctuate every interaction. Though Giselle is engaged to be married to the handsome Prince Edward (James Marsden), her fate takes a turn for the worse when the villainous Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon) banishes her to the unforgiving metropolis of New York City.
Both young lovers are determined to find each other in this bizarre new land, but strange (and hilarious) things happen when the real and fairy tale worlds are thrown together, and despite being in the real world, Giselle still maintains her amazing gift for having the animal kingdom at her beckon call. As the cruelty of the big city soon begins to wear down the fairy-tale exterior of the once-carefree princess, the frightened Giselle soon finds herself falling for a friendly but flawed divorce lawyer (Patrick Dempsey) whose kind compassion helps her to survive in this strange and dangerous new world.
The movie has a sound background in Disney animation, starting with director Kevin Lima (who also directed A Goofy Movie) and the music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, who composed songs for the soundtracks of Disney’s Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. More important, it has a Disney willingness to allow fantasy into life, so New York seems to acquire a new playbook.
Although her tendency to burst forth in song when the proper emotional cue line is spoken rubs some the wrong way, people appear out of the woodwork to sing and dance for one of the best live-action musical numbers I’ve seen in a long time.
We know that there are bugs in Manhattan. Millions of them, in a city where the rubbish left overnight on the sidewalk must seem like a never-ending buffet. As New York City is short on fuzzy woodland creatures, it’s the rats, cockroaches and one-legged pigeons that arrive to help her with the cleaning and mending in Robert’s flat, and when Giselle recruits cockroaches to help her clean Robert’s bathtub – well, I was going to say, “you’ll never think of cockroaches the same way again”, but actually, you will.
Anyway, the cockroach scene is soon over, and the scheming begins, much aided by Sarandon’s evil queen, who fears the spectre of her son Edward marrying the unworthy Giselle. I am not sure Robert and Morgan fully understand from whence Giselle comes, but they respond to the magic in her, and so do we.
Disney enthusiasts have something else to celebrate besides the great comedy and endearing story. The movie is absolutely littered with nods and bows to all things Disney. Some of them are obvious, some are subtle, but if you’re watching carefully you’ll either see or hear something from another Disney movie in just about every scene. It’s a wonderful gift to fans who really know their stuff. Roll it all together and you have a magically new fairy-tale with a clever twist.
Few ‘family films’ can hold a candle to Rob Reiner’s slyly sentimental The Princess Bride or Ron Howard’s magical Splash, but this rip-roaring Disney fantasy certainly earns the right to be mentioned alongside those evergreen gems. A winning whirl of sprightly songs (courtesy of Menken and Schwartz), satirical sass and good old-fashioned romance combine to conjure that rarest of things – a movie which will delight young and old, boys and girls, alike. Indeed, in this age of sequels and cynical franchise fodder, Enchanted proves a real tonic, a bracing breath of family-friendly fresh air.
So, Wanderers, why would I ask you to sit down and watch this? Because it handles the loss of innocence in a gentle way. Because the songs get stuck in your head for weeks. Because, quite frankly, you’d be hard pushed to find a more magical movie to sit down to than this.
Hannah Carter (kinda wishes she could slip back through the manhole into Andalasia)