Disney Enterprises
Kevin Lima/United States 2007

An obvious conceit underlies Enchanted, this holiday season’s much-hyped Walt Disney production; but the movie exudes such relentless charm that the high concept works. The film tells the story of Giselle (Amy Adams), a hand-drawn animated princess in the classical Disney tradition, thrust by a bitter stepmother (Susan Sarandon) from her home in the animated fairytale land of Andalusia through some sort of time-space continuum and into the real world’s Times Square.

From there, director Kevin Lima and screenwriter Bill Kelly treat us to a fish out of water story, as Manhattan lawyer Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and his daughter Morgan (Rachel Covey) take her in. Additionally, the filmmakers intercut the journey of Giselle’s beloved Prince Edward (James Marsden) through the same dimensional warp to rescue her, and the stepmother’s continuing efforts to eliminate her from the picture.

The blending of animation and live action has been done before, though never quite in this context, and the lost in New York City’s urban jungle motifs have been covered in everything from Mr. Deeds Goes to Town to Crocodile Dundee. However, Lima constructs several amusing satiric sequences that supplement the usual tropes, drawing out the absurdity of storybook characters going about business as usual in our cynical world.

Further, the energetic, elaborately staged musical numbers and vibrant, colorful cinematography enhance the satire by lending the film a magical feel. The real secret of the movie’s success, though, is Adams. She sells the part here, a harder role than one might think, by drawing on an endless reservoir of cheerfulness supplemented by a palpable, heartening belief in human nature’s inherent kindness. In the hands of the wrong actress such a character might have comes across as an unnerving, sickly sweet concoction. Fortunately, the right one secures the character’s place amongst the Mouse House’s most memorable personages and makes the movie a worthy addition to the family film pantheon.

© 2007 Robert Levin. All rights reserved.

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