Simply put, "Enchanted" was the funniest picture of 2007.
After all their animated fantasies, true-life adventures, inspirational sports stories, and shaggy dogs, the Disney studios finally took the time to spoof themselves a bit. With tongues firmly set in cheek, screenwriter Bill Kelly ("Blast from the Past") and director Kevin Lima ("Tarzan," "102 Dalmatians") set out to turn the Disney image inside out with a partly animated, partly live-action fairy tale that upsets all the conventions of traditional Disney fairy tales. In this regard, it's a little like the first "Shrek" movie; if not quite so pointed or caustic, just as amusing. And with the added quality of a really sweet love story thrown in, "Enchanted" is hard to resist.
OK, remember all those famous Disney princesses--Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and the rest? Well, what if one of these animated young ladies were to find herself in the real world, an animated fairy-tale princess suddenly turned human and let loose in twenty-first-century Manhattan? That's the premise of "Enchanted," a kind of fish-out-of-water tale.
The princess is Giselle (Amy Adams), who has spent her entire life in the animated kingdom of Andalasia. So, when the movie opens, Disney artists have animated her. And they have animated her in Disney's best, old-fashioned style, with plenty of internal detail and gorgeous backgrounds. But through the machinations of a scheming, evil Queen, Narissa (Susan Sarandon), poor Giselle finds herself banished from the kingdom, popping up through a manhole in downtown New York City. I mean, what's a young lady to do who has never seen an automobile before, let alone modern manners?
Giselle wanders aimlessly for a while, nobody noticing her fairy-tale attire because, you know, it's NYC, after all. A cynical divorce lawyer, Robert Philip (Patrick Demsey), stumbles upon her and helps her out, and anybody can see where that is leading. Meanwhile, the not-quite-so-charming and remarkably smug Prince Edward from Andalasia goes to rescue his fair damsel, with his stepmother, the evil Queen, in hot pursuit. And, let's see, oh, yes, there is also the fact that the lawyer is a single dad raising a cute-as-a-button, six-year-old girl, Morgan (Rachel Covey), and the lawyer has a rather unsympathetic fiancée, Nancy (Idina Menzel), in tow. Now, add in the Queen's henchman, Nathaniel (Timothy Spall), for further comic relief; a chipmunk, Pip (Jeff Bennett/Kevin Lima), who could speak English back in Andalasia but in the real world can only squeak; and a narrator in the person of Julie Andrews herself, and you get cast of characters worthy of bringing this or any story to life.
Most movies live or die on the basis of their lead actor's or actress's screen presence or charisma, and in this case the filmmakers made a terrific selection in Amy Adams. Here's the thing: Her character's got to be totally beautiful, innocent, and naive, and in these respects Ms. Adams fits the bill perfectly. Yet she isn't the delicate teenage flower we may picture as Snow White or Cinderella types, either. Ms. Adams is a bit more mature than that, and she artfully projects an innocent and naive charm. It works to make her Giselle more appealing to young and old viewers alike than any teen fresh off the Disney Channel could probably accomplish. What's more, her Giselle is totally free of irony and doesn't understand the meaning of sarcasm; she is perfectly genuine in her feelings and emotions, making Ms. Adams's creation irresistibly delightful.
The others in the cast are almost equally up to the task. As the entirely deadpan, pragmatic lawyer, Patrick Dempsey is the perfect foil for Adams's Giselle, yet Dempsey's lawyer never treats Giselle with disdain or mockery. At first, he thinks she's merely a "troubled," perhaps mentally confused, young woman. It's one of those typical romantic comedies where the audience is quickly in on everything that the movie characters have to spend the entire story to figure out. As the prince, James Marsden is not only impossibly handsome and dashing, he's got a good heart, too. He's not just an arrogant prig we can boo, but rather a fellow who's grown up firmly believing it's his duty in life to rescue fair damsels from ogres and such. Like the character of Jessica Rabbit in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," who explains "I'm not bad; I'm just drawn that way," so, too, are these animated characters unable to be anything than what their creators drew them to be.
Yet, in the real world the animated characters begin to take on human emotions--things like anger and love. Which, in turn, makes for much of the fun in the picture. Giselle, for instance, knows all about the outer trappings of romance and marriage without ever having experienced the feelings herself. Reality is tough on her, most especially learning what it's like to be human, with all the human sensibilities that go with it.
Of course, it wouldn't be a great Disney family film without music, so Disney veterans Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz have come up with some great tunes and lyrics for songs that are not only memorable but funny as well. Among them: "True Love's Kiss," "Happy Working Song," "So Close," and "That's How You Know," the latter three nominated for Academy Awards.
And what are the funniest parts of the picture? That will depend on the viewer, naturally, but for me the scene in which Giselle enlists the aid of her new animal acquaintances in NYC ("It's always nice to meet new friends") to help her clean Robert's apartment is sidesplitting; and the big Central Park extravaganza where practically everyone in the park breaks out into song and dance is another highlight.
Not to suggest that the moviemakers don't take the low ground on occasion and go for the cheap laugh. For instance, there are bits with a dog outside a hotel, with the chipmunk getting overexcited, and with Giselle and a fish tank that seem glaringly out of place, but, thankfully, such moments are few and far between. Most of the film will have you smiling or downright laughing throughout.
In addition, you'll find quite a few references to other fantasies in the movie, to Disney films as well as others. Look for comical allusions to "Snow White," "Cinderella," "Lady and the Tramp," "The Little Mermaid," among many other Disney favorites, as well to things like "Moonstruck" and "The Sound of Music." In the end, "Enchanted" has a little something for everyone.
Trivia: You'll recognize the voice of narrator Julie Andrews immediately. You'll appreciate that Susan Sarandon's evil queen in "Enchanted" appeared the same year as Michelle Pfeiffer's evil queen in "Stardust." And you'll notice that Timothy Spall is fast becoming one of moviedom's best and most recognizable character actors (Peter Pettigrew in the "Harry Potter" series, Beadle Bamford in "Sweeney Todd," Mr. Poe in "Lemony Snicket," Simon Graham in "The Last Samurai").
The film's opening animated sequence is in a letterboxed and pillarboxed format, meaning there are black bars around the top, bottom, and sides of the picture to give it a different look from the rest of the film that follows. The body of the film, however, is in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, transferred at a high enough bit rate to capture the movie's color and glamor. The hues are bright without being garish, the definition is crisp, and the black levels are strong. A touch of print grain provides a final realistic texture to the image.
In an unusual move for Disney, they offer the choice in English of both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1. After some comparing, I thought the DD 5.1 sounded the tiniest bit fuller to my ears, with a touch more surround information, but it's a toss-up, really. The overall output levels of both tracks also seem slightly lower than normal, particularly noticeable when you switch from the menu music to the film soundtracks. Beyond that minor peculiarity, the audio is quite good, with wide dynamic and frequency ranges. Let's say when you hear thunder, you really hear thunder.
The disc contains all the usual items you might find on a DVD, but not as many as on the Blu-ray edition of the film. Here, you'll find "Fantasy Comes To Life," a series of three brief featurettes, about five or six minutes each, that go behind the scenes of the filmmaking: "Happy Working Song," "That's How You Know," and "A Blast at the Ball." Next, there are six deleted scenes, with introductions by director Kevin Lima, totaling about eight minutes. After that are some bloopers, about two minutes; followed by a pop-up book adventure, "Pip's Predicament," five minutes aimed squarely at the youngest members of the family.
The extras conclude with twenty scene selections and a chapter insert; Sneak Peeks at eleven other Disney products; a "Fast-Play" button that forces selected trailers and the like on the unsuspecting; English, French, and Spanish spoken languages; French and Spanish subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired.
"Enchanted" has a lot in common with another fantasy from 2007, "Stardust." If I like "Stardust" just a tad better, it isn't for lack of trying on the part of "Enchanted." It just happens that "Stardust" is not only a new slant on fairy tales, it contains a greater degree of action, adventure, excitement, and romance as well. But "Enchanted" has the larger number of gags and, of course, all those wonderful songs. So, while "Enchanted" may not be quite as thoroughly entertaining as "Stardust," we're lucky to have had both films released the same or any year.
"Enchanted" is, indeed, enchanting.