Enchanted

Director: Kevin Lima
Writer: Bill Kelly
Full Cast and Crew List: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0461770/fullcredits/?ref_=tt_cl_sm
More Info: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0461770/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0

IMDB Movie Summary: A young maiden in a land called Andalasia, who is prepared to be wed, is sent away to New York City by an evil Queen, where she falls in love with a lawyer.

My Thoughts: As I watch more and more movies, I feel like it’s important to make sure that I am able to watch and appreciate a diverse number of genres and styles. I’ll always have my personal preferences, of course, but I do try and keep a relative balance in my film diet. I generally feel like this approach to watching movies has allowed me to enjoy things I might have initially dismissed out of hand if I wasn’t actively looking for…..a kid’s movie, let’s say, to watch, and that’s definitely the case with Enchanted. I generally try and keep up with some of the big animation studios’ (Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, etc.) movies, and I enjoy watching them with my younger brother, so after reading some generally favorable reviews, I rented Enchanted last week, and watched it with him, just to see what it was all about, and these are my general thoughts.

What I think worked: So the first thing that I noticed about Enchanted is that the people making this movie had a fantastic understanding of what Disney’s most common tropes were, and which ones would be entertaining to see satirized. They also all put a lot of effort into making sure the movie had stuff going on besides just the premise of “look how silly our other movies are!”, because that would have gotten old real quick. This film’s performances are generally pretty fantastic. I was instantly sold on Amy Adams as Princess Giselle, even before she made the flip into live action about fifteen minutes in, and even though her whole shtick of being lost and confused in New York started to annoy me a bit at first, once her character arc kicks into gear, I found that Adams genuinely did a great job. Similarly, James Marsden is absolutely fantastic as Prince Edward. He was hilarious in animated form, and even better in live action. Pretty much all of his fish-out-of-water comedy landed for me, and I just loved how much of an obnoxious douche he was, while still somehow being likable and charming.

Even though Susan Sarandon isn’t in the movie all that much, she really made the most of the little time she did have, and her performance as the Evil Queen Narissa was memorable and entertaining. Finally, there was Patrick Dempsey, who plays the divorce lawyer Robert Phillip, and he might honestly be my favorite out of the bunch. I expected his whole thing to be that he was a super cynical dick at the beginning, and then Giselle comes along and teaches him the meaning of love, or something like that, and that just wasn’t how it went down. He’s a legitimately likable, normal guy who’s just living his life. He’s in a healthy long-term relationship (and I’ll get to how handles that in a minute, because yikes), he has a daughter who he loves, and he worked really well as an everyman for the audience to experience these whacky cartoonish caricatures through. Also, just a quick note, Timothy Spall (the actor who plays Wormtail in the Harry Potter movies) is also in this, and he’s also great! His arc is really well executed, and his performance helped sell that. So overall, the performances were awesome. All the actors gave off great, fun kids’ movie energy while still bringing enough serious acting to the table to not be obnoxious.

Another thing that really worked for me is the music. I genuinely didn’t expect this, but after experiencing Frozen’s absolutely fantastic Love is an Open Door, perhaps I should have had more faith that Disney could pull off some really good parody songs. One of the main recurring ones is a number called True Love’s Kiss that shows up near the beginning in the animated sequence, and it’s honestly great. It’s a really beautiful and joyful romantic duet with lyrics that beautifully poke fun at the old Disney Princess tropes that you know (and probably love) from your childhood. Then, there’s the Happy Working Song, which is probably the weakest one in the movie, yet still manages to actually be better than the actual song its spoofing, Work Song from Cinderella (1950). Finally, there’s the absolute bop That’s How You Know, which pulls off all the bombast and theatrics you’d expect from a climactic musical number at the end of the first act of a musical, while continuing to poke fun at both itself for being that, while also making some more jokes about standard Disney tropes. I genuinely like all three of these songs, and I’ve found myself humming them multiple times all throughout the week. They’re genuinely great, and the fact that they manage to top some of Disney’s actual songs is equal parts impressive and kinda sad.

The comedy in this movie also worked pretty well for me. Sure, there is a bit of low-hanging humour here and there, but I was impressed by the number of creative and funny gags the film makers were able to come up with, and I was laughing out loud at multiple points throughout the movie. Also, while we’re listing off a couple rapid-fire compliments, Enchanted’s CGI is genuinely fantastic. And I mean that. This movie came out in 2007, right in the middle of an enormous slump in the quality of Disney movies, and for a gimicky, live-action mid-2000s movie to have actually gorgeous visuals at certain points is genuinely impressive. And not only that, but the 2D animation, when it does show up, rivals Disney classics of old with how good it looks. I personally am a fan of the 3D style we’ve been getting in films like Moana and Wreck-It-Ralph, but I’ve also really missed the classic style from movies like The Jungle Book and The Lion King. So that’s nice too.

Finally, I think about half of the character work is good. Not amazing, mind you, but serviceable. Both Giselle and Robert go through pretty basic and predictable, but never-the-less well executed character arcs, and discount Wormtail (does Timothy Spall just get type-cast as the sleazy best friend now?) goes through a quite surprising and well-executed arc as well. Neither the villain nor Prince Edward go through any kind of arc, but both of their characters are so vibrant and entertaining that I don’t really mind. But to go any further into this, I’m going to have to hop into my criticisms. Cause while there’s clearly a lot to like, this movie has some serious flaws in some important places.

What didn’t work for me: As I’ve hinted at a few times so far, there are some characters in here who really don’t work for me. First of all, Idina Menzel is in this movie, and she does a good job, but her character is fucking wasted. She’s the person who Robert the Lawyer is in a relationship with, and the movie has this awkward thing where it doesn’t know what to do with her. Cause Robert’s happy with her, but the movie wants to be this great Rom-Com between him and Giselle, so she just awkwardly disappears for half the movie, before showing back up near the end to remind the audience that “hey, I’m in the movie!” So then there’s this awkward-ass plot beat at the end where she’s just suddenly chill with Robert loving someone else, oh and now she loves someone else too, so I guess there’s just no conflict anymore, isn’t that nice.

And while that annoys me on its own, the unfortunate thing is that this means that Giselle and Robert’s big romantic arc is butchered as well, because they cannot date or anything, until the very end of the movie. So we get an entire movie that feels like the setup of a Rom-Com, and then just skip to the conclusion at the end. Also, there’s one sequence at the end that fell flat for me comedically. And the cell-phone joke at the very end wasn’t very funny. Anyway, what’s ironic about this whole thing, is that Enchanted is trying to serve as a deconstruction of the Disney princess tropes, but ends up having one and a half unironic love at first sight arcs within the movie. So….that’s not great.

Finally, I think it’s just worth mentioning that the whole thing could have been tightened up a bit, I think. Just make Robert single, make Idina Menzel his ex-wife, and you have the setup for a much stronger movie, because then she can still go through her finding love in another person arc, and he can go through his arc with Giselle, and the whole thing would just work way better, because there isn’t this awkward tension of not being allowed to do any romance until the last ten minutes or else Robert’s being unfaithful. If that were to happen, it’s likely that the movie would be about 10-15 minutes shorter, which I think would make the whole thing better.

Overall: Enchanted is a fun deconstruction of the Disney tropes. It has some great performances and gags, some genuinely stellar music, and the animation and CGI look absolutely fantastic. It even has a couple great character arcs, and a somewhat satisfying conclusion. It also has a fantastic villain who was super fun to watch be evil. Unfortunately, it had a couple story problems and some sloppy character work which really held it back from greatness. So overall, I’m giving Enchanted a 7.5/10. If you like Disney movies, you’ll find it fun, if not, you can probably skip it.

Written on 09/04/2021

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