The passing years have rubbed away the youthful cynicism, and I fear that my true self, a maudlin sentimentalist, is emerging. How else to explain my enjoyment of Enchanted,
the latest piece of holiday fluff from Disney?
A half-century or more after the releases of Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, Enchanted
first celebrates then gently makes fun of the conventions of the genre when the protagonists of a fairy-tale world are thrust into the urban jungle that is contemporary New York.
The movie opens in animated Andalasia. The song of humble Giselle is overheard by the passing Prince Edward, who immediately proposes marriage. His evil (we know this because she’s dressed in black) stepmother Narissa uses magic to cast Giselle out of Andalasia into live-action Manhattan.
When the innocent princess-to-be walks the streets of New York at night, her encounters are unfortunate—but not calamitously so since this is a PG-rated Disney movie. She’s rescued by world-weary divorce lawyer Robert, who gives her a temporary place to sleep. In a non-Disney movie the audience would question Robert’s motives, but that question is immediately put to bed because Robert is a single parent with a six-year-old daughter Morgan, whose presence requires him to be on his best behavior. Morgan also is the only one that sees that Giselle really is a princess and not merely another sad delusional in need of medication.
Meanwhile Prince Edward leaves Andalasia to find Giselle, followed by the stepmother’s henchman Nathaniel, and finally Narissa herself. (For a complete synopsis with spoilers, see Wikipedia’s entry
.) While there are several story threads, the main plot line is
obvious: will Giselle choose her fairy-tale Prince Edward or real-world divorce lawyer Robert?Enchanted
can be enjoyed at several levels. It’s a musical with some elaborate song-and-dance numbers, and Amy Adams plays Giselle “big” with extravagant emotions and gestures appropriate for the stage. It’s got special effects, including all too real (and disgusting) depictions of vermin and cockroaches, and a nearly seamless overlay of live action with animation. It’s got humor and a feminist view that’s not hard to spot: Giselle is the strongest character against James Marsden’s buffoonish Edward and Patrick Dempsey’s jaded Robert.
And if you’re looking for deeper themes, they’re present as well. What if we’ve dreamt of being a princess all our lives and suspect at the last minute that the dream is not what’s best for us or what we really want? How easily may we dismiss others’ expectations in the pursuit of our own desires?
But this is still a fairy tale, after all. The plot lines are tied up, and everyone except the evil stepmother lives happily ever after. Just the way I, and millions of others, like it. © 2007 Stephen Yuen