Screenwriter: Bill Kelly
Starring: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, Susan Sarandon, Timothy Spall, Idina Menzel
Running time: 107 mins
Ever since Toy Story graced the big screen in 1995, Disney films - and kids' films in general - have been willing to poke fun at themselves. Gone were the starchy tales of princesses, wicked queens and heroic knights straddling noble steeds, and in their place we got sly nudges, knowing winks and jokes that even your dad would have a giggle at. DreamWorks' Shrek marked a high point in this new field of family entertainment with its reversal of the traditional ogre/prince character format and A-list cast raising the bar.
Enchantment follows similar lines and gently ribs Disney's popular canon of movie hits by transporting its traditional fairytale cartoon figures to the rough and tumble of modern day New York.
It revolves around a fairly simple but original plot, which sees the cartoon Princess Giselle (Adams) banished to the streets of Manhattan by the wicked Queen Narissa (Sarandon), after she tries to marry Narissa's son Prince Edward (Marsden). Edward heads to the real world on a quest for his true love and is joined by Narissa's loyal-but-bumbling servant Nathaniel, who does all he can to throw a spanner in the works of true love in order to earn the respect of his Queen.
So far, so old-fashioned Disney. The real twist comes in the cross-over between the cartoon characters and the everyday New Yorkers. Giselle is taken in by the pragmatic and unromantic divorce lawyer Robert Philip (Dempsey), who is having romantic difficulties with his girlfriend Nancy (Menzel). The princess' relentless optimism and unshakable belief in true love initially grates on Philip, who requires relationships to break down to keep him in work. Somewhat predictably the two characters end up rubbing off on each other and both learn some lessons about romance and fall for each other's charms. However, with Prince Edward and Queen Narissa still on the hunt for Giselle, there are plenty of twists and turns before the movie's climactic finale.
Amy Adam's performance as the sugary sweet and blindly innocent Giselle is an undoubted highlight and stroke of genius casting. In the wrong hands her character could have proved a sickly centre-piece to the movie, but she ends up breathing life and charm into the film with her wide-eyed, rounded portrayal of the confused and childlike princess. Half Mary Poppins, half Snow White, she is a very bog-standard character essentially, but Adams installs in her enough emotional complexity to wrestle the plot away from the average save-the-weak-little-woman Disney tale. Her screen-stealing performance, combined with the elaborate camp-as-Christmas song and dance routines, will leave the biggest impression on audiences of this film.
Equally entertaining is the double team of Marsden and Spall. Marsden's painfully dumb and vacuous Prince is so worryingly accurate that you begin to wonder whether the actor has any personality in the first place, while Spall's accomplished and amusing depiction of the accident-prone assistant to the evil queen will come as no surprise to anyone who has watched him on UK TV screens over the years. Paired together as they attempt to hunt down Giselle (although for different purposes), they provide the light relief and slapstick between the schmaltz and romantic developments in the rest of the film.
Being Disney there are of course numerous faults and things to nit pick. The whole premise of twisting the traditional fairytale and poking fun at its regulation cardboard caricatures is great in principle but the movie doesn't always follow it through to conclusion; with the old-fashioned values of true love and heroic male heroes spouted by Giselle, presented as a wonderful thing, without fault. Disney are laughing at themselves but then turn on the audience and argue that we need the mindless optimism and inane cheeriness of their movies to get us through life. Aside from that, the movie's final scenes are also a little bit over-egged, with the battle scenes dragging on needlessly and feeling out of sync with the lighthearted and often high-camp nature of the rest of the flick.
However, to expect a Disney film to all-out attack other Disney films would be a perhaps asking a little too much. Clearly designed for long-standing lovers of the veteran filmmakers, there's dozens of references from their movie back catalogue stuffed in the film to keep diehards happy and no doubt flicking the rewind and pause buttons on their DVD players. While the film is nowhere near the classic status of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which is still without doubt the best movie to cross animation with real life characters, Enchanted still provides a pleasant twist on Walt Disney's traditional output and has enough decent performances from its cast to raise titters and smiles from even the most grumpy movie-goers.