There were so many ways that “Enchanted” could have gone wrong. Poking fun at the wonderful world of Disney is not exactly uncharted territory – the original “Shrek” was little more than a big ‘fuck you’ to Jeffrey Katzenberg’s former employers – but when the studio doing the poking is Disney itself, well, now you’re walking a particularly slippery slope. If you don’t go far enough, you run the risk of looking like you can’t take a joke. Go too far, and you’re being disrespectful to the qualities that made people love Disney movies in the first place. It is therefore to Disney’s immense credit that they navigated these treacherous waters and delivered a surprisingly entertaining movie that possesses the trademark Disney magic while administering a few well-deserved jabs in the ribs at the same time.
The movie begins in old-school 2D animation land, with lonely woodland girl Giselle (Amy Adams) telling her animal friends about the prince that will one day sweep her off her feet and give her true love’s kiss. When she finally meets her Prince, a gallant troll killer named Edward (James Marsden), his mother, Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon), plots to dispose of her in order to maintain her reign as Queen. She tricks Giselle into peeking into a fountain, and Narissa pushes her in, sending Giselle to a world with no happy endings: live-action New York City. The sweet Giselle is no match for the big bad city, but when divorce lawyer Robert (Patrick Dempsey) sees Giselle talking to a billboard with a castle on it, he takes her in. Meanwhile, Prince Edward learns of Giselle’s fate from a wisecracking chipmunk, and the two of them follow her to New York in hopes of saving her.
The fish-out-of-water jokes write themselves by the pound in a setup like that, but “Enchanted,” thank heaven, does not wallow in them. Perhaps that is because they are too busy sending up their remarkable songbook with a series of clever, spot-on parodies – wisely, they brought back Alan Menken to do the honors – and the rest of their time is spent taking their character stereotypes down a peg. Marsden is almost too good as the pretty/vacant Prince Edward, buying way too much into his own hype despite having very little to offer besides perfect hair and a square chin. The casting of Sarandon as the evil queen is inspired to begin with, but once you see her 2D equivalent, it is clear that she was born to play the part.
Having said that, the movie lives and dies on the shoulders of Giselle, and Amy Adams plays her with perfect pitch. She’s simply magical to watch, all wide-eyed innocence but also believable. This is an important distinction, because a more demonstrative Giselle would have ruined her credibility, and ultimately the movie. Adams may not exactly be the physical embodiment of a Disney heroine – though if anyone dares to make a biopic about the late, great pop singer Kirsty MacColl, Adams is the first, and only, person they should consider – but that appears to be the point, since Dempsey is her Prince Charming in disguise, and let’s face it, McDreamy is never going to win a battle of the faces over Marsden.
It’s a pity that the makers of “Enchanted” decided to go along with the aforementioned fish-out-of-water jokes, not to mention two wholly unnecessary bathroom jokes and the miscast Idina Menzel as Robert’s girlfriend (the movie also could have used one more song). By taking the easy jokes, they cost themselves a shot at greatness, but the rest of “Enchanted” works so well that the movie’s flaws are easy to forgive.(3.5 / 5)