Did you ever wonder how a fairy tale princess spellbound by an envious wicked stepmother, would cope if she were alone on the unforgiving streets of New York City? It’s a great premise for a holiday movie.
Enchanted begins like a typical 1950s Disney film with a beautiful princess falling head over heels for a handsome prince. Immediately she begins to make her wedding plans. It sounds like a perfect opportunity for mocking the winsome princess Giselle (Amy Adams) and showing her wide-eyed innocence to be utterly ridiculous in the real world. Fortunately Disney has more imagination than that.
Though cast into oblivion down a wishing well by a deliciously scheming wicked stepmother-in-law, played by Susan Sarandon, in the middle of her triumphant march to the altar with debonair Prince Edward (James Marsden), Giselle never loses hope in a happy ending. She emerges from a manhole in Manhattan and wanders the streets, jostled by the uncaring crowd, yet her cheeriness is undimmed. One feels for her vulnerability as her flouncy, low-cut wedding frock begins to wilt in the rain as she searches in vain for her castle in the sky. But this is a fairy tale and somehow she finds a safe haven in the apartment of reluctant hero Robert Phillips (Patrick Dempsey).
A cynical divorce lawyer and single father who deals in the marital misery of others like himself, Robert is determined to raise his six-year-old daughter Morgan “in the real world”, suppressing her girlish inclinations to believe in fairy princesses. He has no intention of allowing her to build up romantic dreams which will surely be dashed to pieces upon the rocks of real life.
So you can imagine Robert’s alarm when little Morgan wakes him up to watch Princess Giselle making fairy-tale magic with the city critters who are doing his household chores! Morgan is thrilled with the idea of befriending a princess in distress. Robert is perplexed by a singing, sewing, certified fairytale princess. And his less-than-enchanted girlfriend Nancy (Idina Menzel) is livid when she enters the apartment and finds towel-clad Giselle cooing over her boyfriend. Menzel is perfect as the hardened New York City career woman who is longing for romance.
The appeal of Enchanted is the interaction of outstanding special effects, which make the impossible seem effortless with the alacrity of Spiderman, and Stephen Schwartz’s lyrical score, capped off with a spectacular Beauty and the Beast style dance scene in Central Park. Somehow disbelief is suspended and the story line works. The character stereotypes are good natured jabs at fairy tale conventions, without souring into the cynicism of the sequel to Shrek. A hilarious animated sidekick, Giselle’s faithful chipmunk friend Pip, follows her into exile and searches for her with Prince Edward. He provides comic relief, while the scheming courtier Nathaniel (Timothy Spall) pursues Giselle to thwart her happy reunion with Prince Edward, by order of stepmother Narissa.
Both Giselle’s romantic impulses and Robert’s cynicism are challenged by the outcome, with Morgan leading the way for both of them to learn the moral of the movie. And this is: “go with your instincts, but make certain you talk to one another first.”
Don’t look for anything too substantial in Enchanted, but it has good performances and thrilling special effects. The film is not appropriate for younger children, however, due to some near violence, implied homosexuality, sexual innuendos (including a scantily-clad shower mishap). This playful romp in Central Park is appropriate for adolescents girls and their mothers. They can have some interesting post-movie chats about the place of romance in marriage, and the meaning of true love.
Leticia Velasquez is a homeschooling mother of three and a part-time college professor of English as a Second Language who writes in her spare time.