The good news: animated Disney princess Giselle (Adams) has found true love with a prince (Marsden). Bad news: his stepmother (Sarandon) doesn’t want him to create a new queen, so she banishes Giselle to real-world New York, which doesn’t gel with her fairy-tale ways.
For all their contribution to animation history and their near-miraculous ability to condense any emotion into a hummable melody, Disney’s animated heroines can be irritatingly earnest. Their eyes almost pop their sockets with innocence and voices that speak of independence disguise hearts that yearn for some betighted hunk to rescue them from a life populated by furry companions. They’re in dire need, in other words, of a kick up the bustled butt and a good shot of cynicism, but it’s surprising that Disney themselves would be the ones to deliver it.
Enchanted opens in the long-lost world of the Disney fairy-tale, where nobody has jobs and horses have opinions. It’s here we meet Giselle (Amy Adams), a romantic optimist, shortly before she’s thrust into the fleshier world of real-life New York, where locals will happily trample a damsel in distress if it gets them to the subway a little quicker.
It’s a cute idea and one that Kevin Lima (who directed Disney’s terrific Tarzan) and screenwriter Billy Kelly squeeze for maximum fun. Amid the fish-out-of-water gags and big musical numbers, there are nods to Disney movies past and even what looks like an homage to Beauty And The Beast’s hill-running homage to The Sound Of Music. How’s that for postmodern? The film’s best asset, though, is an extremely game cast.
Amy Adams is just wonderful. Her cartoony over-gesticulation and face writ with complete delight in the world are as wholly believable as ink and paint made flesh. It’s the sort of Johnny Depp-like commitment to daftness that could potentially see her name on award shortlists. James Marsden is an equal hoot as Giselle’s lunk-headed suitor: a hero in animation, an unwittingly misogynist snob in real life. It’s a shame that the fun doesn’t stretch to Susan Sarandon’s wicked queen, given too little screentime to make a scary or ludicrously camp impression; or Patrick Dempsey as a grumpy lawyer whose cynicism is chipped away by Giselle’s chipperness.
Though things, naturally, wrap up in a twee little bow of happy endings (this is wry Disney, but it’s still Disney), the tangle beforehand is a silly, retro blast.
It’s essentially, y’know, for kids, but the dedicated fairy tale fan will have tons of fun spotting all the references. Adams, meanwhile, gives one of the comedy performances of the year.