Released in 2007, Enchanted found the Walt Disney studio in an unusually self-aware mood: here was a knowing send-up of the Mouse House’s most famous fairy tale clichés, wrapped up in something that was both droll parody and heartfelt homage. It made a star out of a brilliantly game Amy Adams and proved the comedy chops of James Marsden (who would later stretch those chops in the Anchorman sequel). In almost every interview the cast have done since, the question has been asked: when are you making a sequel?
Now, finally, Disney have dutifully obliged. While there is a very slight, occasional sense of straight-to-streaming about this follow-up — it is made exclusively for Disney+, as opposed to the theatrical release of the original — there’s an impressive amount of scale and ambition here, a faithful retread that retains much of the charm and humour of the original, if not exactly surpassing it.
Smartly, this is a sequel that addresses one of the key tropes of Disney classics — namely, the fateful ‘happily ever after’, and what happens after the ever after. The film opens — of course! — with an animated prologue, as trusty chipmunk Pip (voiced by Griffin Newman) reads from the pages of a storybook to catch us up with what’s been going on in the intervening years. Giselle and Robert (Patrick Dempsey) have since settled into life in New York, looking after Morgan and their new baby; they are now new parents, exhausted by the pace of Manhattan life, hoping to start a new life in the sleepy suburban town of ‘Monroeville’.
But all is not well in Monroeville: Robert is drained by the drudgery of commuting, teenager Morgan misses the energy of Manhattan, and Giselle finds herself in a rivalry with the local queen bee (Maya Rudolph, whose tone is as deliciously severe as her fringe), as well as worrying that she is falling into the trap of being an evil stepmother. In desperation, she makes a wish for a little Andalasian magic to fall on their lives, and accidentally casts a WandaVision-esque spell over the entire town.
There’s a fair bit of charm and warmth and smarts here.
It’s a fun conceit, ensuring that everyone gets a go at heightened Disneyfied lunacy (Dempsey especially seems to enjoy chewing the scenery as a wannabe heroic prince), helped by the return of Alan Menken’s gloriously toe-tapping Broadway show tunes and some ambitious, Busby Berkeley-style choreography. In amongst it all, the script finds room for witty self-awareness (“We will come up with something very smart and very last-minute that solves all of our problems,” assures Marsden’s Prince Edward), and more affectionate nods to Disney classics (there’s a dancing broom, references to Maleficent and Cruella, and a song that invites you to “be our guest”).
It is, admittedly, not quite as funny or clever as the first film, missing a little of its fairy dust. There are lengthy plot contrivances, involving a magic memory tree and an Andalasian wand, which feel superfluous. The unnecessarily long running time will leave younger viewers feeling restless, while the overreliance on CGI — culminating in a sub-Potter energy-force-field wand-off — will have the grown-ups getting twitchy, too.
But if you can get past that, there’s a fair bit of charm and warmth and smarts here. The cast are just a pleasure to be around — Amy Adams in particular is just as wonderful as she was in 2007, finding the perfect balance between princess parody and pure sincerity, while also juggling an evil side. And, among all the goofiness, there is a sophisticated understanding lurking underneath: that real life is, in fact, more complicated than fairy tales.