November 30, 2007

Enchanted

I've a feeling we're not in
a low-budget indie flick anymore.

Grade: B
Starring: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, Susan Sarandon, Rachel Covey, Idina Menzel, and Timothy Spall

MPAA Rating: PG

Running Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes

The ironic calling card of the “for all ages” movie is that it is usually skewed sharply in favor of one age-group or another: they are too sugary for adults or too mature for children. Although Disney’s nostalgia-filled Enchanted almost falls within the former camp, there is enough well-developed humor and charm to captivate all audiences.

The backstory is introduced within the traditional two-cell tableau of Disney’s animated past, a world full of frolicking woodland creatures, trolls, Princes Charming, and winsome damsels. Here, a princess-in-waiting named Giselle (Amy Adams), with cascading red hair and an unfaltering chirpy voice, is one day into her betrothment to the dashing Prince Edward (James Marsden). The prince’s mother, Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon), fearing a commoner as heir to her throne, changes form into the old hag from Snow White and shoves Giselle down a well and through a literal and figurative sewer onto the live-action streets of Times Square.

Giselle’s na├»ve optimism collides with the Big Apple’s mean streets, setting the stage for some rote fish-out-of-water gags. Now channeled through Adams’ body and voice, Giselle enjoins the help of a local divorce attorney and single-dad named Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and his cherub-faced moppet, Morgan (Rachel Covey). They take in the distressed damsel (rather inexplicably) while she waits for Edward to gallop in and whist her away.

It is difficult to imagine a plot like this holding any internal logic. Still, I quibble a bit with the live-action Giselle’s ability to marshal rats, birds, and roaches into performing household chores, as well as her talent at choreographing large song-and-dance numbers on the fly in Central Park. And, the plot does become a bit unsteady when the schmaltz starts outweighing the fun.

Still, one part of Enchanted’s strength rests in its sheer willingness to view society with both wide-eyed innocence and sober cynicism. It is a dangerous world, whether from poisoned apples and dragons or the searing loneliness of a life lacking true love or friends. The other part is Adams, a former Oscar nominee for Junebug who furthers her budding career here with a splendid performance that maintains an internal sweetness without playing down to the character. She provides the pulse for a movie full of heart.

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