Sunday, December 16, 2007


ENCHANTED (Kevin Lima, 2007)

For ENCHANTED beauty Giselle (Amy Adams), life truly is a Disney cartoon. The fairy tale's introductory section is realized in the lush, hand-drawn animation that helped build the studio into a trusted name in family entertainment. Like so many Disney heroines before her, Giselle frolics with the creatures of the forest and sings of her prince and their happily ever after.

For every princess-in-waiting, there is also a witch conniving to spoil the beautiful life within reach. Rather than let Giselle marry her son, Prince Edward (James Marsden), Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon) tricks the girl and pushes her down a well. Giselle lands in New York City, a place about as far removed from her Andalasian home as possible, and sheds her ink-drawn figure for one of flesh.

Giselle takes the turn of events in good humor and guilelessly wanders around Times Square before Robert Philip (Patrick Dempsey) comes to her rescue. The single father thinks the pretty redhead is cracked but agrees to put the damsel in distress up for the night. Despite their differences in sensibility--she believes in true love, he's a divorce lawyer--Giselle slowly wins him over. Good thing, too. She needs him to survive. The queen has dispatched her servant Nathaniel (a wonderfully cast Timothy Spall) to kill Giselle. Prince Edward's pursuit of his love brings him to the land of three dimensions, but the dimwitted hunk is clearly out of his element.

ENCHANTED bubbles over with good cheer, due in large part to Adams for the wide-eyed optimism and innocence she brings to her irony-free performance. It's a delight to watch her clean up Robert's apartment with the assistance of rats and cockroaches as she sings "Happy Working Song", Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz's affectionate tweak of SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS. To Giselle these pests are just as beautiful as her woodland Andalasian friends. The purity of heart and soul with which Adams imbues Giselle can't help but be infectious.

When even children's movies tend to favor the crass, it's startling to see someone on screen capable of convincing us that every day really is filled with sunshine and rainbows. Adams may not get as much credit for her acting in ENCHANTED because it appears effortless, but I'd wager that this is a taller order than awards bait roles that call for portraying inner torment. And she's funny too. Adams parlays Giselle's blissful ignorance of contemporary cynicism into several laughs.

ENCHANTED is a rarity among today's movies: a film for the whole family. Whether you're taking a little one to the theater for the first time or accompanying a grandparent, it offers good, clean enterainment that shouldn't lead to embarrassment for anyone. There is one scatological joke that probably could have been left out, but it seems that no matter what the age, everyone loves poop humor.

A cynic might look at ENCHANTED as little more than a recycling of Disney's princess stories into a tidy package readymade for Broadway and touring companies. I don't think anyone attuned to the industry at all would be surprised if a stage musical is in the works. OK, the film flags as the fish out of water concept treads water until the conclusion, and the subplot with Robert's girlfriend flatlines from the first moment. Regardless, ENCHANTED provides a pleasing blend of humor and music anchored by a winning lead performance. See, Giselle's sunniness really does rub off on those who come in contact with her.

Grade: B-

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