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Movie Review: Enchanted

Directed by Kevin Lima
Written by Bill Kelly

It would have been easy for Enchanted to wander down the path of Shrek and a couple of its low-rent imitators that we’ve been seeing all decade, taking classic, breezy stories and throwing little-devil sensibility into them.  Inevitably, anything that is done too much wears out its welcome, and certainly the Shrek movies are slowly doing just that (and forget the grosses for Shrek the Third; that was clearly a case where a movie made its money because of the other two entries and isn’t indicative of its real popularity).

I was a little skeptical of Enchanted because the previews certainly had somewhat of the feel of a spoof or takedown of fairy tales, what with James Marsden breaking out into song in Central Park and then getting plowed by a bunch of bicyclists.  But it is, for the most part, completely free of the wink-winkiness of Shrek.  That can only be a good thing.

Starting off with 11 minutes in cartoon world, Giselle (the engaging Amy Adams) is saved by her prince Edward (Marsden) and look to be married.  But this is bad news for Edward’s stepmother, Queen Narcissa (Susan Sarandon), and she has Giselle sent away to a far away land…New York City.  Giselle, in an over-the-top dress, now finding herself “real” and finding people incredibly rude and unforgiving, tries to find her way back.

She runs into divorce lawyer Robert Philip (Patrick Dempsey) and his daughter Morgan (Rachel Covey), and they take her into their apartment.  Even though Giselle now lives in the real world, her fairy tale sensibilities haven’t been lost, as she sings a little song and all the creatures of NYC (rats, pigeons, cockroaches) come to help her clean the apartment.  She makes dresses out of the curtains.  And her appearance has certainly made an impression on Robert’s fiancee Nancy (Idina Menzel), who like all fiancees in movies, thinks something has happened between the two.

Eventually, Prince Edward in his full royal garb, brandishing a sword, comes out into the real world looking for his true love.  He’s extremely vain but good natured, and coming along to help is Giselle’s “best friend” chipmunk Pip (voiced by Jeff Bennett in fairy tale land, and by director Lima in the real world).  Narcissa sends her lackey, Nathaniel (Harry Potter’s Timothy Spall), who goes out of his misguided love for the wicked queen, to thwart her rescue…even hopefully give her a poisoned apple.

And, to no surprise, Giselle’s unironic take on life and winning personality does begin to affect Robert, setting up the love conflict for both, all the while trying to avoid whatever nasty deed Queen Narcissa wants to carry out.

Amy Adams, much like she did in her breakthrough Oscar-nominated turn in Junebug, completely steals the movie here, which is actually saying a lot because everyone in this movie is good, even the usually forgettable James Marsden.  But it’s Adams who will either make or break the movie for you, and if you’re in the least good-natured, she’s going to put a smile on your face.  And it’s a difficult performance to pull off, too.  This could have been some hammy, all-too-aware acting job that too many actors try to do to prove that they’re in on the joke, that they’re not taking it too seriously and they want you to know that as well.

And, despite my ingrained pop culture cynicism, the feel of a Disney movie like this with all the bright colors and warmth is actually quite comforting.  It’s a throwback to when I was a kid, when you’d watch a Disney cartoon and not think “but it’s made by an evil corporation” or something to that effect.  What a tremendous job writer Kelly (Blast from the Past) and director Lima (A Goofy Movie, Tarzan, and 102 Dalmatians) did here to make me forget all about that for two hours.  This is an all-new family classic.

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