Patrick Dempsey and Amy Adams in Enchanted

It’s fair to say I’m probably not the target audience for the new Disney family film Enchanted. It’s also a safe bet that it was a bad idea sneaking in to see it right after my third viewing of the Coens’ great No Country For Old Men. The thing is, there is plenty of good buzz surrounding this movie. It has (as of this writing) a healthy Metacritic score of 75 and a stellar 93% at Rotten Tomatoes.

I’m not immune good family movies. Pixar of course is founded on them and their output ranges in quality from good to great. Though they’re beautifully animated, they succeed largely on story, character and execution. Unlike the Shrek movies for example, they appeal to all age groups without ever stooping to fart jokes for the kiddies or post-modern winking to keep adults from wanting to hang themselves. Even Monsters, Inc., the most cloyingly sweet and sentimental Pixar film, is a joy to watch (“Kitty!”). Ratatouille is one of the best movies of 2007, easily holding its own against more adult fair like Zodiac, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and the aforementioned No Country For Old Men. Pixar’s The Incredibles might be one of my favorite movies. Ever. You see, I don’t automatically discount family movies. Good is good. Unfortunately, bad is also bad. Enchanted is bad.

The story begins in the musical, animated land of Andalasia that has been cobbled together from bits of previous Disney classics like Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Amy Adams provides the lovely voice of Giselle who is engaged to marry handsome Prince Edward voiced by James Marsden. Alas, Susan Sarandon’s evil queen Narissa has other ideas and she banishes Giselle to a place “where there are no happily ever afters” – real life Manhattan.

Once in the big bad city, Giselle (now played by Adams in the flesh) is rescued by single father/divorce lawyer Patrick Dempsey whose own daughter (a cute Rachel Covey) likes this new fairytale princess much better than the woman daddy is actually engaged to marry. You can see how this is going to work out: Dempsey’s fiancé gets jealous, Prince Edward shows up to save his beloved, chaos ensues, songs are sung and an irritating CGI spectacle demanded by nervous studio executives worried about short attention spans is thrown in. Ultimately, a bit of fairytale magic is introduced to Manhattan and a bit of Manhattan is injected into Andalasia, order is restored and everyone goes home happy…unless you’ve gone through puberty and haven’t yet been hypnotized by parenthood.

It’s not for lack of trying. Enchanted flaps its wings madly, but never quite gets off the ground. The first sign of trouble arrives right after the Disney logo with the opening animated Andalasian segment. It looks like a hastily scratched out afterthought. Disney’s nod to its own golden age is a mistake. It amounts to a complete betrayal of everything that made those earlier films great and is only a reminder of how lifeless Enchanted really is. 10 minutes into the movie, we’re already off on the wrong foot. It gets worse.

Once the story gets to Manhattan, the fairytale characters are all annoying and two-dimensional (no pun intended…ok maybe a little) while the ‘real’ characters are leftovers from a below average sitcom. Amy Adams and the rest of the cast do their best with very little, but it’s all for nothing. There has been some early talk about Adams getting an Oscar nomination for this. Nothing against Adams who I loved in Junebug, but no way. Sure, there never seem to be quite enough good female roles to fill out all of the Academy’s actress categories, but Adams through no fault of her own would be a stretch even in an off year.

On the bright side, Enchanted does occasionally offer a glimmer of redemption, enough at least to keep you from walking out of the theater and heading straight to the nearest bar or off a cliff. Upon waking up in Dempsey’s townhouse on her first morning in the big city, Giselle sings a tune out the window a la Snow White, but instead of bluebirds and bunnies and chipmunks rallying to her side to help her clean the place up, it’s rats, pigeons, flies and cockroaches. It’s gross, but funny and the whole sequence has a zest sadly lacking in the rest of the movie.

There’s another bit where a CGI chipmunk who has accompanied the prince to rescue Giselle finds he can’t talk in Manhattan like he can in Andalasia and he’s forced to act out an amusing pantomime to warn Giselle of the dangers facing her at the hands of the evil queen. It’s funny but lasts all of 5 minutes.

Finally, the big centerpiece, the Central Park musical number, shows some promise and threatens to make the movie a little bit interesting, but like the rest of Enchanted, it ultimately fails to completely engage. Part of the problem here and with the rest of the movie is that the songs by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz are uniformly flat. I admit I found myself humming one of them later in the day, but it is now completely forgotten.

Had the songs and production numbers truly delivered, Enchanted could’ve easily been forgiven. Unfortunately, despite sporadic sparks of creativity, it doesn’t have so much as a pixel of the grace and charm that enlivens even the weakest Pixar film (Cars for those of you keeping score at home). It is a boring, dispiriting, soggy mess; the kind of family movie that makes people hate family movies.

I admit I’m probably in the minority of opinion on this. Conveniently released at the onset of the Christmas shopping season where everyone seems to have been lobotomized by repeated trips to the shopping mall to purchase the peace, love and joy so lacking in the rest of their lives, Enchanted will probably be a huge hit; the perfect narcotic to smooth over the parking lot jitters; the cinematic equivalent of Anton Chigurh’s cattle gun between the eyes.

“Hold still.”

Enchanted. USA 2007. Directed by Kevin Lima. Written by Bill Kelly. Music composed by Alan Menken with lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Starring Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, Timothy Spall and Susan Sarandon. 1 hour 48 minutes. Rated PG for some scary images and mild innuendo. 2 stars (out of 5)

14 Responses to “Review: Enchanted (2007) **”

  1. There was zero chance of me seeing Enchanted in the theaters. Now there is zero chance of me wasting DVD time on it too. Thanks for the heads up, Craig. And no need to give me the best-to-decide-for-yourself number. A Disney family movie with musical elements was always going to be a stretch for me. I don’t care how good the lead actress is. Life’s too short.

  2. I’m more comfortable and happier steering people towards movies I love rather than away from ones I hate, but you won’t hear me protesting your choice to skip Enchanted, Sartre.

    If you had kids, I’d say “go forth in peace. Your kids will enjoy and you won’t be driven up a wall”. Otherwise? Don’t bother.

    I’ll be curious to hear what Pierre has to say when he gets back. I am open to other opinions (and I have to be with a 90 something percent Tomato rating).

  3. Thanks for taking the bullet on this one because honestly, I’m still a little shocked by the critical response to this one, which has critical contempt written all over it’s fairly sacchrine appearance. Oh well, this isn’t the first time a perfectly talented actor was swept from relative obscurity into a big budget studio picture and here’s to hoping Adams’ career doesn’t suffer as a result. Of course, costarring opposite Patrick Dempsey can’t help but make her look better, considering he’s never exactly shined on screen.

    You can see the pitch for this one: It’s Princess Diaries meets Shrek meets Sex in the City. Shoot it!

  4. Sneaking in doesn’t quite count as taking a bullet, but I’ll accept the purple heart anyway.

    The big question is: what was I thinking? Frankly, I like Amy Adams and I wanted to check out the Oscar buzz for myself. I swear I went into it with an open mind and with the best hopes, but modest expectations. I knew about 15 minutes in that I was in trouble.

    Oh well, it filled the time between No Country and American Gangster.

  5. Ah, too bad. Strange thing is, I agree with most if not all of your criticisms. I especially disliked the fact that the henchman DID seem to know “earth rules’ (enough for three unfunny ethnic stereotypes) while Giselle and Edward were totally clueless. Somehow, though, this film managed to get past all my critical faculties and charm me, mostly the scenes you describe (the cleaning, for instance, and didn’t you love the moment with the pigeon and the cockroach?) but also just the simply sweetness of Giselle, and the memories of all the fairy tales I loved as a kid it brought back (though oddly enough, of the princesses, I only really liked Cinderella). Oh, and James Marsden? I might be going into hyperbole here, but: comic genius.

    Anyway, sorry for being one of the people who convinced you to see this :-) I guess it helps having been a little girl, even if I was the strange kid who refused to wear pink and dreamed not of being a princess but of being a distracted professor instead. Or on occasion a female knight.

  6. I think it would’ve been better Hedwig if I’d gone in with less expectations like you originally did. Despite the cranky tone of my review, I didn’t loathe the movie. In retrospect it was pretty harmless at worst. And yes there were some cute moments.

    And don’t worry about being complicit in getting me to see it :) Once the Oscar buzz kicked in for Amy Adams, I was doomed to check it out.

    I have to admit I felt like a weirdo though sitting near the front by myself surrounded by a bunch of little girls and parents.

  7. By the way, great new look for the site Craig!

  8. Ya know, Craig, as I read your review I couldn’t disagree with nearly everything you said. Somehow, though, I really enjoyed Enchanted. I can get off on some of that Broadway musical comedy stuff if there’s a tone of parody about it, which this film has. The filmmakers take several opportunities to poke fun at the unrealism of sweet cartoons and happy Broadway endings.

    But there were a few moments where I was reminded that this is still children’s genre fare. The film didn’t quite break out of its self-limiting shell. I also felt a bit jarred during transitional shots and scenes (from cartoon to real-life to special effects etc.).

    Nevertheless, the acting of the three stars helped this one along quite a lot. Adams, Dempsey and Marsden got the tone just right. Whatever the film’s drawbacks as adult fare, its emotional essence was surprisingly mature. And when you look at Adams’ work, she really is excellent and wins you over. Hers really is a beautiful and skilled performance with surprising depth.

    So I overlooked the flaws and had a good time, knowing pretty well along the way where the film would take me.

    I’m trying to get sartre to go, but he’d probably pooh-pooh it anyway, and then I’d be in trouble.

  9. Thank you Pierre for handling my grumpiness with calm reason.

    Sometimes with certain kinds of movies, if you get caught up in the spirit of the thing early on, you can forgive and forget just about any weakness. It sounds like for most people, Enchanted quickly won them over and they were happy to go along for the ride.

    On the other hand, you can be a grump about it and let every little detail annoy you and keep you from getting swept away. I think that’s what happened with me.

    As I said, seeing this within 30 minutes of watching No Country was probably a bad idea. Plus I was in a bad mood because it was Thanksgiving.

    I’ll also admit, the parody aspects didn’t seem to amount to much more than a little wink to the adults in the audience.

  10. All I can say Pierre – is bah humbug!

  11. I feel like Pierre and I are an angel and devil on your shoulders Sartre. One for Enchanted and one against.

    I guess the question is: Which is the devil and which is the angel?

  12. To be honest, I did not warm up to the film right away. The initial cartoon sequence did not have me at “tweet tweet.” It’s not a home run.

    And freshly minted images of Anton Chigurh do not help much.

  13. Oh, and, sartre — the bah humbug attitude has you identifying perfectly with Patrick Dempsey’s character in the beginning. He’d be the new millennium’s male version of Maureen O’Hara in Miracle on 34th Street.

    But I have every confidence that, were you to see the film (oh please, if there is a God!), Amy’s uncanny ability to bring out the best in all our hearts would have you melting into her metaphorical arms by the big costume ball scene.

  14. Ms. Adams is cute as a button, this I cannot deny.

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