Anthony's Film Review

Enchanted (2007)

A smart hybrid of animation and live action, suggesting that maybe Disney hasn't entirely lost its touch...

The first five minutes of Enchanted took me by surprise. The movie appears to be in traditional animation, which Disney has always been for. Now wait a minute. I thought the Walt Disney studios were done with hand-drawn animation when they announced that Home on the Range in 2004 would officially be their last 2D-animated film. Either Disney changed its mind or it meant not doing one-and-a-half hours of 2D animation but several minutes of it was OK.

It doesn't matter. I found it delightful to be introduced to another fairy tale land. This time, it's a place called Andalasia. Like the previous settings of the Little Mermaid's under the sea and Aladdin's Agrabah, there are plenty of interesting characters: Princess Giselle (Amy Adams), Prince Edward (James Marsden), Nathaniel (Timothy Spall), Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon), and Pip the chipmunk. Given that the animation is not feature-length, these characters really do comprise the entire cast of this miniature Disney animated film.

As Narissa plots to prevent Giselle and Edward from marrying, or else give up her throne, she pushes the princess into a well that is really a portal to a world where nobody lives happily ever after: New York City. Now the movie plays with our senses. It instantly become live action. Amy Adams is no longer the voice of Giselle, but is Giselle herself. Because live-action Giselle looks somewhat different than animated Giselle, it takes time for the brain to make this adjustment. Maybe this is the writer's way of identifying with the character. When Giselle enters the city through a sewer manhole, she becomes hopelessly lost in this strange world. That's certainly how I felt when I was still mentally shifting gears with the visuals.

Through a chance encounter, Giselle meets a divorce lawyer named Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and her daughter Morgan (Rachel Covey). At this point, it's time to repeat the process of getting to know the cast. This time, the principal cast of a live-action film and the non-fairy tale world they inhabit. Keep in mind that this is still the same movie I've described in the beginning. The only link between these two seemingly different films is Princess Giselle.

Soon, the other animated characters enter New York by the same portal. And here's another nice surprise. You would think that the fairy tale characters would be in shock or amazement by how different this world is from Andalasia. Many fish-out-of-water stories do this. Some of them fail because the foreign characters spend too much time wondering about the things that they've never seen before. Enchanted took a wise move by keeping this to a minimum. Yes, Giselle thinks that people instantly marry their true love at first sight. Yes, Prince Edward slays the beast known as a bus and listens to the magic mirror known as a television set. But you know what? They really just focus on what looks familiar enough. For one thing, they behave in a New York apartment just like they would in a castle back home.

Besides the humor of culture clashes, there is the sweetness of two worlds learning from each other. It is no accident that the writer made Robert a divorce lawyer, because there is no such concept as divorce in Andalasia. Then again, there probably is no such concept as true love in this world. It can be sad for Giselle to find out how some things really work, but it can also be uplifting when she teaches us a thing or two, especially through song ("Happy Working Song" and "That's How You Know")

This is where Amy Adams steals the show. She plays Giselle with so much grace and elegance, even if she may stand out in a strange way. Through magic and joyful singing, she brings a smile to everyone's face, which is what this world really needs. To play a fish out of water if you live out of that water in real life is no easy task. Yet, Adams succeeds in this with a performance that holds together without ever slipping.

Enchanted is not in the same ballpark as Mary Poppins, another film mixing live action and animation, but it's a decent enough one-and-a-half hours of fun for me to recommend it. At some point in the film, the line between animation and live action is erased. The Andalasia cast play their parts so well that watching these characters in live action is probably no different from watching a 100% animated version of Enchanted. Of course, I wouldn't want live-action remakes of The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, or The Lion King, but Enchanted shows us that reality and fantasy may not be too different from each other and their characters certainly are not.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Enchanted, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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