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Enchanted review - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Enchanted review
Since it's been nearly a week since I saw it and I don't have the details fixed in my head anymore--gosh, I might have to see it again--I thought, hey, good time to review Enchanted.

First, the opinion part. I adored this movie. It's sweet, it's funny, it's kind-hearted. Also, there are cheerful, bathtub-cleaning cockroaches. A movie that has cheerful bathtub-cleaning cockroaches is inherently a good thing. Especially when they do it to music, and a pigeon eats them at the end to cut the treacle.

For those not paying attention to the last couple of weeks of American movies, the plot of Enchanted is that a typical Disney princess, Giselle (shown in a 12-minute cartoon which manages to hit every Disney princess stereotype going, just for the sheer joy of it), is thrown into a magic well on the morning of her wedding, by her soon-to-be step-mother-in-law, Narissa. Narissa will lose the throne if Prince Edward marries, hence her antipathy. She sends her off to a place where there are no happily ever afters--the real world. In short order, everyone else from fantasy land follows (including Timothy "Wormtail" Spall as--hold on, you'll never guess--a backstabbing valet, though he comes around in the end), Giselle is rescued by a glum divorce attorney named Robert, and the plot's a-brewin'.

There's absolutely nothing in the plot that's not predictable, because the plot is a standard Disney movie. Prince and princess meet, fall in love, change each other, and live happily ever after, once they've battled a dragon on the roof of a high tower. Along the way, the local fauna become unusually helpful, and all of the townspeople join in big musical numbers. It's about as prototypical a Disney story as you can get... except for the setting, which makes it something new. The prince--as opposed to The Prince--is a perfectly real-world type of guy. He's doing his best as a single dad, but he's burned out, and wants his daughter not to believe in that happily-ever-after nonsense. Naturally, that's the focal point of Giselle's life. She loses her temper at him (a first for her) over his repeated denials of happily ever after, and discovers that (gulp) looking at his chest poking up over his bathrobe makes her feel funny in her funny places. But in the end, it's Giselle who wins, and who transforms Robert and her whole environment, bringing magic into modern New York. Though I imagine the dressmakers' unions up in arms when they discover that her custom fashion shop is employing rats and other animals to roll and cut the fabric.

Meanwhile, the cheerfully brainless prince is riding around, attacking everything in sight to find the way to his beloved. He finally takes her to a ball, where Robert is attending with his (almost) fiancée, Nancy. Prince Edward introduces Giselle as "the love of [his] life," and it is, as Nancy puts it, "totally without irony--that's so nice." The Prince is also a creature of fantasy, and it's hardly unexpected that he'll end up with someone nice as well--in this case, Nancy, who goes back to Andalasia with him to be queen. One might expect that she'd bring high-powered corporate planning to Analasia, just as Giselle is bringing magic to New York, but when her cell phone rings during the wedding, she comments on the great reception, then throws it away. It smashes to pieces on the floor and the friendly animals marvel at the pretty batteries.

So, is it anti-modern, anti-tech, whatever? No. Giselle never becomes enamored of a PlayStation and Nancy's glad to ditch her cell, but there's no grand statement on the subject of technology. The only statement is about simplicity. As a (formerly) divorcing couple tells Robert when he tries to remind them that they have tons of issues and problems, sometimes, you just have to go back to what worked in the first place, and deal with it not being perfect. It's simple, and that's exactly the point--simplicity isn't natural, it doesn't just happen, but it is a decision you can make, even in the middle of New York.

What I like about it is that it's an actual Disney movie. I thought it might be a funny satire on Disney movies, which would be good, but what it did turned out to be even better. The critics who complain about the Narissa-turns-into-a-dragon sequence at the end are missing the point. Yes, the CGI is awful, but come on. It's a Disney fairy tale, not a Meg Ryan romantic comedy. Of course the evil sorceress turns into a monster at the end, to be battled by the hero (Giselle) while the prized love interest (Robert) is held captive. Not having the big confrontation would be like a Pirates movie that skipped a battle because Will and Elizabeth had managed to get together! And Narissa, like most Disney villains, failed to read the Evil Overlord List. This isn't a failing, of course--it's part of the form, a kind of thematic beat. Fairy tales don't work because of their radical originality; they work because of their use of recognizable archetypes. Disney set this up in the beginning, comically, using all of the tropes in the opening animated sequence, putting the audience in the mindset of noticing and recognizing visual cues. So the dragon sequence is a natural part of the plot, because the Evil One has to be defeated, and it's also funny, because it pulls through to the logical conclusion of a Disney fairy tale playing itself out in New York: the Sorceress/Dragon clinging to, and falling from, a skyscraper instead of a rustic castle. It's funny in the way things are generally funny when taken out of context, because, well, dragons in New York are funny, just like watching Manhattenites dancing around Central Park to a full scale production number is funny, without needing to explain why. But the funny factor doesn't make the whole movie come off as tongue in cheek or satirical, because, while it very obviously started off that way, the real honesty of the story lent itself to actually being a story of its own.

(Of course, the true cynic assumes that "honesty" would have made it a full-scale satire, and that all the mawkish nonsense is obviously just selling out to the unwashed masses, but, erm... no. The whole point of the movie is that it's possible to be honestly innocent.)

As to one rottentomatoes review I saw (but can't be arsed to find right now) which alleged that it was somehow anti-feminist because it was all about getting a prince... Please. In fact, the whole thrust was that she found real love as opposed to empty love. The genre is a romance, of course, and the point of romance as a plot point is the melding of complementary energies. Of course she got the prince, and the prince got her, and Nancy and Edward got each other as well... but they all were finding what was meant for them. Is the only properly feminist movie meant to be about tough, chain-smoking nuns who never connect to anyone? Huh? And, not to put too fine a point on it, the reviewer was a guy. Please, sweetheart, stop trying to help out. We're doing fine on our own, and don't need you to pat our pretty little heads and tell us that we shouldn't have the pretty sweet thing, as it's bad for us.

ETA: Egads, it also included cleaning. Heaven forbid. Because getting rid of a bunch of clutter isn't at all consonant with the theme of simplicity.

Was it perfect?

No. As mentioned, the CGI dragon was horrible. The opening animation, though rushing through a whole story, was still too long. Giselle's homemade curtain dresses were prettier than the one she wore to the ball, and her bizarrely straightened hair was just wrong. The very fact that Giselle is an amalgam of Disney princesses makes her a little generic--there's no real point of entry to her character (eg, Belle's books, Jasmine's desire to escape, Aurora's dreaminess, Ariel's rebellion, etc--nothing deep, but something distinctive). I could have done without the "play with the credit card" sequence, which was forced. It's missing the whatever-it-is that makes it obsessible; I don't really care what happens to anyone after the story.

But on the whole?

Excellent flick. Kudos, Mouse-masters.

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23 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
honorh From: honorh Date: November 29th, 2007 11:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
I loved it, too. What struck me about Nancy was that, as Robert put it, they had a "sensible, adult" relationship; but when Giselle sent flowers and birds and Edward made his declaration of love, it touched that part of Nancy that really wants romance and fantasy and happily-ever-after. She and Robert could've had a good marriage, but I think ultimately, they'd both have found themselves subtly dissatisfied and not understanding why.

I've always found Patrick Dempsey just okay--yeah, nice to look at, but whatever--but I found him really sexy in this role. Part of it was the chemistry he and Amy Adams had, which was palpable. I didn't blame her at all when she got surprised by her first jolt of lust.

Marsden was just delightful as Edward. He obviously had a ball with the OTT character, and his singing was just gorgeous.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 29th, 2007 11:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
but I think ultimately, they'd both have found themselves subtly dissatisfied and not understanding why.

And the saddest part would be that they would both be missing the same thing, and afraid to give it to each other because they each believed that the other was looking for someone much more sensible than that.

I never had a Dempsey opinion, particularly. He was good here, but I admit, I was rooting for Edward. ;p
lady_moriel From: lady_moriel Date: November 29th, 2007 11:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
I loved Edward too; he was hilarious. "What's not to like?" And a fairytale prince in an extremely cheap hotel room...priceless, really.
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fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 30th, 2007 12:07 am (UTC) (Link)
True, but that's not exactly the visual language of the movie, which says "Dive... ol' Prince Edward's not in a palace"! The fact that NYC hotels are overpriced isn't a joke that works for people outside NYC, though I guess you guys can enjoy that it means Prince Edward's clothes may not have changed, but his money apparently made a transition...
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fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 30th, 2007 12:23 am (UTC) (Link)
I loved Edward too; he was hilarious.
He's just so unconscious of his own narcissism, and it's never mean. It's hard not to like him!
chocolatepot From: chocolatepot Date: November 29th, 2007 11:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
I loved it so much that I'm planning on seeing it again this weekend.

Giselle's homemade curtain dresses were prettier than the one she wore to the ball, and her bizarrely straightened hair was just wrong.

That is exactly what I thought - the only way I could work it out was that they were maybe doing a little reversal with having Robert in fairy-tale gear and Giselle looking modern.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 29th, 2007 11:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
That probably was their thought, but it just didn't come off the way they meant it, I think. That she was "in costume" for the final battle seemed wrong.
lady_moriel From: lady_moriel Date: November 29th, 2007 11:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
As to one rottentomatoes review I saw which alleged that it was somehow anti-feminist because it was all about getting a prince... Please.

Not to mention that it was Giselle who grabbed a sword, climbed up a building, and killed a dragon to rescue her love, not the prince rescuing his damsel in distress.

I loved it too. I agree with you about Giselle and the animation sequence, but yeah, overall it was a great movie.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 30th, 2007 12:08 am (UTC) (Link)
Not to mention that it was Giselle who grabbed a sword, climbed up a building, and killed a dragon to rescue her love, not the prince rescuing his damsel in distress.

Oh, but that was in the "tacked on" part of the movie that totally didn't fit, you know. :eyeroll:
moonythoughts From: moonythoughts Date: November 30th, 2007 12:25 am (UTC) (Link)
I loved seeing Timothy Spall in this. He was so recognizable, even in cartoon form! Loved his disguises too.

I'm such a nerd for noticing, but the woman on the soap opera Edward was watching played Belle in Beauty and the Beast. I thought that was brilliant! Apparently there were other past Disney voice actors, but I couldn't spot them.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 30th, 2007 12:27 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh! Neat.
jedi_chick From: jedi_chick Date: November 30th, 2007 01:39 am (UTC) (Link)
Jodi Benson (the voice of Ariel in the Little Mermaid) played Robert's secretary. And I think the singing voice of Pocahontas was in one of the crowd scenes.
holli From: holli Date: November 30th, 2007 01:42 am (UTC) (Link)
Yup, and Robert's assistant was Ariel, and the lady with all the kids was Pocahontas. I *really* liked that detail.
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 30th, 2007 12:25 am (UTC) (Link)
I haven't seen the movie yet, but I thought the trailers and film clips on the official website (including the pantomiming chipmunk and the scrubbin' bubbles cockroaches) were hilarious. Looking forward to seeing this one.

Hmm...Timothy Spall as backstabbing underling? Can't imagine that. :) It looks like in his next film (Sweeney Todd) he'll get to be an evil underling to an evil judge played by Alan Rickman (good ol' Severus). Oh, and Bellatrix is in the movie too as Mrs. Lovett. (Definitely a different kind of musical than Enchanted though!)

Fern, I'm curious, what did you think of the Shrek movies? If you've already posted reviews, you can just direct me to them.

By the way, love your fanfic and your movie reviews.

Angela
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 30th, 2007 12:28 am (UTC) (Link)
I saw the first Shrek and enjoyed it a vague way that didn't make me really excited for the sequels, which I keep forgetting to catch. So I haven't really reviewed them in depth. I don't dislike them (or at least didn't dislike the one I saw), but just don't find them exactly compelling.
redlily From: redlily Date: November 30th, 2007 02:04 am (UTC) (Link)
ITA re: the dress and hair-straightening. She looked so amazing in "How Do I Know" that every other look fell flat.

My problems with the Narissa/dragon scene were less to do with the CGI than the fact that her motivation utterly ceased to make sense at that point. If McDreamy was Giselle's true love, great! Let Edward come back to Andalasia to hunt trolls some more, and Narissa can keep ruling. Why kidnap McD? Why taunt Giselle? Why not just kill Edward and run? Why not just take the victory unexpectedly handed to her? No sense whatsoever. It's not even the Evil Overlord List, it's just characterization.

Oh, and I work down the hall from the author of the EOL! /geekery
lollapulizer From: lollapulizer Date: November 30th, 2007 02:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I loved this movie! My mom saw the trailer and decided I had to see it with her, so when I went home for Thanksgiving, we sat in the crappy mall theater on Black Friday and watched it.

I read an article (I think it was in Newsweek) that gave it a really good review. The author liked it because it wasn't just another Disney Princess movie, it was a Disney Princess movie that made fun of itself. That and the fact that Giselle managed to be the one fighting the dragon. Apparently Disney's on this feminist kick, since in the Broadway version of The Little Mermaid Ariel doesn't need Eric to defeat Ursula.

I really miss animated movies (CGI is okay, but I'll always prefer the older stuff), so I was very excited when the article mention that next year (I think) Disney will be coming out with another Disney Princess movie, The Frog Prince (if I remember correctly), and the Princess will be black, which I think is long overdue, since we already have Native American, Arab, and Chinese.
kizmet_42 From: kizmet_42 Date: November 30th, 2007 02:26 am (UTC) (Link)
The best line of the entire movie was Morgan's. "Boys are only out after one thing."

"What's that?"

"I don't know, they won't tell me."

I roared.

Otherwise, you have a much higher opinion of it than I did.
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 30th, 2007 03:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, I had a seven year old sitting on my lap and hiding her face during the whole dragon scene, so "unconvincing" was not one of the words going through my head.

Other than that, I loved the way it managed to make fun of Disney princess movies while still _being_ a Disney princess movie instead of a satire of them. Personally, I think that's a lot harder to pull off without failing in at least one.

Oh, and I think the prince and Nancy are perfect for each other. She's kind of Narissa without the evil and will make a better queen than Giselle.

Ellen
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knight_ander From: knight_ander Date: December 5th, 2007 01:53 am (UTC) (Link)
I pretty much agree with you on everything. :)

Excellent and well-witten review, btw.
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