FernWithy (fernwithy) wrote,
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.
Tags: movie reviews
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