And....I'm back! Everyone watches Disney. Even if you say you don't and that their portrayals of race and gender are skewed, you've still watched them and at least loved one. Even you boys. I remember my brother loved Peter Pan (1953) and Pinocchio (1940). But it's the Disney Princess movies that are the real chick flicks and possibly the first ones we ever see. You might even be able to blame the chick flick genre on classics like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937), Cinderella (1950), Sleeping Beauty (1959), The Little Mermaid (1989) and Beauty and the Beast (1991).
The newest of the Disney Princess movies, Enchanted (2007) pays homage to Disney's classics while also making fun of themselves and the fairytale genre. Director, Kevin Lima, has a limited resume, but it includes some great kid's films like A Goofy Movie (1995) and Disney's Tarzan (1999). Enchanted is what the critics might call a modern fairytale; a genre which also includes Ever After (1998), Ella Enchanted (2004) and even The Princess Bride (1987). These movies are usually more feminist-friendly with complex characters and storylines that deconstruct the archetypal and overly simplistic fairytale story. I kind of like to think of it as Disney's apology for making so many movies that depict women as weak, desperate, stupid and useless. You may not believe me when you start this animated movie because Giselle, voiced by the charming Amy Adams, is your typical Disney princess who makes a creepy statue of her Prince Charming and sings to her forest friends about the importance of lips. She admits to the man she thinks is her Prince Charming, the multi-talented James Marsden, that she was made "to finish [his] duet". She is the girl who believes that someone will always catch her until she gets transported into modern New York City, a place her step-mother-to-be says "there are no happily ever afters".
The film goes on from there with larger doses of reality and live-action. Giselle is not delicate and optimistic in this world, but naive and perceived as insane. I'm sure all the hardcore feminists appreciated the depiction of a Disney Princess in the "real" world as a potential mental patient. She learns about real emotions like anger, lust and obligation while teaching the cynical real-world residents that a little fantasy in your life won't kill you. Poor, jaded Robert Philip(possibly named for Prince Philip from Sleeping Beauty), played by McDreamy himself, Patrick Dempsey, wants to pursue a sensible marriage with his girlfriend, Nancy (Idina Menzel) and tries to discourage his daughter, Morgan (Rachel Covey) from her fairytale attachment. He's a man who was hurt by love and is shocked by the grandiose romantic gestures and ideals of someone like Giselle. He is portrayed as somewhat of a disappointing stereotype; a single father/workaholic who tries to force his daughter into adulthood, can't keep his apartment clean and pathetically sends his girlfriend emailed flowers instead of real ones.
It was received well by the critics getting a 93% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes fresh meter. The worst reviews on Yahoo! Movies have the same complaints of a great idea with a lot of potential that didn't quite deliver. Disney has never been know for their high-end emotionally invigorating, intellectual scripts but for their innovation and spectacle, so I can't say I had the same expectations as these critics. Ebert gives the film a fairly high review that focuses on Amy Adams' performance which makes this film so lovable. I think it's smart and fun! It's told through a pop-up book, Julie Andrews narrates it and it has the prettiest credits I have ever seen. The best part of the story is the end where Narcissa (Susan Sarandon) narrates the changes in the fairytale story and Giselle finally becomes three-dimensional. Instead of the handsome prince "catching" her, which is consistent throughout the film, she must save poor Robert from the evil sorceress. Yes, everything ends happily and there are cheesy, unrealistic moments, but isn't that what Disney is about? Creating some interesting conflicts and challenges but then putting every perfect, cookie-cutter piece together at the end? Only these cookies have a little self-parody and feminism, so they're even better.
Favourite quotes: The best quotes are the contrasted moments of reality and fantasy that cause confusion in the characters. "Why do people keep giving you free stuff?" - Robert Philip, "No one's been very nice to me." -Giselle, "Yeah, well. Welcome to New York." -Robert Philip, "Oh, thank you." - Giselle, "I seek a beautiful girl." - Edward, "I'd like to find one of them too." construction worker, "You looking for a beautiful lady too?" - construction worker, "No, actually I'm looking for a prince." - Nathaniel, "Riiight." -construction worker
Best performance: Susan Sarandon as Narcissa(Narcissus anyone?) has the greatest evil sorceress voice ever and is a fun addition to the last part of the movie. She turns into a dragon and everything. But the definite best performance is by Amy Adams who even looks like an otherworldly Disney princess. She received a Golden Globe nomination for it and many other awards. I read an interview with her that described her technique for portraying an essentially animated character which basically drew on her dance experience as a child (watch her movements, especially her hands and arm gestures). I think this part is a difficult feat that she conquered brilliantly.
Chemistry level: 4/5. Not bad for Disney. I upped it a little for the juicy sexual tension scenes(Dempsey in a robe and Adams in a towel) that I don't think anyone saw coming and for the gay jokes(in scenes featuring Nathaniel and Edward's comic relief, see quotes) throughout that make this movie fun for adults too.
The Disney Musical: Most classic Disney films are considered musicals because the characters sing at least one song(see any of the films mentioned above). I wouldn't consider it a musical per se, but a movie with integral musical elements. Stephen Swartz, writer of the hit Broadway musical Wicked, is the lyricist and possibly explains Idina Menzel's appearance. Check out the serious singing chops of James Marsden as Edward as well as singing the background song, "That's Amore", in the pizza parlour.
Romantic comedy?!?: Can you believe that, that is how this is classified? People have no imagination. Anything that takes a little effort is called a romantic comedy. Watch out for this overused term and be aware that it may just be a cop-out.
And the moral of the story is...: With it's self-critique as well as the critique of modern society I think this film has some great messages for young and older viewers. Love is a fantasy, Fight for love, Practicality, sensibility and excitement all have thier place in love, Optimism and pessimism are both extremes, It's all about balance, Save yourself, you're the only person who can, Stand up for yourself(Yay, Nathaniel played by Timothy Spall), The only way to be happy is to be honest.
** * * ** *Director:* William Oldroyd *Starring:* Florence Pugh, Cosmo Jarvis, Naomi Ackie "Aren't you bored, Katherine?" Man, is he ever going to regret a...