If Enchanted hadn't gotten such unanimously rave reviews from critics, I probably wouldn't have dropped $12 to see it last weekend. From the previews, the premise definitely seemed to have potential (animated princess becomes REAL princess, lost in NYC), although the story looked pretty standard, likely to fall within the "mediocre" range of a lot of Disney animated/family films post-The Lion King.
But see it I did, and the critics were definitely right on one point - Amy Adams truly is enchanting as Princess Giselle, a moderate update on the classic Disney Princess. It's really impossible not to like her, with her wide eyes, her innocent curiosity, and her classic Disney demureness and spunk. She's not the first "princess" to step up as a stronger, less-damsel in distress stereotype (Mulan and Fiona from Dreamwork's Shrek being two prominent examples), and she won't be the last. James Marsden as Prince Edward is the other standout in the cast, showing his comedic chops as the dim, but heroic Edward. Marsden manages to be extremely likable, even when it's obvious early on that he's not the right one for Giselle, 'cause he's not nearly as McDreamy as Patrick Dempsey's Robert.
Despite the enjoyable performances, it's the "obvious" that ends up being Enchanted's greatest flaw. Aside from the hilariously irreverent musical sequences which parodied how easily Disney princes and "princesses" fall in love ("True Love's Kiss") and the importance of singing a happy song while rodents help you clean up ("Happy Working Song"), the story played out very traditionally, with fewer surprises and less satire than I was hoping for.
The filmmakers missed the opportunity to create a memorable new villain, as Susan Sarandon's Queen Narissa looks like the evil queen from Sleeping Beauty and acts like the evil queen from Snow White, without an original scheme to her name, other than tossing wannabe princesses down wells. The ending climax when Narissa makes her ultimate appearance in NYC, determined to keep Giselle from her stepson Edward at any cost, should have been the most thrilling part of the film. Instead it plays out like an old fairy tale we've seen a hundred times, with no real twists and nothing new added to the genre. As a parody, Enchanted is just not up to par with the first Shrek film.
Enchanted was also lacking in character development, with Giselle's transformation to real woman feeling somewhat abrupt, even as she has the majority of the film to develop and grow. The side characters, Robert's fiancé Nancy, Robert's fairy tale-loving daughter Morgan, and the vermin-hating, evil-queen loving Nathanial, are sacrificed to the central story. Although the side plots ultimately play out as they should, another half-an-hour of character development could have made this film, and those characters, a much more memorable experience.
Final consensus: Enjoyable, good-spirited fluff for the romantics at heart, but ultimately failing to bring anything new to the genre.
Don't forget to: Download the songs to your music player and sing your own happy working song while cleaning house. If it worked for Giselle, it just might work for you.
Just one question: Why isn't the fantastically Wicked Idina Menzel singing in THIS Disney musical?