The basic plot of Enchanted, an animated princess comes to life in modern New York, sounds like a bad television movie starring Rob Lowe. Instead, it's a fun, musical, joyous film with the next great American comedy actress.
At some point in the future, Enchanted will be seen as the movie that made it clear Amy Adams was going to be a big star. Fully inhabiting the role of Giselle, an animated princess who ends up being transported to modern day Manhattan, Adams sells sickly sweet in a way few others could manage. Rather than being annoyed by her relentless optimism and cheer, you root for her. Our wanting her to succeed, in turn, makes the movie succeed.
Adams starts the movie as the voice of Giselle, who lives in the lush 2-D animation world of Andalasia and is set to marry Prince Edward (James Marsden.) This arouses the ire of Edward’s evil mother, Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon,) who causes Giselle to fall into a magic well and emerge, non-animated, in New York. A flesh and blood girl with an animated princess’s heart, she has a lot of trouble adapting to the mean streets of the Big Apple. She gets help from cynical divorce attorney Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and his young daughter, Morgan (Rachel Covey.) It won’t be long before Giselle’s seemingly insane good nature charms Robert, much to the chagrin of his girlfriend (Idina Menzel.)
Bringing Giselle, and later Edward, Narissa, and Narissa’s flunky, Nathaniel (Timothy Spall) to the real world allows director Kevin Lima (Tarzan and 102 Dalmatians) and writer Bill Kelly to satirize nearly every Disney animated film ever made. There are dozens of visual and verbal references to everything from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Beauty and the Beast. While some of the tributes are obscure, there are tons that will be obvious to the most casual fan.
The spoofing is clever and often hilarious without ever coming across as overly hip (a la Shrek) or mean spirited. Generally it plays on everyone’s understanding that the values and plot devices of the happily ever after world just doesn’t fly in the real world. When Edward jumps into a path to serenade his lady love, he’s immediately knocked over by a group of bicyclists. If Giselle needs animals to help clean Robert’s apartment while she sings the best Disney parody song ever, “Happy Working Song,” she gets the help of cockroaches, pigeons, and rats rather than the rabbits, songbirds, and deer that assisted her princess predecessors.
Like most Disney animated films of the past, Enchanted is a musical. Alan Menkey and Stephen Schwartz wrote several songs (including the aforementioned “Happy Working Song”) that have a distinct Disney feel. “How Will They Know?,” Giselle’s question to Robert about love, is given a show stopping performance in Central Park. It’s joyful and exciting, like the rest of the movie, despite a somewhat obvious boy meets girl story buried in the Disney history lesson.
The ending, an out of place battle involving all of the main characters and a big New York building, isn’t quite as clever as everything that comes before it. However, it doesn’t diminish Adam’s performance who is gorgeous, funny, sincere, and radiant or Marsden who has a real flair for musical comedy (see Hairspray.) Disney, not exactly on fire when it comes to original animation lately, turns the tables on itself and produces its most entertaining and original movie in years.
Family movie DVDs can often be a battle between providing something of interest to the adults while catering to the kids who make up the majority of the repeat audience for the movie and disc. Enchanted does a nice job balancing the two despite having a relatively small amount of extras. In fact, it’s likely there is a “Special Edition” lurking somewhere in our future.
Director Kevin Lima does not include a commentary, but he does introduce each of the six deleted scenes. As a group they last about eight minutes and were primarily cut for pacing reasons, according to Lima. There is an extended opening included and involves the squirrel Pip trying to get Prince Edward’s hair and bringing it to Giselle. Since the opening is part of the animated section of the movie, the extended opening is shown in storyboard with the addition of dialogue and music.
Enchanted takes a slightly different approach with the behind-the-scenes featurettes included. Rather than presenting a general overall featurette on the entire movie, there are separate in-depth featurettes on three key scenes. The three, “Happy Working Song,” “That’s How You Know,” and “A Blast at the Ball,” last about six minutes each. The CG, music (for the two songs), and stunts used to put these show stopping set pieces together are all given their due. It’s more interesting than if they had just talked in generalities about making the movie as you often see in a making-of featurette.
The final extra that might be of interest to an adult is a two minute blooper reel. It’s padded out with actors laughing on and off camera at things we aren’t shown. Besides that it’s the standard set of blown lines, prop mishaps, and stumbles you’ve seen in other blooper reels.
An extra that will only be of interest to the kids in your house is a lame short called “Pip’s Predicament: A Pop-Up Adventure.” Set in a pop-up style book of the animated Andalasia, Pip tries to rescue Prince Edward after Giselle is sent to New York. It looks cheap and doesn’t have the main movie’s heart or sense of fun.
There are two “hidden” extras on the disc, although they are pretty easy to find with unnamed icons on the bonus menu begging to be clicked on. One is a music video with Carrie Underwood performing the end titles song “Ever, Ever After.” The song is not up to the level of the Disneyeque tunes performed in the movie. The other extra is actually a short commercial for the Blu-ray version of the release. It has the same set of extras but adds the ability to identify the Disney references in Enchanted and see a short featurette showing the original reference. It makes you wish they had included it in this version, but I guess that’s the point.
This disc is short one or two substantial extras to be considered top shelf. The release, as is, is skimpy and doesn’t rise to the same standard as the movie itself. The video and audio are excellent, but the level of bonus features drag it down slightly. It’s still, however, the best original Disney release in quite awhile.