×

Enchanted

"Enchanted" more than lives up to its title. A full-blown musical that commutes between Disney's patented cartoon universe and the "real" world with cleverness and grace, this splashy production reminds one of nothing in the Disney canon so much as "Mary Poppins," not least due to the "star is born" aura that surrounds Amy Adams here, just as it did Julie Andrews 43 years ago.

With:
Giselle - Amy Adams Robert Philip - Patrick Dempsey Prince Edward - James Marsden Nathaniel - Timothy Spall Nancy Tremaine - Idina Menzel Morgan Philip - Rachel Covey Queen Narissa - Susan Sarandon Narrator - Julie Andrews

“Enchanted” more than lives up to its title. A full-blown musical that commutes between Disney’s patented cartoon universe and the “real” world with cleverness and grace, this splashy production reminds one of nothing in the Disney canon so much as “Mary Poppins,” not least due to the “star is born” aura that surrounds Amy Adams here, just as it did Julie Andrews 43 years ago. Comparison between the two films will certainly extend to their popularity, as the new one will please nearly all audiences all the time on its flight to the place where B.O. dreams come true.

The central conceit of Bill Kelly’s nifty script is to toss Disney’s trustiest fairy tale characters — the sweet-as-sugar princess, the straight-arrow prince, the evil queen and a menagerie of affectionately frisky critters — from their bucolic natural setting onto the streets of Manhattan and take it from there. This being “New” York, the characters aren’t in danger of being plunked down in the middle of “Mean Streets” or “Across 110th Street”; indeed, when they pop out of a manhole in the middle of the theater district, accoutered in flouncy medieval garb, it’s a wonder the many gawking bystanders don’t just assume they’re refugees from a Disney Broadway production, which “Enchanted” is sure to become down the line.

Opening 12 minutes, which are delightfully animated in vintage hand-drawn style, set the tone of loving send-up by packing in as many of the old Disney cliches as possible. In Andalasia, a land clearly afflicted by severe animal over-population, the ditzily innocent Giselle sings of the “True Love’s Kiss” she expects to receive from the soon-to-arrive Prince Edward, son of Queen Narissa. Unwilling to be dethroned if Edward marries, Narissa transforms herself into a dreadful old crone and pushes Giselle down a well, sending her to a place “where there are no happily-ever-afters.”

Confronting the noise and concrete and congestion of Manhattan, wide-eyed Giselle (Adams) arrives clueless, not to mention penniless. Dithering around town in an absurdly hooped wedding dress, she winds up rain soaked in the Bowery, where she attracts the attention of 6-year-old Morgan (Rachel Covey). Latter’s divorced dad Robert (Patrick Dempsey), a divorce lawyer himself, rescues the damsel in distress and lets her spend the night at their apartment, albeit with misgivings, as he’s about to ask his g.f. Nancy (Idina Menzel) to marry him.

As the gee-whiz, fish-out-of-water reactions of an animation-world alien can’t sustain interest for too long, pic quickly shows what it’s got up its sleeve in a hilarious variation on “Whistle While You Work” called “Happy Working Song.” Confronting the horrible mess of Robert’s domicile in the morning, Giselle summons the city’s animals to help her tidy it up, and the place is soon jammed with wonderfully rendered CGI pigeons, rats, mice and cockroaches, which enthusiastically whip the place into shape.

In short order, vainglorious Prince Edward (James Marsden) arrives in Manhattan, sword in hand, to rescue his beloved, followed by Nathaniel (Timothy Spall), the queen’s portly factotum, who comically bungles any number of attempts to eliminate Giselle once and for all. Another Andalasian transplant is a hyperactive chipmunk who keeps trying, and failing, to communicate to Edward what he ought to do.

As Giselle initially persists in speaking in storybook homilies about her prince and true love, it’s no wonder Robert remarks, “It’s like you escaped from a Hallmark card.” Despite the adversity of her situation, it’s all sweetness and light to her until Robert provokes her by insisting no fairy-tale prince will be coming to rescue her. Roused to anger for the first time in her life, Giselle begins to become a real, more dimensional person, a development soon complicated by the stirring of feelings between her and Robert.

While Kelly’s script and Kevin Lima’s direction may not rep the last word in brilliance, the creative forces behind the film are uniformly alert, cheeky and smart in the ways of popular entertainment. More than Disney’s strictly animated product, “Enchanted,” in the manner of the vast majority of Hollywood films made until the ’60s, is a film aimed at the entire population — niches be damned. It simply aims to please, without pandering, without vulgarity, without sops to pop-culture fads, and to pull this off today is no small feat.

But even with all the other pieces in place — the knowing craftsmanship, Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz’s engaging songs (there are five original tunes), the sharp animation, the spiffy Gotham locations and a couple outrageously unexpected animal gags — the picture wouldn’t be what it is without Adams. Just as Andrews arrived at just the right time for “Mary Poppins” and “The Sound of Music,” so has Adams turned up almost out of nowhere (her wonderful work in “Junebug” notwithstanding) to be crowned the fairest in the land. (In a nice if fleeting touch, Andrews was recruited to provide brief opening and closing narration.)

With the evident instincts of a born musical-comedy performer and a lovely voice to back them up, the red-haired, bright-eyed Adams proves more charming the more disheveled she becomes, and exercises comic gifts in the process that call to mind such immortals as Carole Lombard and Lucille Ball. An utterly convincing spokeswoman for innocence, her Giselle for a long time brooks no dissent from her innately optimistic worldview, so when she blossoms into a real woman, if such she can be called, the opening of emotional dimensions is palpable. Enchanting is the word.

Prominently back on the bigscreen again due to his success in TV’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” Dempsey does a nice, understated job as a harried single dad you don’t mind pulling for. Marsden, who, like Adams, boasts a startlingly good singing voice, has and imparts a grand time as the self-regarding prince, while Susan Sarandon turns up in fully cranked Cruella de Vil mode when the queen comes to New York herself to dispatch Giselle once and for all; Rick Baker’s old-hag makeup for her climactic disguise is flat-out great.

The skillfully produced and mounted picture makes massive use of Manhattan as a glorious backdrop; it may be a touristic view of the city, but this is perhaps fitting, given that it’s about visitors. The extensive scenes involving countless cars and extras must have tied up traffic for days, and the logistics surrounding other scenes on the Brooklyn Bridge, the Upper West Side, Columbus Circle and elsewhere had to have been nearly as daunting.

Most striking, however, is a prolonged production number, “That’s How You Know,” that moves through many sections of Central Park and employs dozens or more musicians, dancers and backgrounders. It’s hard to think of a traditional musical number done on such a scale since the ’60s, so it’s startling to behold. Like the rest of the film, the sequence reaches far back into the past for its inspiration and manages to make it feel like something new again.

Popular on Variety

Enchanted

Production: A Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures release of a Walt Disney Pictures presentation of a Barry Sonnenfeld/Josephson Entertainment production. Produced by Barry Josephson, Sonnenfeld. Executive producers, Chris Chase, Sunil Perkash, Ezra Swerdlow. Directed by Kevin Lima. Screenplay, Bill Kelly.

Crew: Camera (Technicolor, Panavision widescreen), Don Burgess; editors, Stephen A. Rotter, Gregory Perler; music, Alan Menken; songs, Menken, Stephen Schwartz; music supervisor, Dawn Soler; production designer, Stuart Wurtzel; art director, John Kasarda; set decorator, George DeTitta Jr.; costume designer, Mona May; sound (Dolby Digital/SDDS/DTS), Tod A. Maitland; sound designer, Randy Thom; supervising sound editors, Thom, Dennis Leonard; re-recording mixers, Thom, Gary A. Rizzo, David E. Fluhr; hand-drawn animation supervisor, James Baxter; visual effects supervisor, Thomas Schelesny; visual effects, Tippett Studio; hag makeup effects, Rick Baker; choreographer, John O'Connell; assistant director, Michael Decasper; second unit director, George Aguilar; second unit camera, David M. Dunlap; casting, John Papsidera, Marcia Ross. Reviewed at El Capitan Theater, Los Angeles, Nov. 15, 2007. (In Rome, London film festivals.) MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 108 MIN.

With: Giselle - Amy Adams Robert Philip - Patrick Dempsey Prince Edward - James Marsden Nathaniel - Timothy Spall Nancy Tremaine - Idina Menzel Morgan Philip - Rachel Covey Queen Narissa - Susan Sarandon Narrator - Julie Andrews

More Film

  • Jon Favreau'The Lion King' film premiere,

    Jon Favreau Addresses Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola's Criticism of Marvel Movies

    Jon Favreau, actor, director and staple in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, addressed Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola’s criticisms of Marvel movies during an interview with CNBC.  “These two guys are my heroes and they’ve earned the right to express their opinions,” Favreau said. “I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if they didn’t carve [...]

  • Sir Lionel Frost (left) voiced by

    Laika Plans All-Day Retrospective of Catalog

    Award-winning animation studio Laika (“ParaNorman,” “Coraline”) will present a special retrospective entitled Missing Link and the Evolution of Laika in Los Angeles on Oct. 27. Taking place at The Landmark, the all-day event will begin at 10:30 a.m. with a screening of BAFTA Award-winning film “Kubo and the Two Strings” and close with an 8:45 [...]

  • Best Picture Contenders

    Examining the Best Picture Race in a Year of Disruption

    In the lead-up to Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” there was some fretting about how a director known for grindhouse exploitation might handle the summer of 1969, when the Manson murders capped a period of social upheaval. While Tarantino does get around to what happened on Cielo Drive on the fateful [...]

  • Vanessa Kirby poses for photographers at

    Vanessa Kirby to Star in Drama 'Pieces of a Woman' (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Hobbs & Shaw” actress Vanessa Kirby is in negotiations to star in the Bron Studios pic “Pieces of a Woman,” sources tell Variety. Kornél Mundruczó will direct with Kata Wéber penning the script. Reps for Kirby could not be reached for comment. Specific plot details are being kept under wraps, but it is known that [...]

  • Suki WaterhouseSave the Children Centennial Celebration,

    Dark Castle, HanWay and Ingenious Partner on Simon Barrett's 'Seance' Starring Suki Waterhouse

    Dark Castle Entertainment, HanWay Films and Ingenious Media have partnered on horror film “Seance,” directed by Simon Barrett and starring Suki Waterhouse. Set in an all-girls boarding school haunted by a vengeful spirit, Waterhouse (“Assassination Nation,” “The Bad Batch”) plays Camille, a young woman who arrives at the Fairfield Academy following one of the student’s [...]

  • The Black List

    The Black List Reveals India Plans

    The Black List, an online yearly survey that features Hollywood’s most popular unpublished screenplays, is all set to make an imprint in India. The survey’s founder Franklin Leonard revealed this during a masterclass at the ongoing Mumbai film festival, where he is also serving as the head of the India Gold competition jury. “One of [...]

  • China Pavilion at TIFFCOM 2019

    'Still Life' Remake Heads for Japan-China Fund Backing

    A Japanese-language remake of British drama “Still Life” could be the first film to flow from a fund created to support Chinese-Japanese joint productions. The fund is operated by WeF Cultural Investment Media, a company founded earlier this year with the backing of government bodies in Beijing and Qingdao — the Chinese coastal city which [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content