When it comes to fairy tales, no movie studio does them better than Disney. In fact, if you think about popular fairy tales that have been made into films you're more than likely to think of the House of Mouse. With its latest release, Enchanted, Disney has added an instant classic to its library.
The opening of the movie suggests that the film is going to be just another animated fairy tale. However, it ends up being something quite different indeed. The story opens in the fairy tale land of Andalasia. Giselle (Amy Adams) is a charming young woman who has fallen in love with Prince Edward (James Marsden). Once Edward meets Giselle he also falls in love much to the consternation of his evil stepmother Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon). They immediately decide to get married since that's how things happen in fairy tales. As Giselle arrives at the church for the ceremony, she is intercepted by Narissa who is disguised as an old hag. Narissa encourages her to make a wish at the magical wishing well and as Giselle leans over Narissa pushes her in, sending her to the "place where there are no happily ever afters" — New York.
Giselle arrives in New York by climbing up through the sewer and is immediately confronted with a world that is vastly different than her fairy tale world. She soon encounters Robert Phillip (Patrick Dempsey), a divorced single father who is also a divorce lawyer. Robert does not believe in fairy tale romance and does not hesitate to say so. Giselle is still very naive at first about the ways of the real world. But as Robert and Giselle spend more time together, each begins to learn a little more about real love from the other.
Meanwhile, Edward has followed Giselle to New York in an attempt to rescue her and return her to Andalasia. Narissa, wanting to be sure that Edward does not succeed, sends Nathaniel (Timothy Spall), her assistant, to follow him and make sure that they don't have the chance to rekindle the romance. Will Edward and Giselle be reunited? Will they discover that their love is true love or something entirely different?
Although the film follows a typical fairly tale plot it also turns the genre on its head with the soon-to-be princess Giselle having to cope with life in New York. Along the way there are subtle references to previous Disney classics that provide added enjoyment for fans of the animated classics.
The film works in large part because of the fantastic performances of Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, and James Marsden. Ms. Adams is perfectly cast as the lovely Giselle. Early in the film she perfectly captures Giselle's naivete when she first arrives in New York. She honestly believes that life should be lived like a fairy tale and that "happily ever after" isn't just a dream, it's a reality. She's a stark contrast to Patrick Dempsey's Robert who sees only the dark side of relationships. He's skeptical that true love that lasts is possible. It takes Giselle to show him what's really possible. James Marsden is a wonderfully dense, self-absorbed hero who is smitten with Giselle but doesn't have enough of an idea of what true love really looks like to know whether what he feels is real.
Another bright spot in the movie is the wonderful soundtrack composed by Disney veterans Alan Mencken and Stephen Schwartz. They have come up with songs that are reminiscent of show-stopping tunes from previous Disney films.
The filmmakers also chose to not take some available shortcuts and instead created more elaborately choreographed moments that add to the charm of the film. For example, in the early part of the movie Giselle decides to help out Robert by cleaning his apartment. In a sequence reminiscent of "Whistle While You Work" from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves she calls upon the animals of the city (pigeons, rats, and even cockroaches) to help her clean up while singing the "Happy Working Song". The sequence could have easily been done entirely with computer-generated creatures but the producers decided to include live animals. As a result, it's a more realistic shot and is far more believable to the viewer.
Another great moment occurs a little later in the film when Giselle is trying to help Robert express how he feels to his current girlfriend. She provides her advice through a rousing song, "How Will You Know", an elaborate song-and-dance sequence filmed through Central Park with over 100 professional dancers.
The bonus features include great behind-the-scenes looks into how the different effects were achieved. They also show the great care that was taken in crafting the production to make sure that it's a fitting tribute to Disney's fairy tale legacy. The Blu-ray disc has an added feature: a pop-up guide to the cinematic references throughout the film.
With Enchanted, Disney has done only what they could really do — pay tribute to their fairy tale legacy while at the same time gently poking fun at the conventions of the genre. With stellar performances from the entire cast and an uncompromising production design, they've outdone themselves. Enchanted is sure to be another Disney classic.