Disney’s Enchanted goes down very easily. It is one of those movies that the whole family can stretch out all about the family-room floor after a huge meal of ham and turkey and enjoy without worrying about being frightened or made to blush uncomfortably. It’s a perfect holiday movie which is how I just experienced it. Unfortunately, what it delivers isn’t quite what it promises and is ultimately a bit dishonest and suspicious.
The Internet Movie Database offers a plot summary cribbed from Enchanted’s official website that includes: “… classic Disney fairytale collides with modern-day New York City … Can a storybook view of romance survive in the real world?” This manages to hold both the film’s pleasures and its missed opportunities all tied up with nice little bow.
It’s fun to watch Enchanted’s animated opening sequence which simultaneously captures and lampoons the well-known Disney style. It is Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and The Little Mermaid by way of Shrek. After Giselle (played very appealingly by Amy Adams, the film’s greatest asset as is the case with all films starring Amy Adams) is sent tumbling into a live-action New York City, her fish-flapping-about-on-the-sidewalk adventures continue to draw smiles. It’s the same kick one gets from Elf in spite of a thin layer of mold now growing around the edges. After all, who doesn’t find revolving doors at least a bit confusing?
Where suspicion creeps in is with the notions of “modern-day New York City” and “the real world.” Gissele first appears in the city rising from a manhole in the middle of a downtown street. (Did you expect her to rise up out of anything else?) But, does she get knocked on the head by a racing taxi? No. At first, the streets appear to be as unpopulated by traffic as in Eyes Wide Shut, allowing Giselle ample time to struggle free, enormous white gown and all. And when the traffic does show up, it is as politely choreographed and genteel as the dancers in the climactic ball. One has to strain to hear the gentle sounds of horns honking.
Later, walking through a park, Giselle begins to sing and is quickly joined by street musicians, construction workers, and random passers-by. This isn’t the real, modern-day New York City Giselle has fallen into. She has tumbled from an animated Disney fairy tale into a live-action Disney fairy tale. This is much more the New York of Madison (Splash) or Molly Gunn (Uptown Girls) than Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver) or even Buddy (Elf). To truly plunge Giselle into an alien world and force her to struggle with its challenges, Enchanted needed to be more “all the animals come out at night - whores, skunk pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies, sick, venal…” than street people who swipe the crown from her head and scurry away like squirrels stealing morsels from a picnic blanket.