Director: Kevin Lima
Cast: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, Susan Sarandon, Timothy Spall
Watch Enchanted online in the UK: Disney Life / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / iTunes / Google Play / DisneyLife
Cool Runnings aside, Disney’s forays into the realm of reality haven’t always been brilliant. Then again, neither were their animated features before Enchanted came along. A hybrid of two mediums – a pastiche of Disney’s animation past and a nod to its mildly subversive future – it comes across as the company’s official retort to Shrek. The pleasant surprise is that it easily rivals the high standard set by the first in the Dreamworks series.
Beginning in old-school 2-D, the young Giselle (Adams) dreams of her one true love. Quick as a flash, up pops the dashing, gormless Prince Edward (Marsden). A short duet later and they’re set to be married in the morning. But Edward’s evil step-mother, Queen Narissa (Sarandon) is none too happy with the match. And so she pushes Giselle into your traditional fountain-cum-vortex, sending her to a far off place where there are no happy endings. No, not Essex: New York.
There, Giselle bumps into divorcee Robert (Dempsey). While he introduces her to the concepts of dating and single parents, Edward follows Giselle to the Big Apple, accompanied by CGI chipmunk Pip and Narissa’s pathetic manservant Nathaniel (Spall).
Spanning the leap from cartoon to live-action, the cast are as charismatic as characters of old. Leading the bunch is non-saccharine starlet Amy Adams; believably innocent and endearingly cute, her princess-to-be falls for the dreamy Dempsey with heartfelt honesty. Resolutely refusing to accompany her incessant singing, Dempsey’s Robert is charming to the last – clearly the better of Edward’s dumb rival.
Between this and Hairspray, Marsden proves he can do way more than X-Men’s Cyclops. Taking Wolverine’s “you’re a dick” description to absurd heights, he swans about in tights, sending up Disney’s two-dimensional royal archetype with goofy gaiety. Spall, meanwhile, offers a nice contrast to Nathaniel’s confident suitor, switching disguises and accents in a hilariously sleazy manner. It’s no wonder, then, that Pip’s squeaky impersonations of him almost steal the show entirely.
On paper, this film should not work: live-action antics, computer-generated animals, witty self-parody – you expect it all to fall flat within minutes. Somehow, though, Disney find that magic formula beneath the commercial sheen, mocking their own values yet upholding them for a new generation. The result is something that set Amy Adams on course for Golden Globe and Oscar glory and Disney on the path to strong female-driven post-modern adventures. If Tangled paved the way for Frozen, Enchanted mixed the cement.
Proceedings are peppered with delightful musical numbers by House of Mouse veteran Alan Menken, from Happy Working Song – upending Mary Poppins’ work ethic with cockroaches and rats – to the show-stopping That’s How She Knows. The latter sees the entire population of Central Park unite in spontaneous song; you’ll be hard pressed not to join in.