Enchanted is one in the long line of Disney family films about princesses, their quest for prince charming, and the villainous oppressor that seeks to keep them apart. What makes Enchanted a modern Disney masterpiece worthy of Walt himself is not the tale it tells but how it chooses to tell it; rather than ignore the formula and predecessors of the Disney cannon Enchanted uses the classic Disney formula to its advantage and creates a original and loving homage to the stories that have shaped every generation of children since Snow White.
Bill Kelly and Kevin Lima directly lift from numerous Disney films, the most frequent and obvious being The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, Bambi, Snow White, Cinderella, Lady and the Tramp and Beauty and the Beast. Most of these references are idle and don’t impact the plot of the story but are hidden in the body of the film as extra gems for the avid Disney viewer to find.
Less subtle but perhaps even more for the adept Disney film viewer is the fact that several shots in the film are shot-for-shot reproductions of shots in other Disney films only this time created in the live action realm instead of the two dimensional animated films that they are lifted from. First and beautifully reproduced is when Giselle is scrubbing the bathroom floor and bubbles begin to raise each containing Giselle’s reflection as in Cinderella.
The next and most obvious shots are listed from two of the most influential films in the Disney cannon: Beauty and the Beast and Snow White. Both of these shots take place in the King’s & Queen’s Ball at the end of the film.
Perhaps the most famous shot in Beauty in the Beast is when Belle and the Beast are dancing in the grand ballroom and the shot begins eye level with the chandelier at the top of the ballroom and sweeps down to the Beast and Belle dancing; this is magnificently recreated as Giselle and Robert dance together at the ball. The next is one of the most iconic shots from Snow White; Giselle takes a bite from the poison apple offered to her by the Queen and the next shot after she has fallen to the ground we see her limp arm hit the floor and the apple roll away from her, just like Snow White as she falls to the ground and loses her grip on the apple.
Enchanted is heralded as one of the new gems in the Disney crown; however, this film would not be the critical achievement that it is if it were not for the actors involved. The ability of this story to shift from cheesy and overdone tale of Disney fluff to heartfelt, and iconic Disney tale rests not only on the talent of the writer and director but on the ability of the talented cast to turn the eccentric world in which they exist into reality instead of pretending it’s all camp and no substance.
Amy Adams has been lauded with two Oscar nominations. The first for indy flick Junebug, and the second for her role as Giselle. This nomination for Enchanted is no laughing matter; Adams brings an intense naivety and vulnerability to the character that you can’t help but love her and want her to turn New York into the fanciful place she believes the world should be. A prefect example is the first scene Adams is onscreen after her character shifts from being animated to a three dimensional human. As she sits in her shock, agony and desperation she discovers her new body and slowly the overwhelming new world around her; when Adams embodies the character we uncover the true meaning of Enchanted – Giselle becomes three dimensional and spends the rest of the story discovering that her body is not just three dimensional but she is as well as she takes control over her destiny and her life.
The next character who should be lauded for every film he appeared in this year is the masterful James Marsden. His character Prince Edward is obviously two dimensional, but preformed and written with such skill as his simple mindedness becomes his most endearing quality. Prince Edward is self-involved, vane and single-minded but the performance is played with just enough exuberance that Marsden makes Edward completely believable as a fairy tale prince without turning the character into one that grates on the audience as he delivers every exuberant line.
The final leading character is played more subtly than Adams and Marsden and from the opposite end the of characters spectrum, this character would be Robert played by adorable Patrick Dempsey. Unlike Giselle and Edward Robert comes from a world where love ends, people abandon and his little girl faces life without her mother. He is the biggest skeptic of Giselle’s way of thinking and when played off Adams through the course of the film Dempsey makes his character’s gradual transition from skeptic to romantic flawless, understated and believable. Too often subtle acting is overlooked and Dempsey deserves his due for the ease in which Robert and Giselle slowly begin to realize that their two lives can create one magnificent new reality.
Enchanted creates a fantasy world that perfectly blends fantasy with reality and promises fresh, new potential for the princess films that follow it.
Director: Kevin Lima
Writer: Bill Kelly
Giselle: Amy Adams
Robert Phillip: Patrick Dempsey
Prince Edward: James Marsden
Morgan Phillip: Rachel Covey
Nathaniel: Timothy Spall
Nancy Tremaine: Idina Menzel
Queen Narissa: Susan Sarandon
Morgan Philip: Remember not to put too much makeup or the boys may get the wrong idea. They are only after one thing.
Giselle: What's that?
Morgan Philip: I don't know. They won't tell me.