Fan­tasy meets re­al­ity

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music -

THE Dis­ney stu­dio isn’t usu­ally given to mock­ing its sa­cred tra­di­tions and it’s hard to know what the revered founder would have made of its latest of­fer­ing, En­chanted. Sel­f­ref­er­en­tial par­ody wasn’t to Un­cle Walt’s taste. It’s pos­si­ble that En­chanted can be seen as a homage to Dis­ney rather than a send- up, but any­one see­ing it for the first time may take it to be an old- fash­ioned an­i­mated Dis­ney fairy­tale, ad­mit­tedly one of more than usu­ally re­volt­ing sen­ti­men­tal­ity ( as Lady Brack­nell might have said), but with all the stan­dard Dis­ney in­gre­di­ents. Check them out.

We have a fairy­tale princess who lives in a cas­tle and com­munes with an ador­ing menagerie of birds, squir­rels, chip­munks and other twit­ter­ing for­est crea­tures. A wicked step­mother is jeal­ous of the princess’s beauty and there are en­coun­ters with a nasty troll. Then Prince Charm­ing ap­pears, res­cues Princess Giselle from some per­ilous predica­ment, pro­claims that

This maiden is mine’’ and rides off with her on a pranc­ing steed while some­one sings one of those dread­ful Dis­ney songs (‘‘ I’ve been dream­ing of my true love’s kiss’’, or some such) as they con­tem­plate a fu­ture of wed­ded hap­pi­ness.

For the first 20 min­utes or so, this il­lu­sion is clev­erly sus­tained. En­chanted be­gins as a car­toon, but just when we are be­gin­ning to think that the joke, if joke it is, has out­stayed its wel­come, the princess falls into a wish­ing well, hav­ing been lured to the edge by the wicked queen, and plunges an un­fath­omable dis­tance to emerge through a man­hole into con­tem­po­rary live- ac­tion Man­hat­tan, with its surg­ing armies of com­muters and honk­ing traf­fic.

Still wear­ing her bridal gown ( and now in the real- life form of Amy Adams), she dis­plays all the sweet­ness and trust we ex­pect of princesses in try­ing cir­cum­stances, not to men­tion great pres­ence of mind. A street hobo pinches her di­a­mond tiara and she has to ask di­rec­tions from puz­zled by­standers.

All this, too, is familiar enough. The ad­ven­tures of in­no­cents abroad in an unfamiliar world of sky­scrapers, fast- food restau­rants and elec­tronic com­mu­ni­ca­tion was the stuff of Croc­o­dile Dundee . The pre­vi­ous Christ­mas vari­ant on the theme, the Will Fer­rell com­edy Elf , made the shrewd point that peo­ple in bizarre cos­tumes be­hav­ing oddly in pub­lic are th­ese days like­lier to be taken for par­tic­i­pants in re­tail stunts or television com­mer­cials than vis­i­tors from an­other world.

One misses such mod­est ev­i­dence of so­phis­ti­ca­tion in En­chanted , though there’s a charm­ing mo­ment when Giselle mis­takes a TV screen for a magic mir­ror. Plead­ing to know the where­abouts of her miss­ing lover, she’s re­warded with a news­caster sign­ing off from the cor­ner of soand- so and such- and- such in down­town Man­hat­tan’’. Nice touch, I thought.

But I’m get­ting ahead of my­self. As one would ex­pect, Prince Charm­ing fol­lows his prospec­tive bride through the same magic por­tal and emerges in New York in the per­son of James Mars­den, dim and ar­dent as ever.

Giselle, mean­while, has found shel­ter and com­pan­ion­ship with Robert ( Pa­trick Dempsey), a sym­pa­thetic lawyer, who treats her at first as a harm­less ec­cen­tric, no more dis­turbed than most of his mar­ried clients, and of­fers her the con­ve­nience of his apart­ment while she finds some­where else to live.

Robert, a spe­cial­ist in di­vorce set­tle­ments, hav­ing sep­a­rated ( ap­pro­pri­ately enough) from his own part­ner, lives with his sprightly six- yearold daugh­ter, Morgan ( Rachel Covey). The child takes an im­me­di­ate fancy to Giselle and the two be­come al­lies.

Soon the en­tire fairy­tale cast is re­united in the world of re­la­tion­ship coun­selling, prop­erty set­tle­ments and the gen­eral grime and sleaze of ev­ery­day ur­ban life.

Against all her maid­enly in­stincts and re­gal up­bring­ing, Giselle finds her­self at­tracted to Robert and less cap­ti­vated by her prince of yore. With the wicked queen on hand in the per­son of Susan Saran­don, things can only get stick­ier.

It’s a lovely story. Di­rec­tor Kevin Lima and writer Bill Kelly con­vinc­ingly merge the sep­a­rate worlds of fan­tasy and real life, and I doubt if this has been done bet­ter.

Adams may overdo the sim­per­ing cute­ness in some of her scenes, but Dempsey’s char­ac­ter is es­pe­cially lik­able. Some­how ev­ery­thing ends hap­pily, with no un­at­tached lovers or dis­ap­pointed suit­ors left with nowhere to turn.

This is a de­light­ful fam­ily en­ter­tain­ment and I think Un­cle Walt would have ap­proved.

* * * DIS­NEY’S other hol­i­day of­fer­ing, Na­tional Trea­sure: Book of Se­crets , is a se­quel to its 2004 ac­tion ad­ven­ture Na­tional Trea­sure . Ni­co­las Cage, older and wiser, is back as Ben Gates, pur­su­ing clues to the lo­ca­tion of a hid­den trea­sure. I haven’t seen the first film, which by all ac­counts was good fun, but the new one goes on too long and shows ev­ery sign of flag­ging in­ven­tion, with a per­sis­tent air of strain­ing and des­per­a­tion and in­creas­ingly un­likely plot twists.

There is a cer­tain kind of ac­tion- ad­ven­ture in which go­ing over the top is con­fused with imag­i­na­tive dar­ing, and what is needed is not more of the pre­pos­ter­ous but more re­minders of a real and know­able world. Book of Se­crets be­longs to the tra­di­tion of Raiders of the Lost Ark , but In­di­ana Jones was a more spir­ited and ap­peal­ing char­ac­ter than Ben Gates. Still, Cage, glum as he seems, is not the prob­lem. Un­like Steven Spiel­berg, who knew where to draw the line, di­rec­tor Jon Turteltaub keeps pil­ing on in­creas­ingly lav­ish ab­sur­di­ties, and the film feels like a huge waste of ef­fort for lit­tle re­ward. Per­haps this is to be ex­pected in a Dis­ney col­lab­o­ra­tion with pro­ducer Jerry Bruck­heimer.

In the days when I set the Easter egg trea­sure hunts in our fam­ily, the most au­da­cious clues led un­der the house or up a tree, or per­haps to the near­est pub­lic phone box. Ben Gates has to fol­low a trail from the Eif­fel Tower to the Queen’s study in Buck­ing­ham Palace ( would you be­lieve?), from the Oval Of­fice in the White House to Mt Rush­more, while search­ing for a fa­bled city of gold.

Ben, of course, is too noble a chap to care about riches. He’s out to prove the in­no­cence of his great- great- grand­fa­ther, who has been im­pli­cated in the as­sas­si­na­tion of Abra­ham Lin­coln by the dis­cov­ery of a miss­ing page from the diary of John Wilkes Booth.

You have to ad­mire Ben’s sense of fam­ily loy­alty. The only help he gets is from his fa­ther ( Jon Voight) and a lady who spe­cialises in an­cient lan­guages ( He­len Mir­ren). Surely Mir­ren could have played the Queen, busy read­ing or sign­ing things in her study when Ben cons his way inside. That would have been some­thing. I’m afraid the film is a lot less en­joy­able than it sounds. Some will em­brace it as the purest es­capist plea­sure, but af­ter what seems like three or four hours of es­ca­lat­ing non­sense I was happy sim­ply to es­cape.

Fresh and be­guil­ing: Amy Adams and Pa­trick Dempsey en­joy life with three di­men­sions in En­chanted

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.