Princess charm­ing

Dis­ney takes a sweet bite out of the Big Bad Ap­ple in En­chanted, writes Michael Dwyer

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film -

OPEN­ING with the words “Once upon a time” and nar­rated by Julie An­drews, En­chanted in­tro­duces a sweetly in­no­cent hero­ine in Giselle, whose friends are a menagerie of talk­ing an­i­mals. She trills a ro­man­tic ditty, True Love’s Kiss, and dreams of mar­ry­ing hand­some Prince Ed­ward, but his wicked step­mother Queen Narissa has other plans.

This an­i­mated pro­logue sug­gests that En­chanted is a throw­back to Dis­ney movies from a by­gone era. Not for long, though.

Tak­ing the form of an old crone, the queen lures Giselle to a wish­ing well, shoves her into it and cack­les that she is send­ing her to “a place where there are no happy ever af­ters”. That place is New York City, and the movie bursts into live ac­tion as Giselle (played by Amy Adams) emerges from a sewer in Times Square.

Giselle is un­der­stand­ably con­fused, but some­how man­ages to take a sub­way train to the Bow­ery. The film is un­con­cerned with such de­tails as how she got on board with­out cash or a to­ken, or in­deed, how she could pos­si­bly squeeze through the turn­stile in her vo­lu­mi­nous white wed­ding dress.

Bill Kelly’s lively screen­play is more in­ter­ested in throw­ing her to­gether with Robert, a di­vorce lawyer whose own wife has left him and their young daugh­ter (Rachel Covey). Giselle asks him if there is a meadow or tree hollow where she can sleep, and he re­luc­tantly al­lows her to spend the night at his apart­ment. “This is a mag­i­cal room,” she de­clares af­ter tak­ing a shower for the first time. “Where does the wa­ter come from?”

Mean­while, the vain but naive Prince Ed­ward (James Mars­den) fol­lows her to Man­hat­tan, as does Giselle’s best friend Pip, an ir­re­sistibly cute and re­mark­ably re­source­ful chip­munk. And Queen Narissa (Susan Saran­don) dis­patches her bum­bling flunkey Nathaniel (Ti­mothy Spall) to fin­ish off Giselle with poi­soned ap­ples. The fish-out-of-wa­ter jokes con­tinue as the prince haugh­tily ad­dresses all New York­ers as peas­ants; when he sees a TV set for the first time, he thinks it’s a magic mir­ror.

This de­light­ful Dis­ney pro­duc­tion has fun play­ing with the con­ven­tions of a genre in which the stu­dio has spe­cialised for decades. In an ex­u­ber­ant pas­tiche of a pop­u­lar mu­si­cal num­ber from Snow White, Giselle ti­dies Robert’s clut­tered apart­ment with the help of Man­hat­tan’s crea­ture pop­u­la­tion (pi­geons, rats, cock­roaches). And a glass slip­per is de­cep­tively in­tro­duced to­wards the end.

While En­chanted is formed as a know­ing spin on clas­sic fairy­tales and their screen adap­ta­tions, di­rec­tor Kevin Lima treats the ma­te­rial with af­fec­tion and flair for the genre, and with­out the pro­fu­sion of nudg­ing pop cul­ture ref­er­ences that have be­come a sta­ple of re­vi­sion­ist come­dies. Robert’s girl­friend (Id­ina Men­zel) pin­points the good­na­tured spirit of the en­ter­prise when she ob­serves that the prince’s dec­la­ra­tion of love for Giselle is en­tirely with­out irony.

The movie ul­ti­mately proves to be a cel­e­bra­tion of its cin­e­matic an­tecedents, joy­ously so in a full-blown song-and­dance rou­tine in Cen­tral Park. The as­tutely cho­sen ac­tors sus­tain the tone, play­ing their roles as straight as they dare.

In the cen­tral role, Adams (an Os­car nom­i­nee for her im­pres­sive per­for­mance in Junebug), re­mains ad­mirably dead­pan, light­ing up the screen in a ra­di­ant, en­dear­ing per­for­mance that is the heart of this ex­u­ber­ant en­ter­tain­ment. En­chant­ing in­deed.

WWW.IRE­LAND.COM/THE TICKET

Could it be magic? Giselle (Amy Adams) in En­chanted

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