Disney takes a sweet bite out of the Big Bad Apple in Enchanted, writes Michael Dwyer
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.
Could it be magic? Giselle (Amy Adams) in Enchanted