Monday, November 21, 2022

Fairy Tale Watch: Enchanted (2007)

Watched:  11/29/2022
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Kevin Lima

Jamie wanted to watch the new straight-to-Disney+ Disenchanted, and I said "I've never seen Enchanted (2007), though."   This led to some small debate.  Jamie had seen it, and thought that we'd seen it together (we had not) and so we had some comedic back and forth before she gave up and let me just put on Enchanted to see if it would ring any bells.  

I had not seen it.

Look, I don't care.  Amy Adams and Idina Menzel are in both movies, so I'd watch whatever.  But it's nice to start at the start.  I'm assuming Jamie saw the first one with her secret boyfriend.

I'm glad Enchanted was still a Disney movie and didn't feel like it needed to go "edgy".  I think I've kind of seen the joke of running sweet characters through a PG-13 meat grinder enough, and, instead, welcome bringing some of that Princess magic to the real world.  Sure, there's a version of this that's double-entredres and boner jokes that one could make and I might chuckle at, but - and maybe I'm a horrible person - but I never feel like they go dark enough if that's what they want to do.  And the results are usually kind of dumb.  As a result, I found charm in the high road version of this film (even if it absolutely winked at the audience on a key idea about the importance of a kiss).  

This would have been early-stardom Amy Adams, and it's a reminder - as every Adams movie is - what a g.d. delight she is on screen.  This isn't the dramatic Adams we know from Arrival or other challenging roles (American Hustle), but nothing about what she's doing here is easy.  She's not playing hopelessly naive or childish - she's genuinely bringing the radically upbeat mindset of the Disney Princess to life - and Princesses aren't guileless in their own world - just ours.  

I'll register a complaint that Idina Menzel is under-utilized in the film, but I do appreciate that she's never the villain, and probably far more charming than our romantic lead (Patrick Dempsey) has given her credit for - which does set up a weird tension at the film's end.  Like... why *not* Idina Menzel?  Sure, sparks are sparks, but the movie felt like both of the Patrick Dempsey objects of affection wanted the same things and would have expressed themselves similarly, but one is a real person who lives in society?

Patrick Dempsey is... fine?  He has the somewhat thankless task of being the normal guy in this scenario who mostly reacts to the insanity around him.   He's good!  But, you know, he's competing with people acting to the back row, cartoons, chipmunks, musical numbers, etc...

James Marsden is rarely a leading man, which always struck me as weird as he has charm, good looks and can act.  But he's always a plus to a movie when he shows up.   We could have had that ego-centric heel turn in this movie, or played it as annoying or villainous.  But instead - he's basically an okay guy with a lot of enthusiasm.  And he's kind of perfect as the embodiment of the 2-dimensional prince of a early Disney.

Timothy Spall manages to make the most out of what could have been a thankless part in a 90's film.  He actually has a character arc, and he's properly goofy and fun as the guy who is doing his queen's bidding.

And, of course, Susan Sarandon is only on screen for maybe seven minutes in the movie, but you won't forget she was there.  She's properly chewing up scenery and bringing that evil witch-queen vibe to life.  It doesn't hurt that in a movie with outstanding costuming, this outfit takes it to 11.  Good golly.  

oh my word

As both animated figure and on-screen, it's not quite enough time with a great character, but better that than overstaying your welcome.

Look, I like the basic *idea* of the movie, and I didn't detect many false notes as the movie chugged along.  I even like the goofy chipmunk (at least more than Jamie) and how the various characters fit, including Spall v Chipmunk.  But I also loved the then-contemporary 2D Disney animation and that whole sequence which both loved and winked at Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.

I don't really get what the story is with director Kevin Lima.  He has some wins under his belt, but he doesn't have many actual pictures attributed.  A quick scan suggests that he's routinely attached to films that wind up in development hell - usually high concept things that mix animation and live action, but almost nothing escapes pre-production.  Which is unfortunate - he's good here!  This movie could have been cloying, it could have been the glossy dumbness of 90's family comedies.  But it actually works extremely well by not tipping toward the lazy decisions and encouraging getting the most out of everyone.

Is it great?  I mean - it's good.  It's a fun movie with no pretentions of being anything other than what it is.  And at this late date, it's a delight to see Adams taking off like a shot and Sarandon just go nuts.  And - really - the big musical number in Central Park is just awesome.  

The box office on this movie was a very solid $340 million, has had a lively home video life, and while not the run-away success of Frozen is still much liked or loved.  So it is *weird* to me that the sequel wasn't offered at the theater by Disney.  I'm not getting their model, but they also just fired Bob Chapek.

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