Review – Happily Never After? (“Disenchanted”)

No, this isn’t the stage musical nor Matt Groening’s Netflix series, but a sequel to Disney’s 2007’s Enchanted movie (see review below). In this age of reboots and sequels, can this one recapture the magic after fifteen years? Let’s see. . .

The former princess of the magical animated land of Andalasia, Giselle (Amy Adams), has a baby now named Sofia, so it’s time to move out of NYC and up to the quiet little country town of Monroeville with her hubby, Robert (Patrick Demsey) and her teenage step-daughter, Morgan (Gabriella Baldacchino). But moving comes at a price when their new fixer-upper place still needs repairs. That, plus Morgan isn’t happy about leaving the Big Apple and her old school, and Giselle runs afoul of the towns ruling Queen bee, the nasty Malvina Monroe (Maya Rudolph) and her two henchwomen, Rosaleen & Ruby (Yvette Nicole Brown & Jayma Mays). Thankfully, Giselle gets a visit from her friends from Andalusia, King Edward (James Marsden) and his wife, Queen Nancy (Idina Menzel), who gift her a wishing wand and a talking scroll (Alan Tudyk) that answers any question.

Upset that her life is not all rainbows and unicorns, Giselle accidentally wishes that their life were as simple as a fairy tale. BOOM! The next day, the entire world is transformed into a fairy tale with the town now being called Monrolasia. Uh-oh! Only Giselle and her talking chipmunk, Pip (Griffin Newman), know what happened. Everything seems okay at first with everyone bursting into song & dance, flowers and bright colors everywhere, but Giselle soon discovers two horrible side effects: Malvina has been turned into a villainous Queen with magical powers, and (*gasp*) with each ticking of the town clock, Giselle is slowly turning into an evil stepmother!

Only the wishing wand can stop the spell (by midnight, naturally), or else the wish will become permanent. Giselle, popping in and out of her persona like Jekyll & Hyde, has to find the wand stolen by Malvina all the while making a prisoner of Morgan like Cinderella. Will there be a happy ending. . . again? With an iffy script by Bridgette Hales, this sequel starts off its first shaky first act with a dismal dysfunctional family trope and tries to recover after that. This is Hales’ first screenplay, having just written for TV shows Once Upon A Time and 11/22/63. Consequently, it feels more like an inferior VOD or direct-to-DVD feature without the overall pacing, originality, and charm that was so brilliant in the first movie.

At least the actors are having fun. Amy Adams never fails to disappoint and she still shines as the always effervescent Giselle. And when she switches over to the dark side, she’s even better! Maya Rudolph lives for these roles where she can be an over-the-top villain bossing around two cronies. She is excellent. Dempsey, when he’s in full derring-do mode, is hilarious (like Marsden, who is always a treat to see), and Idina gets to belt out a song in act three (“Love Power”). Baldacchino does a good job balancing the brooding, unhappy teenager and her Monrolusia counterpart. Adam Shankman (Hairspray, Rock of Ages) has a good handle on the directing but it’s not quite as energetic as the first. As far as sequels go, I was hoping for something more magical, more fun, and more charming. 

*Now streaming exclusively on Disney+


Enchanted (2007)

You don’t often see Disney making fun of their own films, but they did with exceptional delight and wild abandonment in this 2007 Disney classic homage/skewering of their own Snow White property. And it even has cameos from past Disney movies, too boot!

The 2D animated land of Andalasia is home to a quasi-Snow White beauty named Giselle (voiced by Amy Adams) who is being wooed by her one true love, Prince Edward (James Marsden). Unbeknownst to them, Edward’s evil, wicked witch of a mother, Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon) wants her dead because of her good looks. On the day of their marriage, the queen (in old-hag disguise) pushes Giselle into a magical wishing-well portal and BOOM! Giselle winds up in modern-day NYC Times Square, and turns into a human being!

Wearing a giant wedding dress and not knowing what to do, she meets accidentally meets Robert Phillip (Patrick Dempsey), a widowed divorce lawyer, and his precious little daughter, Morgan (Rachel Covey). Thinking this woman is slightly batty, Robert lets her stay overnight, but that angers his potential fiancée, Nancy Tremaine (Idina Menzel, not singing this time!). It’s soon apparent that Giselle is quite unusual as she can summon birds, rats, and bugs to do her bidding to do housework and dress-making. . . in song, of course.

But as she’s slowly learning the ways of being a fleshed-out person, Prince Edward has just exited the same NYC manhole, along with his trusty manservant, Nathanial (Timothy Spall), who is the Queen’s secret spy, along with Giselle’s chipmunk friend, Pip. While Edward is gallivanting around the Big Apple looking for Giselle, Robert is trying to humor Giselle by taking her to Central Park (where a big song & dance number suddenly breaks out). Meanwhile, the Queen (via Nathaniel) keeps unsuccessfully trying to kill Giselle who, naturally, is falling in love with Robert.

Finally, Prince Edward miraculously finds Giselle and all is good again. . . sorta. Giselle wants to go to the lavish Kings and Queens Ball dance with Edward as a final goodbye, but the Queen arrives in the flesh to mess things up and destroy Giselle herself. This screenplay, written by Bill Kelly (Blast from the Past, Premonition), was a gold mine for Disney, as it was a near-perfect script, combining Disney-like characters with a truly funny and non-condescending movie that didn’t pander or dumbed-down to kids.

It walked that fine edge of silly, ridiculous humor (like The Princess Bride), but not overstepping its boundaries into cartoonish childishness. It also comes with a modern heart-breaking romance while throwing in a fairy-tale backdrop, something difficult to do, but Kelly nailed it on all counts. It’s funny, warm, LOL in places, and made even better by the dazzling and inventive direction of Kevin Lima, known for his imaginative work on Disney’s Tarzan, 102 Dalmatians, and A Goofy Movie.

And enough cannot be said about Amy Adams who is so lovable and captivating, it’s frightening. Her Giselle is beautiful, wide-eyed, innocent, and filled with so much love for everything and everybody, that you can’t help but fall for her yourself. Adams owns this movie from start to finish, but lets the others shine as well. Dempsey is excellent as the confused, but accepting love interest, while Marsden is hilarious as the dim-bulb, overly-heroic Edward. Spall, in-between his Harry Potter gigs, is both funny and sinister, while Sarandon is really having fun as the nasty witch!

For extra points, look for many famous Disney cameos peppered throughout the movie: there’s Paige O’Hara (Beauty & the Beast) on a TV soap opera, Judy Kuhn (Pocahontas) as a pregnant woman with kids, Jodi Benson (The Little Mermaid) as Robert’s secretary, Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins) as the Narrator, and many more. Fun Fact: that wedding dress that Giselle wears in act one? It weighed 45lbs! Wow!   

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