Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Happily ever after

Hubs and I watched Enchanted last night. What a hoot! Starring Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, and Susan Sarandon, this modern take on the traditional fairy tale is a fun romp through all of Disney's previous stories.

Giselle (Adams), in her animated world of Andalasia, has the good fortune to meet her handsome Prince Edward (Marsden). The two experience love at first sight. With plans to marry the following day, Giselle heads to the castle in an elaborate wedding gown. Little does she know that jealous Queen Narissa (Sarandon, playing Edward's evil stepmother) and her henchman (Timothy Spall, in a fabulous comic turn) are plotting to prevent the wedding, enabling Narissa to remain queen indefinitely.

As Giselle arrives at the castle, Narissa pushes her down into a "wishing well," sending the beautiful would-be princess to a place where "there ARE no happy ever afters." This place? Modern-day New York City. After wandering aimlessly for a while, Giselle meets world-weary divorce lawyer Robert (Dempsey) and his six-year-old daughter. (Robert himself is a divorcee, though he has plans to propose to his current girldfriend.)

Cheerily awaiting Edward to come rescue her, Giselle calls her animal "friends" to help tidy up Robert's messy apartment. (In New York, that means a rather disgusting cadre of rats, pigeons, and cockroaches show up to dust off his kitchen countertops with their tails. Yuck.) She then proceeds to cut up Robert's drapes to craft inventive outfits for herself. Lastly, she wanders into a discussion between one of Robert's clients and her soon-to-be-ex-husband, causing more trouble for Robert. Robert is, by turns, infuriated and charmed.

Once Prince Edward, back in the mythical land of Andalasia, discovers what has happened to his bride-to-be, he blunders into New York himself to do his princely duty. From then on, the desires of each character lead us to a satisfying (but thoroughly over-the-top) conclusion.

What I find interesting about this movie is that it's a conversation between an optimistic fairy tale and the jaded modern world. Does true love exist? What about love at first sight? When so many traditional fantasies have been debunked, how do we continue to believe in "happily ever after?" Or believe in love at all?

Adams provides a great rendition of Giselle, a fairytale princess come to life. More impressive, though, are the moments in which Giselle realizes that she might not be such a good fit back in Andalasia now that she's had a taste of the "real world." Prince Edward is hilariously written (without malice) as a vapid, vacant, self-absorbed prince. Sarandon gloriously chews the scenery, and Dempsey (as always) provides the best-looking brokenhearted man I've ever had the pleasure of watching on screen.

I personally thought the ending fell apart a bit. It was a little too much, and the statements that Disney was going for were a little too blatant. However, I understand that this is a family movie, and some of those choices were designed to benefit younger viewers. At any rate, I don't think the ending detracted too mightily from the preceding action, which I heartily enjoyed.

I thought this movie was a great send-up of the fairytale tradition, and I applaud Disney for being big enough to wink at its own narrative history. What a fun film!

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