Sunday 3 August 2008

Enchanted (2007)

Everything's bubble gum fine in cartoonland...

...but nothing makes sense anymore in hardcore NYC.

For those of us who grew up on a steady saccharine diet of Disney romances, Disney's own Enchanted is a fun tongue-in-cheek parody/tribute to that genre of cartoon princesses and talking forest animals. What we feared would be a one-joke pony - see how silly a Disney princess is in the real world? - turned out to be both sweetly charming and shockingly funny. As Manohla Dargis notes in her New York Times review, the "curse of Prince Charming" is still present - that is, the dangerously simplified view of love that we indoctrinate little Disney fans with, the one that teaches you things like "love at first sight exists and then lasts forever". But the genuine critiquing of its own cultural dogma, coupled with some surprising and blunt gender reversals as well as some really funny moments, makes this film smart, earnest and entertaining. Its careful mix of irony and authenticity really works.

Beginning in the typical Disney scenario of an idyllic forest, a cartoon Princess Giselle (Amy Adams) is preparing for the arrival of her "one, true love", the plastic and shiny Prince Edward (James Marsden). Yet Edward's evil stepmother (Susan Sarandon) is bent on thwarting Giselle and Edward's marriage. She sends Giselle tumbling down a magic well which lands her in the middle of Times Square. Edward soon follows, bringing a talking chipmunk in tow (who, funnily, loses his ability to talk in the real world). The queen sends his minion, the sycophantic Nathaniel (Timothy Spall), to ensure that Edward does not find Giselle.

Our skepticism melted away during this scene and we just had to glee, "Best movie evarrr!"

Now even in New York, city of strangeness, Giselle sticks out. People laugh and point. A homeless old man steals her tiara. So after a single father, Robert (Patrick Dempsey), and his daughter, Morgan (Rachel Covey), help her, Giselle basically insinuates herself into their apartment. While initially baffled by Giselle's happy-go-lucky cartoon attitude and tendency to break out into song, Robert slowly finds himself more and more charmed. And Giselle realizes that maybe her initial Edwardian sense of love wasn't really so real-feeling, after all. You can probably guess the dennouement. Well, Patrick's hot!

One of the best things in this film is the emphasis of how different reality is from films, especially Disney ones. When the evil stepmother sends Giselle plummeting to a Manhattan sewer, she declares she's sending her to a place where "there are no happily ever afters!" Indeed, the real world is painted in harsh strokes of cynicism. And the thing that separates Giselle most from the hardcore New Yorkers is her inability to register sarcasm, irony or negativity - the three life-sources for those people (OK, we'll lay off New Yorkers... hey, we love New York!). She is almost supernaturally cheerful, and Amy Adams does a wonderful job of infusing this Mary Poppins-esque joie de vivre with, well, Julie Andrews-esque naturalness. That is, Adams never lets Giselle become a caricature, even though she literally is one. Instead, Giselle is very real, just at the extreme Happy end of the human scale. The scene in the pizzeria where Robert shows her a little parlor trick is a perfect example of how genuine and endearing her naive good humor is. And Patrick Dempsey's laughter at seeing her awe is also pitch perfect: the glee is infectious!


The fact that the film then ends on a "happily ever after" could be seen as undermining this whole "We realize we sell fantasies" vibe, but we'd say this film is all about meeting at the happy middle. When Giselle meets Robert, he's at the extreme end of rational, no-nonsense, real worldness. He works as a divorce lawyer, he is inhibited with his long-time girlfriend, and he insists on treating his six-year-old daughter like a little adult. In one fun sequence, he gifts his daughter an academic-style book on the great women of our times (bonus point for gender relations). The girl is understandably disappointed, and when he explains that she should have some "grown-up girl bonding time" with her new potential stepmother, the girl says flatly, "I'm only six." Clearly this man could use a little childlike wonder and Disney magic.

Another strength of this film is the comedy. There are many very funny details, showing us that even though Pixar remains the god of balancing comedy for adults in films for children, Disney is not so far behind anymore. Manohla Dargis already noted the first song - Mary Poppins-esque indeed! - and we agree that it is very, very surreal and funny. That city pigeon with one leg, OMG! Our favorite line, however, is when Prince Edward, after sticking his sword through a bus, leaps in and declares, "The steel beast is dead, peasants! I've set you all free!"

The film also has some really blunt and great Girl Power moments.

And we're happy to say these moments are all followed through. That is, the girls really do save the boys in the end.

This movie really belongs to Amy Adams. She is so hilariously lovable, making the farfetched romance between her and Robert seem at once sweetly real and touching. Also, her physical comedy is amazing - from her trademark Disney mannerisms to her wide-eyed doofus look to the bit when she spits out a live fish - and she makes the movie. James Marsden puts in a more superficial but similarly funny performance as the airhead Prince Edward. We've seen him now as Blandie McCyclops in X-Men and Snivel McLame in The Alibi, so we were already semi-impressed with his variety. In Enchanted, he delivers a very fun, bubble gum performance, and it's a great send up of his own pretty boy looks. Patrick Dempsey is... sigh. We used to have such a crush on Patrick Dempsey back in middle school. Perhaps for that reason - the last time we saw him was, uh, 1995? - his boyish good looks have a touch of weary age to them. This works great with his whole real world, ex-Prince Charming appeal.

James Marsden is hilarious as Edward.

And he juxtaposes well against the world-weary hotness of Patrick Dempsey. Though, you know, some lotion and cucumbers would take care of that world-weariness.

A call to the internet: Internet, please help us. Ever since Patrick Dempsey became famous with Gray's Anatomy, we've been thinking this was merely the "Patrick Dempsey comeback". But then, discussing with a friend as we watched this film, the friend said, "Well, what was he coming back from? He wasn't famous before, was he?" And the PPCC went, "Yes! He was in, uh..."


Wasn't he in the Brat Pack? Are we imagining things? We swear Patrick was, like, fundamental to our adolescence and yet, for the life of this blog, we cannot remember any iconic teen movie he was in. Have we dropped into an alternative universe?

The happy, beautiful finish. This scene also inspired four young men to join in and revel in the Patrick Dempsey Dance.


Anarchivist said...

"Can't Buy Me Love" is the most iconic for me. I remember the ending, where the guy gets the girl and they proceed to ride around gleefully on a lawnmower, like most people do that boombox scene from "Say Anything."

Oddly, he also starred in two -- TWO! -- teen gigolo movies: "In the Mood" and "Loverboy." I wonder if they could even make those movies today...

Anonymous said...

Awwww. I might have to make time for a non-Hindi movie! This looks right up my alley (and in fact friends and family have told me I would love it. Thanks for confirming!) :-)

Anonymous said...

Patrick Dempsey had a life before Gray's Anatomy? No wonder he looked a bit jaded (and somewhat boring) here! Guess I should see GA to understand his appeal as this one certainly doesnt explain it. lol

ajnabi said...

I *love* this movie. And isn't "How Does She Know That You Love Her" totally Bolly? And--the PPCC hasn't seen Hairspray? James Marsden ROCKS in Hairspray! How can you not have seen Hairspray?

As for Dempsey-ji, this is the only thing I've ever liked him in. Ever.

Filmi Girl said...

I enjoyed this movie, but I had some serious reservations about the message. Two things in particular really irked me - one was that the book of famous feminists was depicted as boring and Marie Curie was mocked (!) and the other was that the bonding moment between Amy Adams and the little girl took place over shopping. Shopping. *rolls eyes*

I can't help but wish that "Enchanted" had been written by someone who knew how to write female characters as something other than princesses and shrill harpies because Amy Adams is extremely adorable and the "That's How You Know.." song was really well done.

Beth Loves Bollywood said...

Sigh. I'm having a really bad day and this sounds like it'd be fun (although I think I'd side with Filmi Girl on that shopping crap). Fortunatley I picked up Johnny Gaddaar on the way home, so at least I'll be distracted.

a ppcc representative said...

Anarchivist - Teen gigolo movies?! MUST SEE.

Memsaab - It is definitely up your alley: light, joyous, perfect and fluffy.

Bollyviewer - So much Patrick Dempsey hate on these comments!

Ajnabi - Yet more Dempsey hate! Why? He's so inoffensive.

Filmi Girl - So harsh! I think you're being too hard on the movie. I think it would have been unrealistic for a 6-year-old to get worked up about a wordy biography book of famous thinkers, regardless of gender. Also, the PPCC bonds with its mom over shopping, and the PPCC is feminist - surely shop therapy and feminism aren't mutually exclusive!

Beth - Again with the shopping hate! It really is an inoffensive movie, and I give it my stamp of feminist approval.

Anarchivist said...

And I think it's in "Loverboy" that he wears those goofy bandanas that were an ill-advised rage in
'80s male fashion. When I saw it on TV, I had a flashback to an old friend's boyfriend who thought he was soooo cool.

But then, I just watched a Govinda movie, and the Bollywood fugly was totally out of control, so I shouldn't judge. :)

ajnabi said...

Oh no, not hating on Dempsey, just his choice of projects for the most part. I detest all of his movies except this and can't bear Grey's Anatomy for longer than 4.2 seconds. But it's nothing against him personally--he's good-looking and I know nothing about his offscreen life, so what's not to like! :-)

Filmi Girl said...

I know I'm harsh. I did enjoy the movie, it just had the "written by a man" stamp all over it. I mean, why not a book on manners or something? It would make the point just as well and has the added benefit of not associating feminists with boring. And as for shopping... I don't know where to start. Here was a character who had been fashioning her own (cute!) clothes for the entire movie - why not have the girl help her make a dress? The line "Is this what it feels like to go shopping with your mother?" really bothered me, too. I hate shopping and I hate shopping with my mother even more. Does that make me less than daughterly? *sigh*

I guess I'm just a curmudgeon at heart... *returns to watching movies about how money is evil*

Anonymous said...

Hello, PPCC!

I'm visiting your blog for the first time and loving it...will add you to my blogroll and RSS feed for easy access!

I'm currently going through an Enchanted period where my 3 year old has to watch this film every day--But the more I see it, the more I love it! It really is a well done film, and as you said, Amy Adams does such an awesome job! The "girl power" touches were appreciated as well.

I love Patrick Dempsey but also thought James Marsden was quite lovable as Prince Charming (Funny when he knocks on all those apartment doors in search of Giselle and comes across the mom with three kids at her hip who says "Too late"). I think this is also the same guy who played Rachel McAdams secondary love interest in "The Notebook".

I got a huge kick out of the "Happy Working Song"--especially just fresh after seeing the Cinderella,Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty films with my daughter!

I think the one thing the movie could have done better would have been to explore the relationship with Giselle and Morgan, the little girl a bit more. I can't recall the shopping part for some reason, which is just proof for me that their bonding experience should have been more memorable.
Also found Nancy's character annonying, but maybe that was the impression I was supposed to have so I didn't hate Robert for choosing Giselle.

Its still a great film, though!

Ajnabi--I totally had a Bollywood moment when I saw "That's How You Know"!
Ooh, and did anybody else notice that one of the construction workers by the sewer looked like Aamir Khan? LOL.

Thanks for the review!

Anonymous said...

Dempsey is too good looking to hate but I have only seen him here and found him less than impressive. If he does a decent romcom I will probably fall for him like the rest of the world! ;-)

a ppcc representative said...

Anarchivist - Bandanas... slowly coming to me... Hey, sometimes fugly can be perversely attractive. Or am I alone on this one?

Ajnabi - If my long term memory cells weren't so fried, I would possibly agree with you. Except I can't remember a single other PD role. I only recall fancying him.

Filmi Girl - Ah, very good points. The changes you suggest would have been heaps better! Sigh.

Nida - Hello, Nida! Welcome, and thanks for the comment. I too felt oddly turned off by Giselle and Morgan's relationship (except for the shopping bit, which I found quite sweet), perhaps indeed because it was underdone/neglected. And the "too late" mom was hilarious!

Bollyviewer - See above comment - I wish I had a memory, so I could suggest such a decent romcom! Alas.