The film starts out in old fashioned, hand-drawn animation just like the Disney classics of old…and it looks and feels just like every one of them you’ve ever seen. We are introduced to Giselle (a luminous Amy Adams), a young woman who lives out in the forest with only her animal friends to keep her company, who dreams of one day falling in love with a handsome prince. Which happens, of course, when one rides into the forest to rescue her from an ogre. But the prince’s (James Marsden) evil mother, Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon…clearly having the time of her life) fears for her throne, and banishes Giselle to the real world, where “there are no happy endings.” That’s when the film becomes live action and Giselle’s trouble really begins, adjusting from her incessantly optimistic and happy Disney kingdom of Andalasia to cynical modern day New York City.
Disney also made the right choice by bringing back composer Alan Menken, who composed music for most of the studio’s ever-popular run of musicals from the late 80s - 90s such as Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame - as well as lyricist Stephen Schwartz, who collaborated with Menken on several Disney musicals after the death of Menken’s previous collaborator, Howard Ashman. The music recaptures the perkiness of classic Disney show tunes.
To be honest, I haven’t seen a non-Pixar family film this joyous, this exuberant, and this thoroughly creative in a long time. Most of the film’s shortcomings seem almost nitpicky in retrospect (the talking dragon is too, well…pretty, and not nearly as menacing as Sleeping Beauty’s Maleficent, who inspired it).
Enchanted is a clever throwback to a bygone era that is very much a product of this one; a clash of past and present combining for something truly magical - a quality that has been sorely lacking from Disney’s recent output. It is, in a word, enchanting.
GRADE - *** (out of four)