In the history of cinema one fact remains free of dispute; no one does children’s entertainment like the Walt Disney organization. From theme parks to television they are a stable of most childhoods. We have all grown up with our favorite animated films and now watch as our children and grandchildren enjoy theirs. One of the most important characters in many of the classic Disney animated features is the princess. Whether she comes from a kingdom far, far away or under the sea these pure and beautiful characters have enchanted children for decades. Disney is big enough to poke a little fun at their most famous characters with their latest film aptly named ‘Enchanted’. This movie combines live action and animation offering, as another Disney character often sings about ‘the best of both worlds’. It is rare that a film like this works for so many age groups. The kids will love the songs and talking animals while the adults can get into the almost slapstick silliness of the live action scenes. Both groups can also join together to try to identify the many Disney references sprinkled throughout the film. It is good that this film is now on DVD. You can go through it dozens of times and always be sure you will see or hear a reference to just about every Disney film that has gone before. For the adults watching just keep one thing in mind, this is a film primarily targeted to kids. Let that inner child out, remember your favorite Disney flick and you will enjoy yourself here a lot more.
The fundamental premise of the flick is simple enough. A princess in the animated world is cursed and sent to real life New York City. The film is directed by Kevin Lima, a Disney veteran for over a decade. He has had his shot directing both live action films such as the sequel ‘102 Dalmatians’ and animated movies that included a couple of the Eloise flicks as well as the successful ‘Tarzan’. This did make his an excellent choice for taking the helm here. He was able to move the film seamlessly from the animated opening scenes to the live action remainder of the feature. He doesn’t seem to have taken the film too seriously. That is not to say he slacked off, he didn’t his direction is great. Lima appears to have appreciated that this film has to work on both the adult and kids’ levels and tailored his style accordingly. There are a lot of tongue-in-cheek moments that the parents will just love. The film is in many ways an internal satire of the famous Disney princess films. It may seem natural for the beautiful princess to break into song at the drop of the hat in the animated world. When she does so in the middle of the real life New York City the results are funny. New Yorkers are known for accepting strange behavior so seeing a young woman in full out princess garb singing in the park or street is just another day in the Big Apple.
For the animated opening section of the film Disney went back to its roots with hand drawn animation. True, computers have made fantastic advances in this field but nothing can replace the style and fluidity of hand drawing. The animation director, James Baxter, worked on many of the recent Disney animated features as did most of the animators involved with this project. The original music showcased here is incredible. In fact three out of the five songs nominated for Academy Awards this year came from this film. The music was written by two men with a lot of experience. Alan Menken has worked on ‘Aladdin’, ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘The Little Mermaid’ and ‘Little Shop of Horrors’. His partner Stephen Schwartz has equally impressive credentials that include ‘The Prince of Egypt’, ‘Pippin’ and ‘Godspell’. It is little wonder that the songs here will have you humming long after the movie is done.
The film starts in your typical Disney animated kingdom. The fair and pure Princess Giselle (Amy Adams) sings to her animal friends hoping her prince will come to her. The prince in question is Prince Edward (James Marsden), the son and heir to Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon). The evil queen and Edward’s step mother, hates the idea of Giselle replacing her as Queen when her son takes the throne. This is a double dose of Disney evil, a sorceress queen and step mother. They couple get engaged and on the night before the wedding the Queen casts a spell that sends Giselle to "a place where there is no happily ever after", which happens to be Time Square in New York City, the real world. Even though she seems completely crazy a handsome young lawyer, Robert Philip (Patrick Dempsey) takes her in. he has a young daughter Morgan (Rachel Covey) who likes the strange young woman. The next morning Giselle shows Morgan how she can call forth rats and other city vermin to clean the apartment. Robert’s new houseguest is not welcomed by his fiancée Nancy (Idina Menzel) who firsts sees her in a post shower towel. Edward and Giselle’s pet chipmunk Pip follow her to the real world to bring her back. Edward in turn is followed by a henchman of the Queen, Nathaniel (Timothy Spall) to ruin the plan. There must be a henchmen registry in the animated world; there is never a short supply of them.
The film is delightful, you might even say enchanted. Amy Adams is fantastic as the bewildered princess; a stranger in a strange world. She has a great voice that carries her part but what really sells it is her talent as an actress. She can pull off the innocence necessary for the role without becoming corny about it. She also has chemistry with both her leading men. It may seem odd that James Marsden does not have beams coming out of his eyes like he did with the X-Men flicks. Here he plays the charming prince to the hit. If you look closely some of the movie theaters in the background are playing movies he is in. Patrick Dempsey may be Doctor McDreamy on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ but here he is great as the disillusioned divorce lawyer who learns about the true nature of love. Susan Sarandon is underappreciated for her excellent comic timing but here she uses that to craft a deliciously wicked queen. Speaking of wicked Idina Menzel knows something about that type of role from her leading lady performance in the Broadway cast of ‘Wicked’ where she was the wicked witch.
Disney DVD releases are always able to give you something special for the whole family. Even after the film is done the kids will have plenty of extras to keep them entertained. The video is an excellent anamorphic transfer; the aspect ratio changes from 1.78:1 for the animated scenes to a full on 2.35:1 in the live action. The audio is in both DTS and Dolby 5.1 and both are reference quality. Now for the extras.
This is truly one for the whole family to enjoy over and over. Get it and share it with your family.