Enchanted begins in the cheery animated fairytale world of Andalasia. Princess Giselle’s singing to her adoring animal friends about her dream of finding a handsome young prince who’ll sweep her off her feet. No sooner do the words leave her mouth when suddenly Prince Edward (Marsden) appears on the scene and proposes marriage, declaring with all of his animated heart his everlasting love. But Edward’s stepmother, the evil Queen Narissa (Sarandon), isn’t about to give up her throne to the young couple. Narissa’s not ready to step aside and so she does what every good animated Disney villain does, she tricks the perky princess.
Giselle slowly begins to understand just how far she is away from home, but that doesn’t stop her from trying to spread a little cheer by way of super-sized musical numbers to the citizens of New York City who thought they'd already seen everything. As she becomes more familiar with her surroundings – and with her real-world prince – Giselle transforms from sweetly naïve girl into a young woman with real feelings.
Meanwhile, Giselle’s betrothed has also crawled out of the sewer clad in his puffy princely attire, ready to do battle with anyone and anything – including a city bus – in order to retrieve his princess and return to the land of talking animals and fairytale endings. Following close on Prince Edward’s heels is his right-hand man, Nathaniel (Timothy Spall), who just happens to be in cahoots with the nasty Narissa.
Amy Adams is absolutely adorable as the enchanting fish-out-of-water princess. Adams completely sells the part and totally embraces the role of a perky songbird lost in the big city. Adams sings her heart out and has impeccable comic timing.
James Marsden is perfect as the self-centered but well-meaning prince who bursts into song at the drop of a hat. Marsden’s goofily charming as a prince who’s definitely not the sharpest tool in the shed. Patrick Dempsey had the job of playing the straight man while everyone around him got to go big with their characters, and because he’s the character most grounded in reality, he’s a little stiff compared to Adams and Marsden.
Oscar-winner Susan Sarandon appears to be having a great time as the film’s bizarrely dressed Queen of Mean. Sarandon’s Queen Narissa also makes the trek to the real world, although once there her character isn’t given nearly as many opportunities to interact with the flesh and blood residents of New York as the rest of the cartoon crew. However, Sarandon makes the most of her limited screen time and deserves a spot amongst the best of Disney’s live-action villains.
More could have been done to show just how out of place the fairytale characters were when surrounded by the people of New York. Only just barely does Enchanted take advantage of that awkwardness strangers feel in a foreign land. But writer Bill Kelly(Blast from the Past) and director Kevin Lima (Tarzan) did do a fantastic job of capturing the ‘animated world come to life’ angle, right down to the princess’ whistle while you work song and dance number, complete with cockroaches, pigeons, and rats doing all the dirty work.
Unfortunately, the film’s final act brings the whole production down. The battle with a giant dragon isn’t the show-stopping number it was intended to be. Actually it does stop the show, but not in a good way. The entire fight scene looks fake, and the scene itself doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the plot.
Despite its rather sluggish ending, Enchanted is, overall, an enjoyable family-friendly film. The catchy tunes by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz will have you tapping your toes and the engaging performance by Amy Adams is a joy to watch. Enchanted is not one of the best of Disney’s fairytale inspired films, but it’s certainly a worthy contribution to the Disney legacy.
Enchanted was directed by Kevin Lima and is rated PG for some scary images and mild innuendo.