Throughout the 1990s, the realm of animated film was ruled over by Disney. Bolstered by such award-winning films as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King, Disney could do no wrong. Soon the '90s ended and traditional cell animation gave way to computer-generated animation, leaving Disney out in the cold. However, building upon their historical storytelling prowess, the Disney brass has crafted a live-action film that continues the Disney animated pedigree, Enchanted.
The film takes place in the animated world of Andalasia, a storybook world populated by princes and ogres. Giselle (Amy Adams) is the prototypical Disney female--she dances, she frolicks and adorable animals are at her beck and call whenever she sings. Circumstance leads to her becoming bethrothed to the valiant Prince Edward (James Marsden), son of Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon), who desperately wants to remain on the throne. She soon banishes Giselle to the real-world New York City, where Giselle meets a single-parent divorce lawyer named Robert (Patrick Dempsey) who tries to figure out where she came from.
The remarkable thing about Enchanted is the tone it immediately sets. The opening sequence is fully-animated and a blatant throwback to just about every Disney animated film ever made. That said, it's also done in such a flagrant tongue-in-cheek manner, embracing every horrible cliche in the genre, that it's impossible to dislike. Not only does this approach carry over to the live-action sequences, but it's exemplified in the performance of Amy Adams. Fresh off an Oscar-nominated role in Junebug, Adams delivers a tour-de-force--singing, dancing and brightening up every scene with such gusto that Enchanted seems much shorter than its 107-minute span.
Not only does the writing and direction of the film make Enchanted a glorious Disney throwback, the music is crafted by a pair of award-winning Disney architects in composer Alan Menken and lyricist Stephen Schwartz. The resultant musical numbers are fantastically bombastic, the centrepieces of the film being "Happy Working Song" and "That's How You Know"--the latter being part of an extended sequence where Giselle explains to Robert about letting someone know you love them.
Along with the aforementioned Adams, Enchanted has a great cast. Grey's Anatomy's Patrick Dempsey delivers a fine performance sharing his scenes with Adams. He's not asked to do too much, but he and Adams have great chemistry. James Marsden, perhaps poking fun at his career playing superheroes, is gleefully over-the-top as Prince Edward. Timothy Spall is funny in a small role as Queen Narissa's minion, while Susan Sarandon isn't around much but makes the most of her screen time as the evil queen.
Enchanted represents Disney going back to their roots by somehow embracing the conventions of their '90s animation while also mocking them. It's a difficult balance to strike, but writer Bill Kelly (Blast from the Past) and director Kevin Lima (Tarzan) achieve it with ease. In short, Enchanted is like Elf without the overwrought Christmas sentimentality and blessed with a more compelling lead actor. Anchored by a tremendous performance by Amy Adams and a cast that's not afraid to make fools of themselves, Enchanted isn't the best film of 2007, but it may be the most fun to watch.
Enchanted is in theatres right now.