Monday, May 19, 2008

Snow White in the Big Apple: Amy Adams in Disney’s Enchanted

A chick flick about a fairy tale princess lost and alone in wicked New York City? I tend to associate the Disney corporation with evil sentimental schmaltzy crap, but Enchanted succeeds more than one would think by effectively remixing the very first Disney animated movie Snow White with the live action/animation techniques of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

The Disney marketing division figured out long ago that the Cinderella princess appeals to little girls on every level, even if they are encouraged to believe in the “Cinderella complex” and therefore passively wait around for a Prince Charming to sweep them to some swank palace and never have to work or scheme for anything. Going right to the heart of the Disney brand, Enchanted begins with an ironically cutesy animated world Andalasia (made to look like the interior of a pop up book) where beautiful young Giselle persuades all of the assorted wildlife of the forest to help her build an effigy of the young man of her dreams. Unable to stop herself, Giselle bursts into a song “True Love’s Kiss” that ends up attracting local Prince Edward (James Marsden) into the neighborhood so they can harmonize. Edward was just in the midst of capturing his tenth troll of the month. The huge troll threatens to eat Giselle, but she manages to elude him by falling from her tree into Prince Edward’s arms. The happy couple then decide to marry the next day.

Edward’s evil stepmother, the witchy Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon) does not care much for Giselle joining the family, so she pushes Giselle into a magical pool of water that takes her to a place that specifically does not have happy endings—Time Square in present day New York. Now transformed into redhead Amy Adams, Giselle wanders forlorn and incredulous through the downtown crowd in her massive white dress, asking everyone where the castle is, or her beloved Prince. Giselle eventually falls into the arms of divorce lawyer Robert Phillip (“Grey’s Anatomy” heartthrob Patrick Dempsey), who happens by with his 10 year old daughter Morgan (Rachel Covey). Given that Giselle says things like how she comes from a land “past the meadows of joy and the valley of contentment,” he understandably finds her a “seriously confused woman.” Somehow, though, he lets her stay overnight in his apartment, and the next morning she summons a bunch of flies, rats, mice, pigeons, and cockroaches (all of the available wildlife) to clean up his flat. When Robert stumbles across Giselle taking a shower, two pigeons arrange to cover her up by flying by with a towel, but then Robert’s grimly practical fiancée Nancy stops by, sees the two together, and flies off enraged.

As various other cartoon characters, including a chipmunk, make their way over to New York and further upset the break in the live action/animation continuum, Enchanted largely succeeds due to Amy Adams’ ultra-sincere performance. Her odd blend of innocence and earnest concern anchors the film, especially as she learns about a divorce lawyer’s cynicism about love. For instance, Robert does not think that her one day engagement is a good idea. Instead of dismissing him out of hand, Giselle considers that there may be some good points behind dating instead. Once the handsome but none-too-bright Prince Edward shows up to take his bride-to-be back home, Giselle hesitates, and oddly enough her character evolves even though she still can’t resist starting up an elaborate song and dance number with some reggae musicians and a passing wedding party in Central Park.

While its ending lifts elements from Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella in a not especially original way, Enchanted succeeds in giving Susan Sarandon one of her better roles in recent years. It also further cements Patrick Dempsey’s status as today’s hunk of the moment. And by speaking without “a hint of irony” of the power of love and fairy tale romance, Amy Adams somehow makes all of the cynical New Yorkers look dreary and emotionally stunted by contrast.

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