Enchanted is the kind of film you wish you’d directed. It starts off so pitch perfect and funny but goes so wildly off track that it ultimately amounts to nothing more than an honorable attempt.
Amy Adams is wonderful in the early scenes of Enchanted, where she is a wayward princess cast out of her fairy tale and into reality. The Disney film gives us a decent enough, if a bit cheap, animated beginning, where we see a lovely princess, Giselle, singing her love song to call her perfect prince. Naturally, there is a wicked stepmother (voiced by Susan Sarandon) who really really hates the princess and wants to destroy her, so she sends her to hell on earth, aka Times Square, New York City.
The funniest scenes by far are the ones where Amy Adams as Giselle makes her way through the corrupt human world. Adams makes the scenes work, it’s really as simple as that. The supporting players – oh, poor Patrick Dempsey as the love interest – are just plate dressing for Adams, who does wide-eyed innocent better than anyone in the business.
Giselle hooks up with Dempsey, who is raising his daughter on his own. You don’t need be a genius to figure out how the plot is going to go. There are things you might not expect, like a Bollywood dance tribute in Central Park, and a few jokes in poor taste, but otherwise this is a paint-by-the-numbers, uninspired money grab.
The film would have been a much better one if the filmmakers hadn’t made a crucial mistake involving the princess. Without giving too much away, this is a film that should have been more Shrek and less Pretty Woman. It tries to be both, and in so doing, ruins a perfectly good thing.
They were on to something with the mixing of animation and live action, and they were certainly getting somewhere with the idea of an exiled princess, or animated character. That is what’s funny about it. It was sort of done a lot better with Who Framed Roger Rabbit, a film that understood the basic rule that you can mix animation with live action, but the worlds are and will always be, and should always be, separate.
Nonetheless, there are things to recommend in the film, even if it does fall short in many ways. Amy Adams is funny enough in the first half of the film to warrant taking the time to check it out. James Marsden as the prince is so good he throws the whole thing off by being the more appealing of the two men. Part of this is that Dempsey is clearly phoning in his performance, whereas Marsden gives it his all. Marsden and Adams are both so funny you end up wishing the two of them dominated the film.
There are some funny animation tricks with a chipmunk that nearly brought the house down, and some of the songs are not altogether bad. No doubt children, especially girls, will be brought to this film because it is the thing to do, especially this time of year. They won’t have a bad time, but they won’t be going back again and again to relive it.
The princess must always have her happy ending. It will be a matter of opinion if the film chose to give her the right one. It doesn’t feel that way when the lights go up, however. Princesses are permanent fixtures in storybooks, and they represent a special kind of happily ever after. Hopefully someone will take this idea of mixing real world with fairy tales and make a better movie. Until then, we’ll take what we can get.