November 29, 2007

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Enchanted (PG)
A magical fairy tale princess is cast into modern-day New York City and forced to deal with the indignities of real life in Enchanted, the not-completely-anti-feminist surprisingly cute movie which blends live action and Disney-style long-haired-princess animation.

The movie coyly acknowledges that not all parents might be 100 percent comfortable with the tulle and the singing about a handsome prince when the dad (played by Patrick Dempsey) slips the daughter (played by Rachel Covey) a book about famous historical women (Madam Curie and the like). Crowns and petticoats win in the end, but the movie also says it might not be such a bad idea for girls to think as well as swirl about in poofy dresses.

Once upon a time, Giselle (Amy Adams) sings about finding true love’s kiss while woodland creatures help her tidy up her house. Her song attracts a handsome prince — Prince Edward (James Marsden) — and a troll. Once the former saves her from the latter, Giselle is swept up into Edward’s arms as he declares (via lovey-dovey duet) his undying love and desire to marry her. The next day, or possibly that same day, Giselle, all decked out in the wedding wear, jogs (or whatever it’s called when cartoon princesses move unrealistically fast in glass slippers and Mini Cooper-sized dresses) to the palace to tie the knot. But Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon) isn’t so keen on these nuptials, for, as soon as Edward weds, it means the end of her reign. And Queen Narissa likes to reign.

Taking a page from the standard evil queen playbook, she disguises herself as an old woman and leads Giselle to a magic fountain to make her wedding day wish. Giselle looks into the well all wide-eyed and naive and smack — the queen crone pushes her down. Giselle quickly finds out that the bottom of the well doesn’t just mean she’ll be encased in wet sateen. The well is really more of a wormhole and at the bottom/other side, Giselle finds a manhole cover which takes her up into the thick of Times Square (meanwhile, somewhere the people who have decried that former block of urban grit’s continuous Disneyfication shriek like they’ve just been hit by a poison apple).

Live-action New York is not as friendly as her cottage-and-meadow-filled animated world and Giselle is soon alone, lost and minus her crown, which was stolen by a homeless man. Enter, well, not a handsome prince but divorce attorney Robert (Dempsey). His young, princess-besotted daughter Morgan (Covey) instantly thinks the squeaky-voiced Giselle must indeed be straight from a fairy tale. Robert, on the other hand, thinks she’s crazy — though he allows her to hang out at his apartment over night and even shower in the morning, walking out, clad only in a towel, just as Robert’s fiancée Nancy (Idina Menzel) drops by.

In true princess fashion, though, Giselle tries to rally Nancy and Robert to express their true feelings to each other, brings together a divorced couple and encourages Morgan’s moments of whimsy. She also gets mad at Robert, cleans up his apartment with the help of “new friends” (rats, cockroaches and pigeons) and hesitates when the time comes to travel back to her cartoon kingdom. She has a thought, you see, which develops into an idea about having a date with her future husband before they plunge into ever after.

As cynical as I could be about this movie now, I know that as a kid, say, age eight or nine through at least 12, I would have loved it. It has the right mix of sassy kick with actual girly romance and happy endings blended with funny dialogue. Impressively, Enchanted gives us this modern riff that’s true to the fairy tale traditions without heading into self-conscious snark territory a la Shrek.

I didn’t even mind how badly this movie wanted me to Fall In Love with Patrick Dempsey (keep your McDreamy, I’ll take Dr. House any day). He’s likeable enough and passably charming and wisely doesn’t get in the way of Amy Adams, who is a whirling, singing cupcake of Little Mermaid curls and floral print dresses.

In mixing its dazzle with just a hint of mischievous grin, Disney has done more than just create a playful fairy tale for little girls. It’s created an unexpected guilty pleasure for their moms. B

Rated PG for some scary images and mild innuendo. Directed by Kevin Lima and written by Bill Kelly, Enchanted is an hour and 48 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Buena Vista Pictures.