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Monday, July 23, 2012

Disneyear: Enchanted (2007)

Currently the last film in Disneyear to feature animation mixed with live action, I found it pretty hard to not talk about Enchanted. Why? Well, number one, it's a satire of Disney animated films made by Disney itself. Two, this is the first time since Home on the Range that traditional animation was used in a Disney film even if only a fraction of it features animation, even after Disney said after the aforementioned film that they wouldn't go back to traditional animation. So yeah, it's kind of hard to avoid it. I hear it did pretty well after it was released, scoring big at the box office, audiences, and even getting three Oscar nominations, a first for Disney in a long while.  I didn't see this until I was in high school (kind of an odd time to watch it, but go with me here!). One day in my Children's Theater classroom, we played this in class for a lazy day. As odd as it sounds for a high school boy to say this back then, I did find myself enjoying it. I still do, even if it isn't a perfect parody. Lets' open up the storybook to read the tale of Disney's currently last animation-live action hybrid, Enchanted.

The film starts in a faraway land. An animated land named Andalasia to be exact, where there's talking animals and happy endings happen every day. The story is that the evil queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon) wants the kingdom for herself and will get rid of anyone who she thinks wants her throne. That's why she hires an assistant, Nathanial (Timothy Spall) to make sure that her son, Prince Edward (James Marsden) never finds his true love by hunting trolls. He does hear the song of a peasant named Giselle (Amy Adams) who tells her animal friends about a dream she had where she saw her true love and waits for him to show up. He saves her from a troll and the next day are scheduled to marry. Disguised as an old woman, the queen banishes Giselle to a land where there are no happily ever afters:  the real world. New York to be exact. After a rough night, a jaded but friendly lawyer named Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and his daughter Morgan, find Giselle and offer her to stay with them in their apartment. As she brings a little magic into their lives, Prince Edward shows up with one of Giselle's animal friends, a chipmunk named Pip (Jeff Bennett animated, Kevin Lima in the real world) to find her. Nathanial shows up to with orders to dispose of Giselle with poison apples. As Edward and Giselle spend time in the real world, they find that the cartoony way they acted before isn't logical to our world and find that their stationary roles that they had become accustomed to don't always have to be there all the time. So after a date, Giselle and Edward go to a ball, only to bump into Robert and his fiancee Nancy (Idina Menzel). Giselle and Robert dance to find that they really do love each other while Nancy and Edward start to bond. The queen shows up to wreck the party and kill Giselle, but Giselle manages to defeat her. In the end, Giselle, Robert, and Morgan live a happy life together in New York while Edward and Nancy decide to go back to Andalasia.

So how's Enchanted? Well, it does have a lot of good laughs, mostly from the performances. Amy Adams and Jason Marsden are especially funny. I smile whenever they're on screen. And I like the idea that even though our world forces reality on them, they can still force a little of their magic to our world. For example, they constantly break into song, animals help clean the house, and so on. I especially like the scenes when Giselle and Robert talk with each other in Central Park and she just breaks into song. It's a great scene.

I suppose what bothers me (a little bit) about the film is that it is a Disney film and what they satirize is more over the top than what they give it credit for.  Number one, the movies Enchanted satirizes are the early Disney films such as Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. The modern fairy tales Disney has done aren't this goofy. And the idea with traditional stationary roles, Disney has mixed it up over the years such as in Mulan, Beauty and the Beast and so forth. I think Disney has come farther than what this film gives them credit for. Don't get me wrong, it works when it plays this for laughs. But during the final battle where Susan Sarandon quotes every storybook cliche is pretty annoying. In my opinion, if you want change to happen, you just do it instead of drawing a lot of attention to it. Here, when you draw on attention to it, it feels like that you're focusing on a stereotype you may or may not have known existed only now it's okay to break from that. I'm just saying that maybe of this film was released earlier, then the satire would come off stronger. When you release it in 2007, these ideas are nothing new.

This part does get annoying when the queen quotes all the cliches...

But to be honest, Enchanted wanted to be a romantic comedy for the family, but more for the adults. So in a sense, they play the over the top stereotypes in this film because it'll get a bigger laugh out of the adults. Because this is what we remember growing up with. It's funny because of the characters they created, not for what they make fun of. So despite it being sort of a mixed bag, I find myself enjoying it. It's just harmless, innocent fun. And the first ten minutes are so spot-on! If you haven't seen it by now, I'd say give it a rent. So will this mean that traditional animation is back at Disney after a long hiatus? Join me in the review after the next to find out.

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