Sunday, January 13, 2013

Movie – Enchanted (2007)

The animated/live action combination Disney movie Enchanted was very popular with audiences, cemented Patrick Dempsey’s transition to romantic leading man, and made a star of Amy Adams at the almost geriatric Hollywood actress age of 33.  The movie is a loving parody/tribute to all the Disney films that preceded it, especially the Princess ones.  The tone of the movie is not as mean-spirited as the Shrek films, though.  Instead of making fun of fairy tales themselves it mines humor from juxtaposing fairy tale characters with the very real world of New York City.  The result is something both children and adults can enjoy.

Any parent can probably sympathize with Robert Philip (Patrick Dempsey) who has a young daughter obsessed with princess stories.  Trying to give her something more substantial as a role model, he presents her with a book on inspiring women.  She is less than thrilled.  In the best Disney tradition the mother of his daughter is nowhere to be found.  He is a single dad raising his girl.

Meanwhile, in an animated land an evil Queen (Susan Sarandon) has a stepson, Prince Edward (James Marsden), who is of marriageable age, but who she keeps away from all women with the help of her servant Nathaniel (Timothy Spall).  One day Edward hears Giselle (Amy Adams) singing and is smitten with her.  He declares that they will be married the next day.  Giselle is thrilled since this has been her lifelong dream.  She has even built and dressed a fake prince that is the image of her perfect man.  (Pay attention to the appearance of this perfect man since it will re-occur in real life later in the film.)  The evil Queen intervenes and ends up sending Giselle to “a place where there are no happy endings” aka New York City.

Giselle does what all princesses would do in a dire situation – look for a castle to live in.  Robert encounters her.  He thinks she is a crazy person, but having too much heart to leave her on the street he brings her back with him so she can sleep on his couch for the one night.  A nice little touch I liked that both shows this isn’t just a syrupy Disney film, and that shows Robert is a good father, is that even though he has done this, he makes sure to bring his daughter into his bedroom to spend the night with him just in case Giselle does turn out to be dangerous.

The next morning Giselle sets out, in best Snow White mode, to clean Robert’s apartment.  This includes calling out to all the woodland creatures, excuse me, I mean city vermin (pigeons, rats, etc.) to help her.  She sings a song about how wonderful it is to clean, all while these creatures are scrubbing toilets, washing dishes, etc.  It might be my favorite scene in the film.  Of course, Robert’s girlfriend Nancy (Idina Menzel) stops by and gets the wrong idea about Giselle being in the apartment.  By the way, why hire Menzel, famous for her singing on Broadway, to play the only non-singing role in the film?

As the movie goes on, Prince Edward, Nathaniel, and even the evil Queen all end up in New York City.  There is even more humor mined from the somewhat dimwitted Edward trying to understand what this strange new world is – “Do not fear!  I have slain the steel beast!” he exclaims after stabbing a city bus.  By the way, Marsden was best known for his superhero roles in the X-Men movies prior to 2007.  That year he not only sang in this film, but also in Hairspray.  This was a surprise to many people, as was Adams’ singing abilities.  I had been noticing her ever since her first film Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999) and never knew she could sing.

Robert and Giselle naturally start to get closer.  As they do it’s interesting to note that Giselle is making the opposite transition from most Disney princesses.  Instead of starting out common and getting a makeover to a princess, she starts out a princess and gets a makeover to a modern woman.  I rarely notice clothing, but watch the progression of her dresses as the movie goes along.

There are a ton of Disney references in this film.  I’m sure someone could spend hours just picking them out.  My favorites might have been having appearances from Paige O’Hara (voice of Belle in Beauty and the Beast), Jodi Benson (voice of Ariel in The Little Mermaid), and Judy Kuhn (singing voice of Pocahontas).  And if the narrator’s voice sounds familiar that’s because it is Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins). 

I want to take a moment to talk about Patrick Dempsey.  He was born and brought up in Maine, dropped out of high school (he was diagnosed as being dyslexic), and first learned to be a juggler.  That’s really Dempsey juggling the dinner plates in the film Made of Honor (2008), for instance.  He eventually found his way into theater work and then films.  He started out in movies playing the nerdy guy (i.e. Meatballs III, Can’t Buy Me Love, etc.) and then ending up reversing the Hollywood stereotype of the young, up and coming actress marrying a man old enough to be her father.  He married the mother of his best friend, a woman 26 years older than him, who he had met while making the movie In the Mood (1987) – which was about a teenager who romances older women.  Life imitates art.

Whether this marriage made him content enough to not challenge himself, or whether he grew too old for the nerdy kid roles, his movie career in the 1990s wasn’t stellar.  He got re-married in 1999 and started a family.  Perhaps this inspired him to start fresh because he initiated a transition to romantic male roles in such films as Sweet Home Alabama (2002) and then hit it big in the TV show Grey’s Anatomy.  By the time he played Robert in this film I still hadn’t quite adjusted to seeing this nerdy guy from the 80s movies as a heartthrob, but millions of women didn’t have the same issue.

Dempsey has not forgotten his roots.  His mother has suffered with multiple bouts of cancer, so he founded the Patrick Dempsey Center for cancer treatment in Lewiston, Maine at the hospital where his mother went for hers.  In addition, every year he hosts the Dempsey Challenge, which is a combination cycling, running, and walking event that has raised millions of dollars for the center.  I don’t know how much coverage his charitable work towards cancer treatment gets outside of his and my home state of Maine, but my guess is it’s probably not mentioned by the entertainment media as much as his hair is.

Enchanted is a good movie for everyone who grew up on Disney films, or who has a child who grew up on them.  It pokes some gentle fun at those movies, while at the same time being a tribute to them.  With most of the movie being live action, people may subconsciously expect a deeper plot than the traditional animated film.  If so, Enchanted may let them down some.  This movie is more about the characters.  If it sounds interesting then I recommend you give this film a try.

Chip’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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  1. I enjoyed this one for the fun it pokes at the Disney model. My wife and I took our girls to see this in the theater, and I went along as a "let's do this as a family" thing, and fully expected to take a nap in the theater. I enjoyed myself despite these low expectations.

    I liked the cleaning sequence, too, but the giant musical number in the park is my favorite, specifically because of how Patrick Dempsey reacts to it.

    1. Thanks for sharing. I kind of wondered it you had seen this and if so what you thought of it.

  2. This was a film where I remember a lot of people liked it and I was baffled by it. Finally, I rented the film and by the end of the film, I was smiling.

    It's just a fun, fun, fun film that isn't afraid to make fun of itself while playing around to the conventions of fairy tales.

    Plus, I think it's this film where it confirmed that Amy Adams had officially arrived.

    1. I agree. Adams had finally received some recognition from critics for her very likable role in Junebug a couple years earlier, but the general public didn't really notice her until this film.

      Personally, I saw her in her very first movie role, a beauty pageant contestant in the mockumentary Drop Dead Gorgeous (a Kirsten Dunst vehicle). I then saw her on an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer then in the cobbled together Cruel Intentions 2. I almost didn't recognize her in Catch Me If You Can, but I was glad to see her finally getting a good role in Junebug, even though I wasn't as enamored of the film as many critics were.