And so this is Christmas. Time for Disney to unveil their big box office weapon. And Enchanted is a big weapon. Director Kevin Lima, who brought us 102 Dalmations, offers up his homage to the Disney classics of old. He brings us a beautiful new princess and a post-modern story as she finds herself cast out from the fairytale world and into the real world where there are no guarantees of a happy ever after.
The films big talking point is its marriage of old-school Disney animation with live action. Things kick off in the animated land of Andalasia where we meet our enchanting and incurably romantic heroine Giselle and her woodland friends (a nod to Snow White) as she gets ready for her wedding to Prince Charming. Unfortunately for her, danger is lurking around the corner in the guise of the Princes evil stepmother Narissa who, disguised as an old hag, throws her down a magical well. So far, so fairytale.
She emerges out of a manhole into a sodden, dirty and unfriendly Times Square, having materialised as 3-dimensional Amy Adams, still in her wedding dress, utterly confused and alone. Found and befriended by a city lawyer and his young daughter, she awaits her Prince Charming so that he can take her back to the land she understands.
Its a great concept and the plot flows effortlessly with the narrative being comprised of a series of set pieces largely based around three deadly apples sent by Narissa to get rid of Giselle once and for all. There is a new take on Snow Whites Whistle While You Work scene, but with cute animals replaced by cockroaches, pigeons and rats, and with a stunning over-the-top musical number set in Central Park that has to be seen to be believed, Lima has come up trumps with some wonderful cinematic moments.
Following her Oscar-nominated role in Junebug, this is the role that may really put Amy Adams into our consciousness. She looks gorgeous, like a young Nicole Kidman, but bearing in mind how young and innocent Giselle is, someone a little younger could have been cast. But in any case, she does well in the role. For an actress to follow in the footsteps of iconic Disney heroines like Snow White, Belle and Cinderella out of the security of animation and into flesh and bones must be pretty daunting. Giselle in particular is a difficult character to pull off because of her unnerving good-nature, sweetness and innocence: Adams treads a fine line between adorable and nauseating.
The rest of the cast is also impressive. Some may root for Marsdens old school Prince Charming, while others will prefer Dempseys kind contemporary saviour and you can just imagine how Sarandon camps up her role as the wicked stepmother. Local theatres must be desperate for her to reprise her role in panto.
The soundtrack written by Alan Menken, who has won an astonishing eight Oscars for his work on Disney films is his usual cloying stuff. It doesnt quite stand up to the glorious older Disney standards but True Loves Kiss, sung by Adams herself, tries hard to recreate those old classics.
But overall, although it has some great ideas, Enchanted feels like a missed opportunity. It could have been so much better. It should have capitalised on its selling point of fairytale meets real life, by mixing a bit more animation into the live action and particularly by employing Sarandons character in the modern New York setting to a greater degree. The plotting is fairly lazy and predictable as Giselle deals with sides of herself that she hadnt encountered in her homeland, and the ending as Narissa gets her comeuppance stinks of a writer running out of ideas. However, despite its faults, the film will appeal to a far and wide audience. Its a great family film and kids should love it, while building on the similar appeal of Shrek, adults can play along with the spot-the-Disney references.