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Review

Disney misses the mark with fairy tale spoof ‘Enchanted’

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November 29, 2007

Dear readers, please forgive me for being more than a little skeptical about Disney’s new family feature “Enchanted.” It’s not that the ads made it out to be the freakin’ mayor of Girlietown (which it is; this makes “Pretty Woman” look like “Terminator 2”). Yours truly just has a hard time swallowing Disney’s rigidly-structured brand of whimsy, which all but grabs you by the throat and demands that you have fun whether you like it or not.

“Enchanted” may be in a slightly edgier package than most are used to seeing from the House of Mouse, but make no mistake that the contents within this particular gift are the same damned socks you get every year from the Disney crew.

In this collision of live action and animation, Amy Adams (absolutely great in “Junebug”) plays Gisele, an adorable waif who’s suddenly thrust from her cartoon home of Andalasia to a flesh-and-blood New York City. A stranger in a strange land, Gisele can only bide her time until her dashing fiancé (James Marsden) comes to sweep her off her feet.

But as it turns out, her true love may instead turn out to be Robert (Patrick Dempsey), a cynical attorney whose growing affections for Gisele just might prove that there’s room in reality for a fairy-tale ending.

I’ve really had my fill of “Shrek”-style, “fractured fairytale” movies over the past couple of years, so I’m glad that “Enchanted” didn’t take the easy way out and cram the script with enough pop culture references to make you want to move to Bulgaria. But this still leaves “Enchanted” in a position not unlike that of “Fred Claus,” in which the film’s intentions (to contrast the sugary-sweet world of cartoon musicals with the harshness of real life) could have really soared if it were allowed to morph into something along the lines of “Bad Santa.” I giggle deviously at the thought of what “Enchanted” could be with a more adult edge, but as is, it’s merely one of the more tolerable but still unexciting kiddie movies in recent memory.

Adams is a treasure of an actress who gives her all into playing a character whose cheeriness makes SpongeBob look like a manic-depressive, something that simultaneously induces both cringes and chuckles. The scene where Gisele and an army of rats, pigeons and cockroaches clean up Robert’s apartment while she sings the aptly-titled “Happy Working Song,” is one of the film’s highlights.

Dempsey isn’t half-bad as the jaded New Yorker Gisele gradually falls in love with, Marsden has fun lampooning the image of Disney heroes, and Susan Sarandon has a ball vamping it up as the obligatory evil queen, who’s hell-bent on stopping Gisele from usurping her throne.

But despite its attempts to change up the traditional Disney formula at least a little bit, “Enchanted” still comes across as being a little too restrictive and by-the-books, especially for a studio that once prided itself on being a bastion of imagination.

A.J. Hakari is a student at UW-River Falls.