Confession time: I am a sucker for Disney animated films. When The Little Mermaid was released, I became, what some people might call "obsessed." I bought the soundtrack months ahead of time. I read and watched every piece of media on the movie (and this was in the days before the Internet). I rounded up a group of friends and dragged them to see it.
Is this the part where I tell you that I was in grade 12? What you yanks would call my senior year?
So it was with great excitement that the Husband Unit and I went to the local megaplex to see Enchanted.
It's the story of Giselle, a fairy tale girl who lives in the forest with her animated animal friends. She dreams of her prince, to come along and lead her to "happily ever after". Edward (a prince) takes a break from troll hunting to run into Giselle. So the two ride off into the 2-D sunset.
Unfortunately for the lovebirds, Edward's stepmother, Queen Narissa, sends Giselle to a 3-D, real life New York City, where there are no happy endings.
Giselle meets Robert and his daughter, Morgan, who's six and wants to be a princess. Robert buys her a biography of female leaders. What six year old wouldn't want that? Instead of calling the looney bin as most of us would do upon meeting Giselle, Robert takes her home.
The first half turns the Disney princess musical on its ear. It pokes loving fun at the conventions and stereotypes of Cinderella and Snow White. The first three musical numbers are direct ripoffs of the Disney standards.
Best out of these is "Happy Little Working Song". Giselle calls for animal help in cleaning Robert and Morgan's disgusting apartment. Given that she is in New York, cute woodland creatures don't show up.
This musical brilliance is not surprising given that the lyricist is Stephen Swartz. He is the writer of Broadway musicals Wicked and Godspell, and contributed lyrics to Hunchback of Notre Dame and Pocahontas. The music is by Alan Menken, composer for the Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, to name a few. They know how Disney works and use it to the film's advantage.
The second half is a romantic comedy/ chase movie. The film balances the love story with the comedy of Giselle discovering our world and Prince Edward's quest. Unlike many contemporary children's movie offerings, there was only one poop joke. (The preview of Alvin and the Chipmunks on the other hand, had so much bathroom humour, I lost count.)
The movie includes loving references to Disney films and non-Disney musicals. Robert negotiates the Banks divorce, name-checking the Banks family in Mary Poppins. When Giselle looks at fish in a tank at Robert's law firm, "Part of Your World" from Little Mermaid is the muzak in the office. When Giselle runs up the hill in Central Park during the "That's How You Know",
you will remember The Sound of Music.
Director Kevin Lima, who clearly loves Disney, admits to leaving little tidbits for fans.
Patrick Dempsey is believable and sympathetic. Timothy Spall is very good as henchman Nathaniel. Amy Adams embodies the Disney princess. Her body language, voice inflection, even her eyes make you think of Belle and Ariel.
But for me, the standout is James Marsden. He is brilliant as the handsome but not very bright Prince Edward. His performance is over the top without being unbelievable. Marsden lightens every scene he is in.
This is a wonderful movie. It is worth the money to see on the big screen. And guys, take along someone special. It will pay off. Ask the Husband Unit.