Thursday, December 06, 2007

Movie Review: Enchanted

The Movie: Enchanted
Starring: Amy Adams, James Marsden, Patrick Dempsey, Susan Sarandon

This review contains slight spoilers towards the end, please be warned.


Brief Plot Summary: A fairy tale (animated) princess, Giselle (Adams), meets the man of her dreams, Prince Edward (Marsden), and they are engaged to be married. Unfortunately, Prince Edward's evil step-mother (Sarandon) does not approve of the coupling and thrusts Giselle into the real, non-animated world. Edward follows to find her. While in the real world, Giselle searches for Prince Edward, and meets up with single father Robert. They start to click. I'll stop further so I don't spoil the UNBELIEVABLY SHOCKING TWIST ending.

Commentary: Enchanted falls into the same realm of family oriented holiday fare that gets released every year. For whatever reason, this film has been extremely widely critically praised, whereas similar films such as Sky High and Ella Enchanted were basically panned. I've even been reading that it's possible that Amy Adams could be nominated for an Oscar for best actress, a prospect that both delights and baffles me. I'd love to see it, but I'm not entirely sure why this one is a sure-fire Oscar contender while, say, Reese Witherspoon in Just Like Heaven is completely beneath that ceremony.

Oh wait, do I sound negative? Then let me state up front: Enchanted is quite possibly my favorite movie of the last several years. Sky High and Ella Enchanted are the two closest, most obvious, parallels to this movie in the last few years. And while I am a big fan of both of those films, I don't think there's really any doubt that Enchanted is substantially better than both of them. So what's the Enchanted difference?

First, the humor in the movie was frequently genuinely funny, thanks to the stellar comedic performances of Amy Adams and James Marsden. The scriptwriter for this is clearly well schooled in Disney films, and he satirizes the most ridiculous aspects of these movies excellently. Working purely as a vehicle for humor, this movie just blows away all of the other movies of this type. The costumes and production design in this movie are also pitch perfect and frequently beautiful. Amy Adams has been singled out for the most praise in this film, understandably. She is just incandescent in this role, and she really makes you love the character of Giselle. Not only is she funny, she hits the emotion in the movie really well, and just charms the hell out of you.

The movie toes the line between saying that the fairy tale romance & fantasies do exist and do come true and between showing the fallacy of these notions when transported to the real world. By believing in the supremacy of true love while at the same time acknowledging that true love is a deep emotion and requires significant work to achieve and maintain, the film has staked out a fairly unique place. It's a dangerous ground, as it could end up being pandering or self-contradictory, but I think it manages to get out a coherent and consistent message, and I think there's a lot of truth to the message it tells.

Further, the love story in this movie was so great. It's really one of the better love stories I've seen on film. There's a scene right towards the end where Amy Adams and Patrick Dempsey dance with each other which is just heart-bustingly beautiful and perfect. It made me cry (tears continued intermittently through the part where Patrick wakes up Amy with the kiss), which was really embarrassing because I was watching the movie in the theater with my brother, mother, and sister-in-law (I hid my tears). My favorite movie scene of the year, I think.

So did I have any problems with this movie at all. Yes I did, and it's one that several other reviewers mention too: the ending. I guess I understand basically what they were trying to do, seeing as all of the movies of this time seem to end with a big action sequence. Since this parodies Disney movies, it makes sense to throw in a big action ending too, and try to subvert the conventions. Unfortunately, the execution takes you right out of the movie and doesn't feel right. Fortunately the sequence is fairly short and easily ignorable/forgettable.

I have no particular comment about the animation scenes. They were fairly well done, but seem to exist solely for the purpose of setting up the plot. Ditto the songs, which are basically necessary given the nature of the film. I was not notably impressed by any of the songs, which were generally not too good. The "That's How You Know" sequence was very funny.

So, back to the beginning. Why Enchanted and why Amy Adams with all the critical praise? The answer is that I don't know but it really warms my heart to see that when a movie of this type is executed this well the critics sit up and notice.

Final Grade/Comments: The fact that I wanted to watch the movie over again immediately after seeing it, despite the lack of a game-changing twist or complicated plot speaks to how much I enjoyed it. The young woman sitting behind me said to her companion, as the movie was ended, "Oh my God, that was like the best love story ever." OK, while I can't quite agree with that hyperbole, I do say this was the best movie of its type in a long, long while and it beats 99% of the Disney fare it's spoofing at their own game. The poorly conceived ending is not enough to sway this away from a 10/10 and my guess is I would have enjoyed the movie even more had the sound in the theater I was watching the movie at not kicked out for 10 minutes during what appeared to be a crucial scene.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Ross said...

hmm. just saw this. was not completely impressed with the love story, which is to say it seemed a little too convenient and not felt - which is unfortunate because come to think of it it's an interesting premise for how two people could fall in love (by addressing and dissecting their fundamentally different conceptions of what love is in the first place.) amy adams was terrific; the disney parody elements were pretty funny though i wish they had gone further; the production design was quite nice. my favorite thing in the movie, though, was probably the "happy working song" - very witty, spot-on parody, and having the roaches cleaning the bathroom, etc. was just hilarious.

but i was hoping for something more (not necessarily expecting it, mind you) - i wanted it to really break out of the formula, really give us a believable human story despite the outlandish set-up. and, yeah, i definitely didn't want a lengthy action finale that had nothing to do with the rest of the film (was it me or did the witch character have no evident motivation whatsoever?)

oh well. not sure whether i liked this more or less than the fairly similar "stardust" (about the same, then) but they were both frustratingly flawed despite having a fair amount going for them.

9:18 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

I've never seen "Stardust", so no comment on that end.

I guess I can't disagree with anything you say. As to whether the love story is "felt" or "not felt", I guess that's like arguing which pop song is catchier. For whatever reason, the love story grabbed me, and I'm perfectly willing to give most of the credit for that to Amy. I do love how they explored the different conceptions of love without abandoning either the fairy tale romance or the practical considerations.

I do think this was a believable human story. I had no problems with any of the characters. Do the bad guys in Diz movies ever have motivations? I figured it was all part of the parody.

Depth in movies is something that is what it is. When a movie with real depth like "No Country for Old Men" comes around, I can love it for what it is, and obv. I can love a movie like "Enchanted" for what it is. I'm a softie.

9:56 PM  

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