"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Movie Review (the title says it all): Enchanted

The calendar year is nearly over, so what I'm about to say is a bold claim, but I stand by it: Enchanted truly is the feel-good movie of the year. The movie combines old-school Disney animation and live-action filmmaking, with a little modern-day computer-generated animation tossed in, and the result is nothing less than magical. Disney movies have often provided a fantastical escape to far-off places, and Enchanted pushes this to an even more exciting level.

The standard Disney magic coexists with the real world, making viewers (well, at least this viewer) wonder... maybe magic mirrors, fairy princesses, evil queens and "true love's kiss" really do exist. The feel-goodness is simply infectious, and you can't help but be swept up in this world of wonderful possibility.

The story follows Giselle, a woman from the land of Andalasia who wants nothing more than to marry Prince Edward (James Marsden). Yet Edward's mother (Susan Sarandon), determined not to be removed from her throne when her son gets married, prevents Edward and Giselle from sharing "true love's kiss" by catapulting Giselle into present-day New York City ("where there are no happy endings!"). There, of course, Giselle embarks on many hilarious adventures, made funnier by cultural misunderstandings. That's not the end of the magical story, though.

When Edward leaps into real life to save Giselle, his mother sends one of her guys (played by Timothy Spall) after him to poison Giselle, though Giselle's faithful chipmunk friend Pip scuttles into New York as well, trying his darndest to thwart the poisoning. Meanwhile, Giselle befriends Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and his young daughter Morgan (Rachel Covey), enchanting both of them — and, in certain musical numbers, all of New York — as she waits for Edward to find her.

There has been much talk of Amy Adams' superb performance and I can't join the resounding chorus of praise quickly enough. She is utterly committed to this role, from her wide, unblinking, sweet eyes to her supple wrists making dainty princessy hand gestures. You fully believe that she's a fairy princess because, well, she seems to believe it so much.

The rest of the cast also appears to be having a lot of fun. James Marsden is perhaps my favorite of all the supporting characters. His oblivious nature and overzealous princely grandeur never failed to make me giggle. Susan Sarandon is appropriately villainous, her bizarre drag-queenish attire nothing short of fabulous.

There is one moment toward the end when I started to become annoyed that the story would fall right in line with some of the older Disney princess stories in which the female characters are either "good" and therefore helpless, or else they have too much power, which makes them evil. Also, the whole idea of women in fairy tales dying unless they are kissed by the right man makes me queasy. Yet Enchanted has quite a few twists in store, creating a sweetly romantic ending in which everyone — male and female alike — has a moment of strength and triumph.

I know many folks not technically in the targeted age bracket for this film who saw this film — be it for Patrick Dempsey, the adorable Amy Adams or because, well, even as a fourty-something it's still exciting to see a real-live fairytale princess on screen. This is perhaps the true allure and success of Enchanted: it puts a modern face on age-old stories, reigniting a childhood belief that maybe — just maybe — fairytales are real. And that feels good.

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