From the opening minutes of Disney's ENCHANTED, it's clear this film is something extra-special for Disney fans, from the colorful storybook opening title card to the voice of Julie Andrews narrating the story of Giselle, the newest princess in the Disney pantheon.
And what a princess she is, a cartoon who is banished from the mythical land of Andalasia to New York City, where she takes human form in the person of Amy Adams. Adams nails the role, with her wide-eyed optimism and innocence, plus a princess-perfect singing voice. She really is as good as initial reviews indicated.
She's backed by a strong cast, including Patrick Dempsey as Robert, the very McDreamy hero who befriends Giselle; James Marsden as Prince Edward, who combines comical buffoonery (think Gaston in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST) with sincere devotion; Susan Sarandon as Edward's wicked stepmother, a modern-day Maleficent; and Idina Menzel of WICKED as Robert's girlfriend, who has an interesting future in store herself. (There was a moment near the end of the film where she really should have sung...)
The filmmakers walk a very careful line, gently spoofing but mostly paying tribute to Disney history. This could only be done, of course, with a studio which has such a rich history from which to draw its allusions and symbolism. One could rewatch the film simply looking for all the clever references to Disney films of the past. Disney fans will recognize bits of plot and familiar objects from many different films woven into ENCHANTED, along with sly tributes to Disney history. One of my favorite examples of the latter: the TV reporter, Mary Ilene Caselotti, is named for the actresses who voiced Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Snow White, while the actresses who voiced Belle, Ariel, and Pocahontas have on-screen roles.
Robert and Giselle's dance at the ball is as lovely as Belle and the Beast waltzing in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST...or, for that matter, Princess Aurora and Prince Philip dancing at the conclusion of SLEEPING BEAUTY. The film was not only quite funny, it was very moving, with the emotions being pulled not only by the story itself but by the deep connections with Disney history.
After the movie ended we went next door to B&N to buy the soundtrack. The background singers include many fine voices from musical theater, including Norman Large, Christina Saffran Ashford, and Elizabeth Ward Land. Just one more indication of the quality of the production. The songs "True Love's Kiss," "That's How You Know," and "Happy Working Song" are very hummable; "Happy Working Song" channels Snow White, but with a modern twist -- one can't imagine Snow White singing about cleaning toilets.
ENCHANTED runs 107 fun-filled minutes. The film has an official website which includes trailers.
Saturday Update: Those who have seen the film will enjoy this article by National Review's Frederica Mathewes-Green: "I'm Enchanted: They Had Me at 'Hello.'" (Spoiler caution: This review is a little more detailed about certain scenes than other reviews I've read.)