Film Review: Enchanted (2007)

*All reviews contain spoilers*

Disclaimer: This blog is purely recreational and not for profit. Any material, including images and/or video footage, is property of their respective companies, unless stated otherwise. The author claims no ownership of this material. The opinions expressed therein reflect those of the author and are not to be viewed as factual documentation. All screencaps are from Animationscreencaps.com.

Cast

Amy Adams – Giselle

Julie Andrews – The Narrator

Jeff Bennett – Pip in Andalasia

Jodi Benson – Sam (Robert’s secretary)

Michaela Conlin – May (deleted scene, perhaps?)

Rachel Covey – Morgan Philip

Patrick Dempsey – Robert Philip

Teala Dunn – Bunny

Tibor Feldman – Henry (Ethan’s lawyer)

Kater Gordon – Receptionist

William Huntley – Grumpy

Samantha Ivers – Angie

Anita Keal – Ballroom Lady #2

Paul Klementowicz – Katz Deli Patron

Canedy Knowles – Restaurant Patron

Judy Kuhn – Pregnant Woman with Kids

Muriel Kuhn (any relation to Judy?) – Clara

Lillian Lifflander – Older Restaurant Patron

Emma Rosa Lima (the director’s daughter!) – Bluebird, Fawn and Rapunzel

Kevin Lima – Pip in New York

Edmund Lyndeck – Derelict Old Man (great credit)

Tony Machine – Band Leader

Christopher Maggi – Sewer Crew Guy

James Marsden – Prince Edward

Danny Mastrogiorgio – Jerry (TV actor)

Elizabeth Mathis – Tess

Jon McLaughlin – Ballroom Singer

Idina Menzel – Nancy Tremaine

Paige O’Hara – Angela (TV actress)

Matte Osian – Fire Investigator

Wilbur Pauley – Troll (singing)

Marilyn Sue Perry – Bus Driver

Tonya Pinkins – Phoebe Banks

John Rothman – Carl (Robert’s Boss)

Susan Sarandon – Queen Narissa

Marlon Saunders – Calypso Singer

Matt Servitto – Arty (construction worker)

Joseph Siravo – Bartender

Timothy Spall – Nathaniel

Helen Stenborg – Ballroom Lady #1

Fred Tatasciore – Troll (speaking)

Margaret Travolta (John’s sister!) – Radio Therapist

Cathleen Trigg – Mary Ilene Caselotti (newsreader)

Isiah Whitlock Jr. – Ethan Banks

Courtney Williams – Sunglass Street Vendor

Plus, an endless list of dancers, on-screen musicians, tourists, pedestrians and other assorted extras

Sources of Inspiration – An original script, but with plenty of inspiration drawn from Disney’s previous films!

Release Dates

October 20th, 2007, at the London Film Festival in the UK (international premiere)

November 17th, 2007, in Hollywood, California, USA (premiere)

November 21st, 2007, in USA (general release)

Run-time – 107 minutes

Directors – Kevin Lima

Composers – Alan Menken

Worldwide Gross – $340 million

Accolades – 12 wins and 51 nominations, including 3 Oscar nominations


2007 in History

The US Congress elects Nancy Pelosi as the first female Speaker of House in the nation’s history

Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, introduces the original iPhone in San Francisco; it debuts worldwide that summer

Serbia is cleared of direct responsibility and complicity in the Bosnian genocide case by the International Court of Justice, but it also found guilty of failing to prevent it

The Prime Ministers of Latvia and Russia formally establish the border between the two nations with a treaty

A French TGV train sets the world speed record for a conventional train at 574.8 km/h (357.2 mph)

In the US, Seung-Hui Cho kills 32 people in the Virginia Tech shooting

One of the first potentially habitable extrasolar planets, Gliese 581c, is discovered in the constellation Libra

Riots by ethnic Russians occur across Estonia on Bronze Night, protesting the movement of the Bronze Soldier, a WWII memorial

After 80 years of schism, the Russian Orthodox Church and the Moscow Patriarchate reunite

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum makes one of the largest charitable donations in modern history, giving over ten billion US dollars to an educational foundation in Dubai

Europe is hit by a heatwave, which affects Greece particularly badly and results in 11 deaths

The Phoenix spacecraft sets out for Mars, to explore its north pole

The Vatican beatifies the 498 “Spanish Martyrs”, victims of religious persecution from the days of the Spanish Civil War

The remains of the two “missing” Romanov children are discovered, putting to rest the myth of Anastasia’s and Alexei’s possible survival

The Treaty of Lisbon is signed by the member states of the EU

Ex-Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is assassinated with 20 other people in Rawalpindi

Mwai Kibaki’s win in a general election in Kenya triggers a major crisis in the country which runs into the following year and results in over 1,000 deaths

Mauritania becomes the last country to criminalize slavery, finally making it illegal worldwide (hard to believe it took this long)

Births of Princess Ariane of the Netherlands, Princess Isabella of Denmark, Infanta Sofía of Spain and James, Viscount Severn


Welcome, everyone, to another review! After tackling the beloved hybrid crossover Who Framed Roger Rabbit, a staple of many millennial childhoods, we are now going to turn our attention to a similar blend of animation and live-action from almost two decades later: Enchanted. While this one may not have had quite the same impact as its predecessor, it’s still a significant milestone in Disney history which could be said to mark the dawn of “modern” Disney, as we shall get into below. Arriving in theatres when I was fifteen, I was at rather an awkward age for it and likely didn’t see it until a year or two later on Disney Cinemagic, but once I did, I was immediately smitten by its charm and good-natured self-deprecation. However, it went through quite a journey before reaching the form we know it in today.

The first script for the project, penned by Bill Kelly and bought by Disney’s Touchstone label in 1997, was far more risqué than the story eventually became. Touchstone (along with Sonnenfeld/Josephson Productions) apparently paid $450,000 for it, but despite this being Disney’s more “adult” label, the material was still considered unsuitable for production – makes you wonder who approved the purchase. Kelly worked on his script for three years, inspired by various adult comedies of the 1980s and 1990s such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) and American Pie (1999) to make it a “racier R-rated movie”; in the first draft, Giselle was actually mistaken for a stripper upon arriving in New York! Unsurprisingly, this envelope-pushing content was soon toned down, much to Kelly’s consternation, with first Rita Hsiao and then Todd Alcott being hired to re-work it. In the meantime, a tentative release date was set for 2002, but the project would go through several further contortions before finally making it to the big screen.

At this stage, Rob Marshall was attached as the director – he had long experience on Broadway and was just about to make his directorial debut with a popular adaptation of Chicago, but when “creative differences” arose between him and the producers, Marshall withdrew from the project. (Don’t worry; he returned to Disney later to direct Mary Poppins Returns and is now helming the upcoming Little Mermaid remake). By 2001, Jon Turteltaub was at the helm (Cool Runnings, Disney’s The Kid), but he, too, departed, going on to collaborate with Disney on the National Treasure franchise instead. Then came Adam Shankman in 2003 (The Pacifier, Cheaper by the Dozen 2, Hairspray), who was joined by writers Bob Schooley and Mark McCorkle to punch up the script once more. By that point, things had progressed far enough that Disney were considering actresses for the lead role, but yet again the project failed to get off the ground (although Shankman is directing the sequel, due next year).

Enchantedposter

Only in 2005 did things finally start to come together for Enchanted. That spring, Kevin Lima was announced as the new director, with Bill Kelly returning to write the final version of the script (I’m glad he was able to regain control of what was originally his story). Already a veteran of such hits as A Goofy Movie (1995) and Tarzan (1999), Lima was an excellent choice to helm such a Disney-centric film, and he worked closely with Kelly on the script to make it into a “loving homage” to the studio’s heritage. The entire thing was storyboarded in advance, covering a whole floor of one of the production buildings; these boards impressed Dick Cook, then chairman of Walt Disney Studios, so he gave the project the greenlight and a budget of $85 million. Lima worked on the design of Andalasia before casting and continued to be involved in the design work after the actors were hired, making sure their animated counterparts resembled them as closely as possible.

It must have been quite a hectic schedule, as Lima oversaw direction of both the live-action and animated sequences, which were generally kept more distinct from one another in this film than in Roger Rabbit. Ironically, the hand-drawn animation that the film was paying such loving homage to had recently been phased out at Disney itself, so those scenes had to be outsourced; it took about a year to complete them, with the live-action scenes being shot simultaneously across 72 days from April to July of 2006. Shooting in New York City was no easy task, as it was in a “constant state of new stores, scaffolding and renovation”, but somehow the team managed to get what they needed on schedule and the film arrived in theatres late the following year.

Enchanted is, ostensibly anyway, quite a simple film at heart, so this review should be far shorter than the last one! Bursting with references and affectionate nods to Disney’s past, the film’s attempt to challenge outdated stereotypes – while far from perfect – set a precedent that the studio seems to have been pushing more and more with their films ever since, so let’s see where “woke Disney” all began and explore just what messages they were trying to convey in this “modern fairy tale”.

Characters and Vocal Performances

The central conceit of this story was to take a classic Disney princess – or someone who embodied all of their most stereotypical characteristics, anyway – and place her in the real world to see how she would cope. Evidently, then, it would be of utmost importance to cast just the right actress to play Giselle, as the film’s success would hinge largely on this one key performance.

Much like the search for Eddie Valiant in our last film, finding Giselle proved challenging. Several big names of the 2000s were in the running – Cameron Diaz, Renée Zellweger, Jennifer Garner, Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Reese Witherspoon and even Christina Aguilera – but Kevin Lima wanted to cast a less high-profile actress, eventually selecting Amy Adams out of around 300 auditionees (she was number 275). He felt that she had not only the right look for a Disney princess come to life, but also admired her “commitment to the character, her ability to escape into the character’s being without ever judging the character… {it} was overwhelming”. The fact that Adams had ballet and musical theatre training probably didn’t hurt either, as she was “very comfortable with the idea of singing”.

Animated Giselle sitting in her window seatGiselle meeting Sam

Like the classic princesses that inspired her, Giselle comes from a vaguely European fantasy world called Andalasia (just one letter off from the southern Andalusia region of Spain, as noted in a joke by Jodi Benson’s character). She was intended to be a kind of affectionate parody of the outdated depiction of womanhood in Disney’s older films, with Lima describing her as “about 80% Snow White, with some traits borrowed from Cinderella and Princess Aurora from Sleeping Beauty… although her spunkiness comes from Ariel from The Little Mermaid”. (Apparently, in another similarity with Ariel, Giselle was originally planned to be blonde before the team decided red hair worked better). Lima further said that she is “eternally optimistic and romantic” but is also “very independent and true to her convictions”. While she does mature and settle into reality over the course of the story, that core optimism never fades, which I think is very important when reflecting on what makes those classic princesses so enduring in the popular consciousness.

Before we get into Giselle’s character arc, I wanted to take a moment to revisit what I said about the various young women who inspired her in my earlier reviews. Way back in 2017, I was quick to defend most of these classic Disney gals against criticisms of passivity and weakness, arguments which I still stand by today.

In my very first film review, I said of Snow White: “In today’s cynical world, there’s no underestimating the worth of Snow’s advice to keep a positive attitude when life gives you lemons. It’s a valuable lesson which any child could benefit from”. For the next princess, I said: “Cinderella, at heart, is a classic Disney role model, always striving to be good and kind to those around her even in the most challenging circumstances”. My feelings on Aurora were more complicated, but I acknowledged that my issues lay more with the plot structure than with her: “Despite being the catalyst for the whole plot she has no real agency in it herself, functioning more like a pawn in a political game than a person who can make her own decisions. To be clear, though, I am not saying that she is incapable of making her own decisions; she is simply never given the chance to do so”. By the time I reached The Little Mermaid, I was passionately decrying the criticisms of the princesses as useless romantic ciphers: “Ariel’s active personality cannot be overemphasised; however misguided her actions are, the point is that she does act… She does things, makes things happen and works for what she wants, never waiting around for things to happen to her and always engaged with what’s going on”.

Basically, the characteristics I admired in these four princesses were that they always saw the best in others, always looked for the good side in challenging circumstances and, particularly in Ariel’s case, made efforts to improve their situations by taking action to change things. Yes, they were all involved in rather underdeveloped romances (although only two of them are explicitly married by the end of their respective films), but there is more complexity to them than many critics – even Disney – gives them credit for. Cinderella could be sassy, even angry, Snow White could be cheeky and stern, and Ariel was downright flawed with her naïveté and recklessness, but they were all innately good characters who were doing their best to make the most of their lives instead of wallowing in doom and gloom. Their admirable attitudes continue to make them good role models to this day, in my opinion, even if society is gradually moving past its focus on heteronormative romances.

So, with all that in mind, how does Giselle compare, as both a parody of and a challenge to these supposedly “outdated” depictions of femininity? (It’s interesting that the artists didn’t draw any inspiration from the other renaissance princesses beyond Ariel – were there considered to be no flaws with their presentations?)

Animated Giselle sitting on Edward's horse

When we first meet Giselle in animated form, she is set up as an oversaturated example of Disney’s old-fashioned fantasy version of “traditional” femininity. Like Snow White, there is no mention of her having any parents or other family – in fact, she lacks even the typical wicked stepmother (who in this story is the prince’s stepmother instead), so she apparently lives all alone in the forest with only woodland creatures for company. Unlike Snow White and Aurora, Giselle is not royalty by birth, but without even the work of running a household like Cinderella had, the question of what she does with herself all day is left unanswered. Does Giselle have a job, or a trade? Presumably such trivialities never trouble the denizens of this utopian world. We later learn that she is a skilled seamstress, but in Andalasia it seems she is merely living off the land, sitting around brushing her long locks and daydreaming about blue-eyed dream boys, a picture of hyper-feminine passivity. It’s a stark contrast to what she will become by the film’s end.

Animated Giselle rushing to her wedding

Only when a troll attacks is Giselle forced out of her daydreams, but even then she does little beyond trying to flee, before tumbling directly into the arms of the waiting Prince Edward. In a scene so on-the-nose that you can’t help laughing at it, Giselle merely introducing herself is enough to make Edward exclaim that they “shall be married in the morning!”, and they ride off into the sunset in a glorious and slightly ridiculous crescendo of emotion. Sure enough, she arrives the next day at Edward’s palace dressed to the nines and all set to marry the guy after spending a single evening with him, but she’s stopped by his stepmother in disguise, who jealously pushes her through a portal to reality in a bid to keep her away from the throne. As if the point hasn’t been made bluntly enough already, Queen Narissa then describes reality as “a place where there are no happily ever afters”.

I won’t waste time nit-picking the believability of this narrative decision, as it was one of the film’s more overt instances of parody – the classic Disney girls were known for their whirlwind “Fourth Date marriages”, including all four of the ones who inspired Giselle. As funny as it is, however, it does make it difficult to truly invest in this relationship; Edward merely comes across as rather desperate after years of being shielded from Giselle, who is apparently the only eligible maiden for miles around. Giselle, too, is implied to be rather lonely, so neither of them is getting into this for healthy reasons! The thing is, this scene would be funnier if the story would just commit to subverting it later on – but as we shall see, this isn’t quite what happens.

Giselle waking up as a real womanGiselle being robbed by the derelict old man

Giselle finds herself transformed into a real woman and emerges from a sewer in New York City, perhaps one of the grittiest, least-fantastical places she could have arrived in (at least in the western world). From here, we get a lot of predictable jokes about her naïveté as she is swept off in the crowds, winds up lost in a seedy neighbourhood and is promptly robbed by an old toothless beggar. Completely out of her element, it’s both hilarious and rather sad to see her reduced to such a hopeless state, although even at this low moment she maintains the optimism of her predecessors.

Then, of all people, who should Giselle happen to meet but Robert Philip, a divorce lawyer who is about as far from a Disney prince as you can get (even if he is “McDreamy”). I must admit, as obvious a choice as this was, it does work wonderfully well; I can just imagine the writers trying to come up with the best possible combination of personalities and it really tickles me to think that they landed on “divorce lawyer” as the anti-princess.

Giselle stuck in Robert's doorway

Naturally, at first Robert doesn’t know what to make of this strange woman scaling billboards in a massive wedding dress and chattering away about fairy tale characters as if she knows them. This being New York, his first assumption is that she’s simply mad, which is admittedly rather funny. Yet as he gazes at her, fast asleep in blissful peace on his couch, he can’t bring himself to have her carted away like a lunatic and decides to allow her to spend the night. It’s the first glimpse we get of his affection for her, even if it is more like a protective instinct at this stage.

Giselle falling on Robert from the bathroom

From here begins Giselle’s journey into realistic adulthood, with her development marked by five key incidents during her first day with Robert. The first comes when she accidentally creates a problem with his girlfriend, Nancy, who is understandably suspicious when she arrives to find Giselle falling out of the bathroom onto Robert in just a towel. Giselle, of course, isn’t familiar with negative emotions and is too innocent to conceive of anyone cheating, so she doesn’t recognise the misunderstanding until Robert spells it out for her.

Giselle talking to Ethan and Phoebe

Things only get worse when Robert is forced to bring Giselle to work with him. There, she witnesses his clients in the midst of their divorce and sobs over how sad it all is, which of course makes Robert look like a manipulative charlatan and gets him into even more trouble. Unfortunately, Giselle also doesn’t understand the concept of a relationship ending or love not lasting forever, so her first encounter with divorce shakes her to the core. These two incidents open her mind to the complexities of real-world relationships; unlike her Andalasian romance with Edward, real romances take hard work and don’t always work out.

Giselle talking to Robert in Central ParkGiselle sending doves to Nancy

After driving Robert almost to the point of sending her away, it is only Giselle’s irrepressible good nature that spares her from god-knows-what fate out on the streets, when Robert sees her handing money over to the first person she meets and takes pity on her again. This time, he and Giselle enter into a proper conversation and try to understand one another’s viewpoints (something she has not yet done with Edward), with Robert explaining that relationships cannot just happen with total strangers and require time and patience to nurture. For her part, Giselle reminds Robert of the importance of communication and urges him to make his feelings for Nancy plainer (clearly, she was paying enough attention earlier to recognise that Robert’s problems with Nancy weren’t entirely her fault). With her own unique flair for the romantic, Giselle sends just the right gift to Nancy for Robert and helps smooth things over, complete with tickets to an upcoming ball that will prove more fateful than any of them realises.

Giselle talking to Robert at dinner

The fourth development of the day comes that evening at dinner, as Giselle and Robert talk further. Robert has grown comfortable enough with Giselle to open up to her, so she learns more about his past and his failed relationship with his ex-wife, thus beginning to understand why he has become so hardened against romance. After she consoles him and encourages him to be more open and spontaneous, their chat is interrupted by Nathaniel’s latest attempt to poison Giselle, but the scene still allows Giselle some more growth that will prove crucial to completing her arc.

Giselle confused after fight with Robert

Finally, before bed that night, Giselle reaches a breaking point of her own. All morning it was her antics that were driving Robert up the wall, but now it’s her turn to get frustrated. The incident with Pip at dinner prompts more negativity from Robert, who notes dryly that chipmunks don’t talk and then tries to insist that he doesn’t believe Edward will come. Cynical as it sounds, from his perspective this seems all too likely, as he still believes Giselle to be somewhat unhinged and is probably trying to protect her from what he sees as the inevitable outcome.

However, Giselle has had enough of him raining on her parade and calls him out on it – only to get carried away in the excitement of the argument when she realises she’s actually angry. It’s so cute! In the heat of the moment, she then suddenly catches herself staring at Robert’s exposed chest and is confronted by a whole new welter of confusing feelings – could she possibly be feeling aroused? Obviously, there’s only so far they can take this in a family film, but the idea of a pure and virginal Disney princess getting horny had to be included somewhere in a parody like this. This new interest in Robert also raises internal conflict in Giselle over her loyalty to Edward, who is a sweetheart himself and doesn’t deserve to get hurt. It’s a dilemma rarely experienced by Disney heroines before.

Giselle tells Edward she was thinking

By the next morning, Giselle awakens a changed woman. Her one day in reality has opened up a whole new world of emotional complexity and she has now begun to think more critically about herself, as well as questioning some of her ingrained assumptions about relationships – something Edward finds to his surprise when he tracks her down. The one and only time we saw the couple together before this, they were riding off into the sunset in perfect harmony, but now the differences between them are obvious. Edward has remained unaffected by his time in New York and is still the same loveable oaf he always was, but Giselle is now calmer, more logical and grounded, and has become unsure about her future with him.

Taking Robert’s advice, Giselle therefore invites him out on a date to get to know him better, but from the awkward atmosphere between the two afterwards, it’s implied that it didn’t go too well. In her desperation to avoid leaving reality (which she has rapidly grown to prefer), Giselle suggests attending a ball being held later that night, knowing that this will be more in Edward’s ballpark.

Giselle and Edward on their dateGiselle and Morgan shopping

However, once he agrees, there follows easily one of the weakest sequences in the film, where Giselle returns to the Philips’ apartment to seek Morgan’s help in getting ready. Six-year-old Morgan responds by hitting the town with Giselle for a shopping spree, complete with prominent brand names and cheery upbeat music. I’m not normally one to critique depictions of consumerism, but the use of “retail therapy” in this particular moment feels out of place, since it’s not being used ironically the way many of the other critiques of traditional femininity are; Disney really do want the little girls out there to bond with their mothers by going out and spending their money on princess merchandise, so Morgan’s plan to save the day with shopping actually works. Watching as an adult, it feels rather hollow and cynical – not to mention the question it poses about how Giselle got into the apartment and took Morgan out without Robert knowing?

Giselle arriving at the ball

Anyway, after spending exorbitant amounts of Robert’s money, Giselle arrives at the ball that evening looking resplendent, yet also rather subdued in comparison to her usual outlandish costumes. She has matured into a real woman, no longer able to see herself with Edward and saddened at the thought of leaving Robert behind. Small details such as her brief, embarrassed pause before introducing Edward as her “prince”, show us that she no longer fits into the fantastical world of Andalasia and will never be able to find true happiness there. She’s tasted the forbidden fruit, and there’s no going back now.

Giselle considering the apple of temptation

Narissa then chooses this opportune moment to dupe the poor girl again, taking advantage of Giselle’s turmoil to offer her “magic apple” as an antidote. Disguised once more as the old beggar woman, she assures her that the apple will allow her to return to her former blinkered state, where a whirlwind romance with a prince she doesn’t know will be enough for her and all the painful memories of reality will be erased. Still feeling overwhelmed by it all, Giselle cannot resist and quickly winds up poisoned on the floor, but Robert, protective as ever, steps in to offer the true love’s kiss after Edward’s fails to awaken her (it’s interesting that Disney chose not to subvert the rather creepy plot device of having the hero kiss the girl non-consensually while she’s unconscious, but whatever, romance I guess).

I have to note that this would have been a good point to let Giselle realise that she can find her own happiness without needing to be in a relationship, a choice that would undoubtedly have strengthened the film’s message enormously. After all, she hasn’t known Robert for much longer than Edward, so why does she need to be in a relationship with either of them? It would have been great if they could have allowed her to remain single, perhaps choosing to simply be friends with Robert and focusing on getting to know herself a little better instead, but then I suppose without a true love’s kiss to counteract Narissa’s poison there would be no climax.

Giselle holding a sword in the rain

The film starts to lose itself a bit during the climax, in all honesty. Once Narissa has turned herself into a dragon, she begins spouting constant one-liners and really belabouring the point of how “subversive” this all is until you feel like you’re being beaten over the head with a hammer. Yes, Giselle has a sword and is saving the man instead of the other way around, we get it – Ariel was saving Eric back in 1989, it’s not new! I also don’t understand how Giselle was able to follow Narissa up the side of a rain-slicked skyscraper in a floor-length ballgown and bare feet, but at this point I suppose you just have to throw logic out of the window and marvel at the pretty effects.

Giselle and Robert kiss in the rain

After having rescued her prince and defeated the dragon, Giselle ultimately chooses to stay in New York with him, although they don’t explicitly get married. I will give Disney credit for showing Giselle as being enterprising enough to monetise her dressmaking skills, as it can’t have been easy setting up a business from scratch in New York City (I’m guessing Robert helped to finance it). Girl knows how to hustle! If you pay attention, it looks as if she may actually have taken over Nancy’s old studio, as Robert’s ex seemed to be involved in a similar field when he visited her earlier in the film to apologise. Still, this newfound business acumen does not entirely make up for her rushing into another relationship with a man that she knows hardly any better than the first one; it’s a problem that would be repeated with Anna in Frozen some years later.

Giselle working as a designer

While they were halfway there with Giselle’s character development, I don’t feel like Disney went as far with her as they could have, had they truly wanted to be subversive. They’ve had better heroines since her whose lives don’t revolve around men at all, but then I can’t be too hard on her; Amy Adams imbues Giselle with such an infectious sweetness that you can’t help but like her, and she does a great job of embodying all the best aspects of the classic princesses – such as kindness and positivity – while gently poking fun at their more dated aspects. Starting a new relationship with Robert after deciding she didn’t know Edward well enough to marry him may feel like a bit of a paradox, but at least the idea was there. Watching Adams bring Giselle to life on her journey into becoming a rational, critical, motivated woman is always a delight, so I’m willing to overlook the inconsistencies in her writing (and who knows where the sequel might lead her).

Robert looking at Giselle on the couch

For the role of Giselle’s beloved Robert Philip, Lima decided upon Patrick Dempsey after having already cast Amy Adams, to satisfy Disney’s demand for more well-known actors. Dempsey’s role on Grey’s Anatomy (then only a couple of seasons in) had already made him into something of an idol, so Lima felt he would be the perfect “modern-day Prince Charming {for} today’s audience”. Robert’s surname was an homage to one of the classic Disney princes, Aurora’s Prince Philip, and the law firm he works for is “Churchill, Harline and Smith”, which references the composers of Snow White.

Apparently, the role was a challenging one for Dempsey because he was required to play the straight man to Adams and Marsden. It’s no wonder he was so concerned about getting it right; with one reviewer infamously dismissing his “leaden presence”, it has to be admitted that Robert is a real stick-in-the-mud when Giselle first tumbles into his life, but then it’s hardly his fault. He’s supposed to be rather dull and realistic to contrast with Giselle’s giddy fantasy persona, which allows her to loosen him up and teach him to have more fun.

Robert telling Morgan she won't always be six

Having been left by his wife at some unspecified point before the events of the story, hard-working Robert is struggling to be a single parent to his young daughter Morgan. We see during their scene in the taxi that he means well, but he doesn’t really understand what’s important to a girl Morgan’s age; his gift of a book full of innovative women was intended to inspire, but she is disinterested and dispirited to learn that most of them are dead. Her eye is instead quickly caught by the strange lady dressed like a princess across the street… and the rest is history.

Robert is clearly trying to raise his daughter to be independent, in an attempt to shield her from the kind of heartbreak his own life has dealt him. His rough divorce shattered any fairy tale illusions he had about romance, so he wants to prevent Morgan from getting too wrapped up in such notions lest the same reality check happen to her. Of course, Robert is failing to acknowledge the important and legitimate role fairy tales play in a child’s development; he may not realise it, but a little dose of good old-fashioned fantasy is just what Morgan needs.

Robert staring at Giselle in disbelief

It’s not hard to see how Robert could find Giselle exasperating at first. After inviting her into his home and struggling even to get her crazy dress through his door, he initially plans to just call someone to come and get her, afraid to commit himself in any way and keen not to disrupt his routine any more than he has to. Giselle, though, quickly makes herself at home and Robert can’t find it in himself to throw her out, knowing how vulnerable she’d be on the dark city streets.

What follows must be one of the strangest days of his life, as he awakens to find the apartment overrun with vermin and then sees some of the creatures helping Giselle out in the bathroom like something out of a dream. Coming from such a desexualised world as she does, Giselle has no problem chatting away to Robert clad in nothing but a towel, which soon leads to trouble as she tumbles out of the bathroom on top of him in front of his seething girlfriend. Robert’s day then goes from bad to worse when he’s forced to bring this wacky woman to work with him, only to find her flooded with grief over his divorcing clients. With everything he knows crumbling around him, Robert finally decides he has no other choice but to send Giselle away, but when she sweetly acquiesces, he finds to his surprise that he can’t bear to just let her wander out of his life.

Robert watching Giselle walk away

Instead, the two of them spend the rest of the day together and share conversations about their differing perspectives on love. As they begin to better understand one another, they also find themselves drawn closer together, until there’s a palpable sexual tension that neither can ignore. By the time Edward comes to “rescue” Giselle the next day, it’s already too late for him – she and Robert are head over heels (and Morgan has fully embraced her as a mother/sister figure too).

Robert telling Giselle she looks beautiful

Unbeknown to either of them, Giselle is reawakening Robert’s romantic side, a side he’d long since hidden away to protect himself after his ex-wife abandoned him for it. It’s heavily implied that his tendency towards romantic fantasy is what turned her off him in the first place (perhaps she got fed up with always having to be the serious one in the relationship, à la Mrs. Doubtfire), thus forcing him to suppress his fun-loving nature. His time with Giselle seems to wake him back up again, bringing back the lost joys of romance that he’d become numb to while at the same time making him question the stability of his relationship with Nancy (who we’ll come back to below).

It is a shame that we never get to hear the ex-wife’s perspective on the matter as the film demonises her somewhat, but I suppose she was intended more as a plot device to explain Robert’s disposition than as an actual character in her own right. Morgan, who shares her father’s natural proclivity for the fantastical, does not seem to miss her very much.

Robert confused about his feelings for Giselle

Robert isn’t the only one changed by his encounter with Giselle, though. She learns from it too, as Robert teaches her more about the realities of being an adult in a committed relationship. Years before Elsa, he lambasts the idea of marrying someone you just met for the farce it is and encourages her to embrace and express more negative emotions. Thanks to his influence, she is able to grow into a more well-rounded person, allowing the two of them to meet in the middle as real individuals instead of two extremes on opposite ends of the same spectrum. Again, while I think having them get together so quickly kind of undercuts the point the filmmakers were trying to make, they do make a decent couple once Giselle has stopped being so outlandish and Robert has livened up a bit.

Robert seeing Giselle at the ball

To be honest, I don’t have much more to say about Robert. Try as I might, I just don’t find him all that interesting – saddling the character with the burden of being the “realistic” one to Adams and Marsden’s fantasy caricatures was always going to be risky. I know I keep bringing it up, but the fact that he just gives up on a five-year commitment to Nancy in favour of this girl he’s just met kind of ruins the story’s message of progressiveness for me, and he’s honestly so dull that I can’t see what Giselle likes so much about him. Still, now that I think about it, such criticisms could easily be levelled at many of the princely characters of the past too, so perhaps he’s just keeping with tradition. This is Giselle’s story, after all, not his.

Morgan talking to Nancy

Before we move onto the other main characters, let’s spend a moment on Robert’s daughter, six-year-old Morgan Philip. Morgan functions as the film’s audience surrogate, at least if you consider little girls like her to be the target audience – she represents the prime demographic of the Disney Princess franchise that was already raking in the dough by that time, so in a way, it is her that the character of Giselle was made for.

As I’ve discussed above, Robert is doing all he can to prepare his daughter for a dog-eat-dog world, but his approach is a little off. When we first meet her, he’s picking her up from a martial arts class and giving her a book on inspirational women from history, when she clearly has more fun holding tea parties with her stuffed animals. Even her name is tough and masculine (in fact, it’s the name of a real-life recruitment agency), as though Robert was trying to minimise her femininity from the start in order to give her better standing among her male peers. With no sisters and no mother figure, Morgan desperately needs an actual female role model to look up to – and that’s where Giselle comes in.

Giselle telling Morgan a bedtime story

One thing I love about this film is that it doesn’t present femininity as “less than”. We’re shown through characters like Giselle and Nancy that feminine women can still be strong, and that girls embracing their femininity does not have to mean sacrificing their independence or limiting their options. Through Giselle, the film also takes pains to emphasise that even the classic princesses of old can still be good influences on modern children with their positive attitudes (even if it does slip up at times by having her and Morgan bond through shameless and stereotypical consumerism – gee, women sure do love to shop, huh?).

Morgan folding napkins at the restaurant

Morgan’s relationship with Giselle allows her to embrace and accept her own femininity for the first time, instead of ignoring or suppressing it the way her father seems keen to have her do. He is too focused on preparing her for the future to appreciate who she is in the present, but Giselle recognises that fairy tales and fantasy play an important role in a child’s development, helping them to make sense of the world and their place within it. The film uses Morgan to send a message of balance; it’s great to teach your daughter about Frida Kahlo and Mother Teresa, as long as you don’t stamp out Snow White and Cinderella in the process. In the end, it’s all about unlocking a kid’s imagination – if she can dream of becoming a princess, then she can dream about becoming anything else she wants to be. Having a princess who becomes a business owner in the end to look up to will certainly do Morgan no harm!

Animated Edward singing to himselfEdward outside Judy Kuhn's door

The third member of this film’s tangled love square is this goofball, Prince Edward of Andalasia. When James Marsden was auditioning for a part in the film, the role of Robert had yet to be cast, but he chose to pursue the role of Edward specifically because he felt the prince was “more fun and {Marsden} responded more to that character”.

Edward may not be the brightest bulb in the box, but he’s very likeable. When we first meet him, we learn that his stepmother has been trying to keep him busy for years in an effort to prevent him meeting Giselle (with troll hunting, of all things; do they have some sort of infestation?). The story kicks off on the day when he finally discovers her, after overhearing her beautiful singing from afar just as Philip once heard Aurora’s. I can kind of see why Narissa was so keen to keep them apart, for Edward proposes on the spot the moment he meets Giselle – clearly, she’s not the only one who’s naïve when it comes to relationships.

Edward arrives in New York

After Giselle fails to arrive for the wedding, Edward is informed by Pip that she’s been sent to reality, so he promptly sets out to rescue her with the little chipmunk in tow. You have to give him credit for being so willing to dive into a strange world to find her; during his time in New York, the befuddled prince is really put through the wringer. Hit by cyclists, abused by bus drivers and peed on by the city’s dogs, he’s forced to stay in a crummy hotel with Nathaniel and encounters various wacky denizens in his search for his bride (including a beaming chap in leather whom Edward leaves with an awkward smile, one of the funniest gags in the film).

Edward talking to the television

The film uses Edward to highlight Giselle’s character growth by contrasting the two of them, because while her stay in New York totally transforms her, Edward remains oblivious and stays true to his animated self through to the end. By the time he finds her, she has become a three-dimensional person with thoughts and feelings of her own, a far cry from the passive “other half” he first met in Andalasia. Edward ends up feeling a like a relic of a past that she can no longer connect to, so inevitably their relationship fizzles out… although he does get a “consolation prize” (shudder).

Edward putting Giselle's shoe on Nancy

Edward is utterly ridiculous, but he’s also such a treat whenever he’s on screen that you can’t help but love him – Marsden is clearly having the time of his life. It’s interesting that they were able to keep the character so likeable given his narcissism, but I think it’s because Marsden plays him with such an innocent sweetness that you know his affection for Giselle is genuine. He is humble enough to accept that Robert is Giselle’s true love in the end, wanting only to save her life even at the expense of their relationship, which was a nice touch. However, I don’t think his niceness justified him being given a whole new relationship with a woman he’s known for literally five minutes – stories like this tend to “pair the spares”, I know, but this is just another way that the film undercuts its own message about how real relationships are supposed to work.

Animated Narissa describing reality to NathanielNarissa greeting Edward in the elevator

A good number of actresses were considered for the part of Edward’s stepmother, the evil Queen Narissa of Andalasia, including Julianne Moore, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Geena Davis, Anjelica Huston and Jessica Lange. However, Susan Sarandon had been interested in the project since before Kevin Lima had even taken over its direction, so she was the natural choice (she’d even starred in a film called Stepmom). Her live-action scenes were so brief that they were filmed in just two weeks, and her mannerisms, characteristics, powers and features were all drawn from the likes of Queen Grimhilde and Maleficent.

Animated Narissa as a hagNarissa as a hag at the ball

Narissa’s motivations feel appropriately shallow as an Andalasian, for like many of the classic Disney villains, she desires power and will do whatever it takes to keep it. For some reason, she’s afraid that if Edward meets and marries Giselle then her claim to the crown will be in danger, but this doesn’t make a great deal of sense. If she is already on the throne and Edward hasn’t usurped her (which is itself odd), why would she assume that his getting married would jeopardise her sovereignty? Was Edward’s father the king, or was he a consort, making Narissa the legitimate ruler? Is it a kind of Catherine the Great situation? You get the feeling that Narissa is perhaps not legally entitled to rule but is taking advantage of her stepson’s dimness to hold onto the position.

Anyway, regardless of the technicalities, once Edward and Giselle do meet it becomes Narissa’s mission to get rid of the “forest rat”. Disguising herself as an old hag in the vein of Grimhilde, she successfully sends Giselle through a portal to reality and seems to think that’s the last she’ll be seeing of her. However, Giselle proves more resourceful than she anticipated, and worse, her stepson promptly follows his beloved to New York in an attempt to rescue her, which forces Narissa to take more drastic measures.

Narissa in Nathaniel's cocktail glass

Using her loyal manservant Nathaniel’s devotion to her advantage, Narissa dispatches him to the city as well, ostensibly as a chaperone for Edward. Her true motive, of course, is to have Nathaniel do her dirty work by getting rid of Giselle with one of her poisoned apples. Unfortunately, Narissa soon experiences another similarity with past Disney villains – her lackey is utterly useless at his job. After twice trying and failing to slay the girl and with only a single apple remaining, the frustrated Queen loses patience and heads to the Big Apple herself (apple, ha… I’m appalled that I only noticed that connection as I was writing this) to finish the job.

Narissa as a dragon atop the Woolworth Building

For the most part, Narissa is a fun and hammy villain who serves her purpose in the narrative nicely. She’s not particularly well-developed or nuanced, but she’s played with great gusto by Sarandon and has a fabulous design, both as her queenly self and as a hag. Disney were beginning to phase out their classic villains around that time in favour of the more subtle “twist” villains that they used throughout the 2010s, with only Dr. Facilier and Mother Gothel standing out among Enchanted’s contemporaries, so it’s nice to see a last homage to this archetype here. (It’s just a shame she didn’t get a song!)

My one big criticism of Narissa is how badly misused she is in the final battle, after she turns into a dragon at the ball and kidnaps Robert. The writers seemed to lose confidence in the audience at this point and threw subtlety out the window, forcing Narissa to spout line after line of lazy clichés as she basically narrates the film’s climax, drilling in the point that having the heroine save her man is so new and unusual. She’s also defeated in the lamest way possible, with Giselle actually playing little part in it; Pip simply uses his physics-defying mass to crack the spire that Narissa’s dangling off, leaving her to fall pathetically to the streets below like a hollow echo of King Kong. Dragon-Narissa sucks, to put it plainly, but if you disregard everything after her transformation, Susan Sarandon does a fine job of chewing the scenery up to that point.

Animated Nathaniel fretting about NarissaNathaniel arriving in New York

Timothy Spall is amazing in this, isn’t he? Cast in the role of Narissa’s put-upon servant, Nathaniel, he really accentuates the character’s hidden depths as they begin to surface over the course of the story. He’s fulfilling a similar role to that of the Huntsman from Snow White and is initially tasked with simply keeping Edward occupied, which one would assume is easy enough. However, after the whole fiasco with the troll leads to Edward meeting Giselle, Nathaniel soon finds himself on a much more morbid mission. At first, he’s all for Narissa’s plan to murder Giselle and has no qualms about poisoning her (while donning some incredibly dodgy and somewhat insensitive disguises), but he must contend with the efforts of Pip – now rendered mute by his transformation into a real chipmunk – who is desperately trying to alert Edward to his chaperone’s nefarious motives.

Nathaniel saying sleep tight

Yet during his time in New York, Nathaniel begins to change, much as Giselle does. After becoming a real person and starting to consume human media, he is prompted to do a little introspection – but he is far more depressed by what he finds than she is. With the development of emotional complexity comes the realisation that he is being taken advantage of by a woman who doesn’t give a flying fig about him, which gradually pushes Nathaniel to find a new sense of self-respect when he decides not to stand for her cruelty anymore. His arc is actually one of the most interesting in the film, as we watch this one-dimensional fairy tale henchman discover a sense of self and grapple with a kind of existential crisis, but since he’s not the main character we don’t get to spend a great deal of time with him.

Nathaniel watching televisionNathaniel signing books

Eventually, once Narissa has come to New York in person, Nathaniel is forced to face the fact that she has no respect for him at all and switches loyalties to Edward, apologising for the part he played in trying to slay Giselle. While it may feel like too little too late (after all, it’s only thanks to Robert that Giselle survives at all), it’s kind of cathartic to see Nathaniel redeem himself and turn his life around in the end. In another parallel with Giselle, he decides to abandon his old life in Andalasia and makes a fresh start in New York, where he apparently becomes a successful author. Good for him!

Nancy arriving to pick up Morgan for school

Robert’s long-time girlfriend, Nancy Tremaine, is played by none other than Idina Menzel – a Disney reference to the future instead of the past, as she would of course go on to become Elsa. Menzel was flattered to be hired “on {her} acting talents alone”, since this was a rare role in which she would not be required to sing (although there was a cut song between her and Edward at one stage). Her surname of Tremaine was obviously borrowed from the stepfamily in Cinderella, since the character was set to become Morgan’s stepmother at the start of the film.

Nancy talking to Robert at work

Nancy is a rare example of Disney portraying a stepmother positively, clearly one of the stereotypes they were most keen to rectify in today’s age of alternative family set-ups. Despite being directly opposed to Giselle as the original object of Robert’s affections, she is not presented as an antagonist in any way, just as Edward isn’t. I shouldn’t have to point this out really, but it’s nice to see her being treated respectfully; when she finds Robert in a compromising position with some pretty redhead who’s tumbled out of his shower, she is understandably upset without being made to look unreasonable. Her feelings are also taken seriously by the narrative; Robert feels appropriately guilty for hurting her and Giselle steps up to fix her mistake by smoothing things over between them, when it would have been so easy for them to just throw the relationship with Nancy aside immediately.

Nancy telling Robert to kiss Giselle

Nancy is humanised to contrast her with the fantastical Giselle. As a real woman, she isn’t perfect, but she’s clearly trying her best – she may not quite understand how to connect with Morgan, for instance, but it’s telling that she tries. Making time to come and take her to school can’t have been easy for Nancy as a busy working woman, but real relationships are about compromise and she wants to establish a good relationship with her boyfriend’s daughter, so she makes the effort.

Nancy is actually remarkably patient and forgiving, considering what Robert puts her through. After dating him for five years and getting to the point of engagement, she suddenly finds herself usurped in his affections by a random girl he’s known for less than three days – I know I wouldn’t be as understanding as she is! The saddest part is that we can see why she and Robert were a good match; much like Giselle, she is a lover of the romantic and the sentimental, which is presumably what attracted him to her in the first place as it set her apart from his killjoy ex-wife. Still, however unrealistic it may feel, I appreciate that the “other woman” in this story was not portrayed as some paranoid, hysterical harpy, as is so often the case. That’s just such a tired stereotype at this point and robs the narrative of its stakes by making the hero’s choice an easy one.

Nancy marrying Edward

Much as I love the rest of Nancy’s portrayal, though, I must return yet again to the issue of the sudden switcheroo that she and Giselle do with their respective partners. It’s bad enough in Robert and Giselle’s case when they’ve only known each other a few days, but at least they don’t get married. Nancy meets Edward for the first time at the ball, shares a couple of lines with him and spends all of a few minutes in his presence, but is apparently so smitten that she decides to just run off with him to Andalasia – a place nobody in reality has ever heard of, mind you, which she does not know if she’ll ever be able to return from. Talk about a rebound crush!

This ending massively weakens the whole story, after they took such pains to deconstruct the “outdated” trope of love-at-first-sight. Nancy had five years invested in Robert! Five years! Yet she abandons not only that but also everything else in her life, including an apparently lucrative career and any family she may have in New York, all for “a man {she} just met” – Elsa would be appalled. It isn’t really set up at all, apart from the fact that Nancy has a vague love of fantasy which attracts her to Edward’s princely demeanour. The only way to make this even somewhat palatable as a “happy ending” is if we assume that the portal between Andalasia and New York remained open for Nancy to pop back whenever she likes, but from the way she casually throws away her phone at the wedding, she doesn’t seem particularly bothered about keeping in touch. It all feels so reckless and unhealthy. The woman has given up reality itself to be with a man she’s barely been introduced to! Why on earth was this decision made?!

Animated Pip locked out of the weddingPip doing charades at Katz's Delicatessen

Alright, I’ll calm down now. Let’s wrap up with a quick look at the supporting characters, starting with Pip, the only named member of Giselle’s animal posse and her apparent best friend. These two are a bit of an odd couple, salty and sweet, but he evidently cares a great deal for her and is rooting for her throughout the story. The temperamental little chipmunk feels like a New Yorker long before he ever leaves Andalasia (despite being voiced by southerner Jeff Bennett) and is a lot of fun, but there’s not a great of personality to discuss as he never has to grow the way Giselle does.

After passing through the portal, he is of course robbed of his voice in a world where chipmunks cannot speak, so he is reduced to pantomime until the end of the film. These scenes, in which he becomes a rather dated CGI model and gains a new, squeaky little voice, are not very engaging to me; he’s at his best in Andalasia. For much of the film, Pip’s only role is to try and reveal Nathaniel’s attempts on Giselle’s life to Edward, who cannot decipher his elaborate charades. It’s a decent joke the first time around, but after several scenes it does start to wear a bit thin.

Pip signing books

Pip’s big moment mirrors that of Pascal in Tangled, when he helps to take down the villainess in a call-back to his method with the troll in Andalasia, weighing down the spire and sending her plummeting to her doom. It would have likely made for a stronger climax if Giselle could have dealt with Narissa on her own, but then I suppose having the virtuous heroine outright murder someone wouldn’t have sat well in a family film – even if that someone is a “very large” dragon.

Reduced to comic relief for most of the film, I was glad that Pip got to return to Andalasia in the end, where he joins Nathaniel in becoming a popular author. The animated version of him is definitely his best incarnation!

Sam helping Robert with his coat

The film is packed with cameos from famous Disney actors, but perhaps the most notable one is Jodi Benson in the role of Robert’s secretary, Sam. She does so much with so little here; I think it’s the only time I’ve ever physically seen her in a film instead of just hearing her voice. She chats with Robert about his engagement plans with Nancy and how he’s going to break it to Morgan, then later tries to help him find somewhere to send Giselle. I love how creeped out she is by Giselle’s airy-fairy vibe; it feels deliciously appropriate to see the literal voice of Ariel herself standing in front of a parody of everything Disney princesses used to be.

Ethan and Phoebe Banks reconciled

We also have Robert’s client, Phoebe Banks, and her husband Ethan (their surname is likely a reference to Mary Poppins). The two of them are in the process of getting a divorce, until a chance encounter with Giselle changes their perspective and (somehow) saves their marriage. Yeah… let’s just say there are some issues with how these two are portrayed. I won’t get into the whole “angry black woman” trope and the unfortunate implications it creates (especially when the film includes another angry black woman in the form of the bus driver), and I’m sure I don’t need to tell anyone by now how awkward it is watching Giselle just reach out and touch Phoebe’s hair. I know she’s complimenting it, but still… no.

Giselle complimenting Phoebe's hair

What’s really off about the Banks is the way their relationship issues are seemingly solved overnight by Giselle simply pointing out Phoebe’s beauty to Ethan, as though it’s something he’s forgotten and needs to be reminded of. In a film which is trying to sell the idea that real relationships are complicated, this subplot muddies things considerably. For one thing, there’s the implication that Phoebe’s looks are what Ethan values most about her, regardless of any personal differences they may have as people… and then there’s the issue of having a “white saviour” be responsible for fixing the issues that they apparently couldn’t solve themselves. Even Robert is incredulous – “You guys had problems!” he blurts in their last scene together – but whatever. I suppose the point was to show the audience that happily ever afters can happen in reality, however unlikely they may seem, but trivialising the messy topic of divorce was not the right way to get this across.

Troll in Andalasia

That covers all the characters who get any real amount of development, anyway. The rest of the cast are all cameos, many of whom represent a snippet of New York City’s incredible diversity. Among the most notable extras are the unnamed troll that Edward defeats in Andalasia, which Nathaniel frees in an attempt to get rid of Giselle before Edward finds her. He’s rather sweet in his own way, singing along to True Love’s Kiss and even turning up at Pip’s book signing at the end. True, he was about to eat Giselle, but then he is a troll – he seems to be just doing what’s expected of him and is even a good sport about being captured by Edward.

Carl telling Robert off about GiselleCalypso singersArty the construction workerAngry bus driver yells at EdwardDerelict old man smiles at GiselleClara saying Edward tried to kill herGiselle mistakes someone for Grumpy

We also have Carl, Robert’s boss at the law firm who is infuriated by Giselle’s antics, and Arty, the lead construction worker who has to deal with first Edward and then Nathaniel bursting through his manhole into Times Square. The poor guy doesn’t know what to make of this lunatic in mutton-chop sleeves brandishing a sword at him, but the chipmunk almost pushes him over the edge! Elsewhere, Edward and Giselle encounter some of New York’s many colourful characters in the form of the angry bus driver, the leader of the calypso band in Central Park, the “derelict old man” who cheekily steals Giselle’s tiara, the man Giselle mistakes for “Grumpy” at a crosswalk, and Clara, the elderly spinster who tries to inform Robert and Giselle that she’s seen Edward (if only they’d listened).

Animation

Enchanted is notable for being the first feature-length hybrid of live-action and animation since Who Framed Roger Rabbit almost twenty years earlier, although the two mediums are not blended together in the same way here. There are only a handful of scenes where live-action characters (usually Nathaniel) interact with hand-drawn ones (Narissa), but what we get is phenomenal; I especially love the exchange in the kitchen, where the poisoned apples keep switching back and forth between the two mediums depending on which character is holding them.

Narissa in the cooking pot

On a rather sad note, though, Walt Disney Animation couldn’t actually produce the hand-drawn sequences themselves, as they had shut down their traditional unit back in 2004 with the completion of Home on the Range. While it would be rebooted in years to come for a few more films (and is still employed on a smaller scale to this day), for Enchanted, the animated sequences were outsourced to James Baxter Animation in Pasadena, an independent studio founded by one of their own star animators.

Roughly 13 minutes of animation were produced, 10 of which are at the beginning of the film; Lima chose to do the Andalasia scenes in this style specifically as an homage to the classic fairy tale films that inspired Enchanted and tried to “cram every single piece of iconic Disney imagery” that he could into the opening sequence. It was the first theatrical Disney film since Pooh’s Heffalump Movie (2005) to feature hand-drawn animation, but the references contained within it were not all to animated features; homages can also be found to such works as Old Yeller (1957), The Shaggy Dog (1959), Swiss Family Robinson (1960), Bon Voyage! (1962) and Savage Sam (1963).

Animated Giselle stuck in a tree

Despite his nostalgic intentions, Lima wanted to make sure Enchanted had its own distinct style, with the team using Art Nouveau as a foundation for their design work. The character designs were of crucial importance, as they would have to be visually translated into two mediums while being recognisable in each. Giselle was designed as “a cross between Amy Adams and a classic Disney princess… not a caricature,” with Lima describing her as “a forest girl, an innocent nymph with flowers in her hair” and “a bit of a hippy”, giving her an overall sense of “flowing, with her hair and clothes. Delicate”. Baxter’s team worked particularly hard to make Prince Edward resemble James Marsden and give him some personality, because the princes “in these movies are usually so bland”. As for Narissa, she went through numerous prototypes before they settled on a final design because she had to “look like Susan Sarandon. And the costumes had to align closely to the live-action design”.

On that note, Lima made the wise move of bringing in an official costume designer, Mona May, and worked with her throughout the early stages of production to ensure the costumes would translate properly from the animated world to the real one. He even utilised the old technique of shooting live-action reference footage for the animators, which helped them to better capture Adams’ mannerisms as Giselle and join the two versions of her together more seamlessly. This in turn helped out the actors, who could then view the animators’ test footage to get a better idea of how their animated counterparts would move.

Pip trapped in a hamster ball

Most of the film’s visual effects were done by Tippett Studio, with additional work being carried out by CIS Hollywood, Reel FX Creative Studios and Weta Digital. Not everything was the work of computer wizardry, however; in Happy Working Song, many of the rats and pigeons were real trained ones, which were supported by animated ones for the more fantastical stunts (thankfully, all of the cockroaches were CGI). Watching behind-the-scenes footage of the making of this sequence gives some idea of the chaos of it all – they say in Hollywood never to work with children or animals, but here Kevin Lima was working with both!

Still, there were some things that real animals would simply not be able to accomplish. Bringing Pip into the real world required the magic of CGI, so the Tippett team prepared by watching and filming real chipmunks from “every conceivable angle” before creating a “photorealistic chipmunk” (their words, not mine) through the use of software like Maya and Furrocious. He was given some biologically incorrect eyebrows by his modellers to enhance his ability to emote, but this is common in animation. Apparently, when VFX supervisor Thomas Schelesny first showed the Pip animation to Lima, the director was surprised that he was looking at a CGI character and not footage of an actual chipmunk. (Technology marches on, I suppose; it’s hard to believe that was the case from today’s perspective). As in Roger Rabbit, the scenes where Pip would share the screen with real actors required a few tricks to help indicate his physical presence – sometimes, this would involve a simple stuffed chipmunk with wire armature inside, but for a less intrusive option, the team also used a rod with a small marker or a laser pointer to show the actors where to look.

Narissa as a dragon in the ballroom

Of course, a character the size of Dragon-Narissa took just a little bit more work. Narissa’s dragon form was designed to look like “a classic Disney villain” (which I’m assuming means like Maleficent) and was based loosely on traditional Chinese dragons, while also being made to look as much like Sarandon’s live-action self as possible. A long pole was used to direct the extras’ eyelines during her transformation, and the sequence was further enhanced with moveable set pieces, computer-controlled lighting and a repeatable head on the camera which were all synchronised. To film Patrick Dempsey’s expressions and movements, a greenscreen rig was built to hold him for the scene in which he’s carried up the Woolworth Building by Narissa. The rig included a robotic arm controlled by three different floor effects artists in the manner of puppeteers, which must have been rather frightening to be at the mercy of!

Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the computer animation in Enchanted is not aging at all well. Dragon-Narissa is easily the most dated aspect of it and she looks a bit naff by today’s standards (especially when she’s indoors), but even Pip isn’t holding up too well, likely due to the difficulties of properly rendering tricky textures like fur. As always, it is the traditional animation that looks the best after all these years; it may not truly be Disney animation, strictly speaking, but it made for a wonderfully fond farewell to their classic style and looks just as crisp and gorgeous now as it did in 2007. As ever, I can only express my fervent desire to see it return to Disney someday.

Plot

Let’s be honest: however the film turned out, the concept of dropping a Disney princess into the real world had terrific potential from the start. Watching Enchanted back for this review, it suddenly struck me how similar it is to Will Ferrell’s comedy Elf from 2003, which also features a naïve fairy tale character coming to New York City. I’m surprised more people don’t seem to make this connection; the similarities are so overt, in fact, that I wonder whether seeing Elf was what finally inspired the filmmakers to settle on which direction to go in, as Enchanted entered production less than two years later. I must admit that I would have liked to have seen this made as a grittier, less family friendly story; Bill Kelly’s original, raunchier script may have been even better had it been given the green light, but for what we got, Enchanted still manages to explore the concept pretty well.

Giselle emerging from the manhole

While Disney had dabbled in the realm of meta humour before this (most successfully in The Emperor’s New Groove and less so in Chicken Little), the massive success of Enchanted seems to have been what sparked the trend of “self-aware” Disney that we’ve been seeing ever since. The difference is that later films are more mean-spirited about it, taking on a Shrek-like vibe in which characters openly mock known Disney clichés as ridiculous (Maui in Moana is a good example). Enchanted may be many things, but it’s never mean-spirited, which I think is mostly due to Amy Adams’ warm and earnest portrayal of Giselle. Disney poking fun at itself was just a cute concept back then, whereas nowadays they do it because they think that’s what audiences want to hear – Disney has swollen into a monster conglomerate since 2007 and it’s become cool to hate on them again, so they try to beat you to it by hating on themselves.

As much as I enjoy the film’s subversions of stereotypes, however, I have to criticise it once more for being so damn obvious about it. It starts out well, but I can’t stand it when it falls into the trap of spelling everything out in the climax as though the viewers are morons – please have faith in your audience, screenwriters! Why is it that once Narissa turns into a dragon, she basically becomes a narrator for her last few minutes of screen time? You already have a narrator – and she’s Julie Andrews for heaven’s sake, so if you’re going to do this anyway you may as well make use of her! Instead, we just get Susan Sarandon trying in vain to make a laundry list of flat one-liners funny while detracting from what should be Giselle’s crowning moment of character development. Show, don’t tell, Disney. Patting yourself on the back for being so progressive and subversive kind of defeats the point.

Judy Kuhn in EnchantedPaige O'Hara in Enchanted

Judy Kuhn (top) and Paige O’Hara (below) making cameos

Of course, for the Disney ultra-fans out there, such details are most likely irrelevant. Quite apart from the half-baked romances, one of the main reasons to see this is for the references. Enchanted is positively bursting with “thousands” of references to Disney culture, at least according to Kevin Lima, who had great fun trying to cram in as many as possible. It’s almost like visiting one of the parks in movie form. His intention was not just to parody classic Disney films but also to write them a “giant love letter”; in fact, part of the reason it took so long for Disney to green light the project was because they were “always quite nervous about the tone in particular”. With Lima at the helm, they needn’t have worried; he and Bill Kelly became obsessed with injecting as much Disney love into this thing as they could, deriving the names of every character and anything else that needed a name from Disney’s back catalogue.

Nancy and Edward standing by the manhole

Okay, now I know I just used the word Disney six times in one paragraph and my teeth are starting to ache from the sugar, but even I have to admit this isn’t one of their strongest stories. Enchanted is pure comfort food, the kind of film you throw on when you want to put yourself in a better mood without thinking too hard about it. Beneath the surface, it’s hard to ignore the fact that for all its claims of turning old-fashioned Disney tropes on their heads, the actual story is yet another heteronormative narrative about how “marriage equals happiness” which refuses to even consider allowing anyone (except Nathaniel, I suppose) to remain single. It’s hard enough to accept Giselle falling for Robert after knowing him for mere days while rejecting Edward for the same reason, but Nancy pairing off with Edward felt downright insulting. She’s been dating Robert for almost as long as Morgan has been alive, but a few minutes in Edward’s presence and she knows he’s the one! It just doesn’t make any sense – much like Anna’s arc from Frozen years later, it feels like the film is shooting itself in the foot by embracing the very stereotypes it purports to be subverting.

Cinematography

I rarely get a chance to talk about the poster art behind the films I review, but please don’t think I don’t appreciate the beauty and influence a good poster can have. Enchanted is notable for being the last film for which legendary artist John Alvin created a poster before his death in 2008; if you look him up, you’ll find that many films from Disney and elsewhere benefited from his talents in the late twentieth century, so it’s about time I gave him some credit.

Enchantedposter

Much like Brother Bear a few years earlier, this film uses two distinct aspect ratios, beginning in 2.35:1 for the storybook opening and switching to the smaller 1.85:1 for the start of the animated sequence. This would be a neat stylistic choice if it was used consistently, but for some reason, the film switches back to 2.35:1 for the live-action sequences and then never switches back, even when the story does return to the animated world. To complicate matters further, TV airings of the film often put the start of the film in the pillar-boxed 4:3 aspect ratio and show the live-action parts in 16:9. I assume the choice was made to simulate the shift in perspective as in Brother Bear, but it would have been nice if they could have maintained the correct ratios for the correct mediums throughout.

Spall and Marsden filming

Timothy Spall (left) and James Marsden (right) filming at Columbus Circle in 2006

On a more positive note, this being partially a live-action film meant the crew could take advantage of shooting in the spectacular New York City, which had already been visited numerous times before in fully animated works. Given the impossibility of controlling crowds in such a popular destination, real tourists were often incorporated into the backgrounds of several scenes with hired extras in the foreground, including the ones in Times Square where Giselle emerges from the manhole and where Edward rides atop buses. Crowds would often gather to watch the production, and uninformed pedestrians can be seen in the final film pointing and laughing at Edward when he’s on top of the bus, adding a touch of extra authenticity to the scene.

Shooting the big musical number for That’s How You Know in Central Park proved to be one of the greatest challenges for Lima, with uncontrollable weather leaving them only seven sunny days out of 17 to shoot the five-minute scene. The dancers were choreographed by John O’Connell, who had worked on Moulin Rouge! (2001) beforehand and had to contend with around 300 extras on top of the 150 dancers. Hilariously, Wikipedia tells me that shooting was also “hampered” at times by Patrick Dempsey’s fans – were any of you there during production? I’m desperate for some anecdotes about this!

Other locations used in the film included the Brooklyn Bridge (where Giselle and Edward can be seen at the end of their date) and The Paterno, a 1909 Renaissance Revival apartment building with a curved, embellished, ivory-coloured façade that served as the residence of Robert and Morgan. Executive producer Chris Chase chose to set the climactic ball in the Woolworth Building, a neo-Gothic skyscraper from 1912, because he felt it was “such a medieval-looking castle” containing gargoyles and was “very decorated”. He further described it as “a modern-day reflection of a castle”, keeping to the theme of both reflecting and contrasting fairy tale motifs.

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Overall, this is a very colourful and lively film that’s brimming with Disney iconography, although at the risk of sounding overly negative about a film I swear I do like, I found the cinematography rather straightforward considering it came from the guy behind A Goofy Movie and Tarzan. From the sounds of it, Lima may have been a bit too preoccupied with fitting in all his Disney references to get as creative with the cinematography direction as he had been on previous films, so perhaps that’s why it feels a little lacklustre.

Don Burgess, the film’s cinematographer, was better known for live-action works like the Tom Hanks vehicles Forrest Gump (1994) and Cast Away (2000) at that time, with his only notable experience in animation being on The Polar Express (which used motion-capture). Don’t get me wrong, the film certainly doesn’t look bad – it just doesn’t wow me with its shot composition. There are tons of medium shots with people just standing and talking to one another, although things do get more interesting in the musical numbers (I loved the little Sound of Music reference at one point!). I guess I just have high expectations from the guy who brought us emotional punches like Clayton’s death, Kala’s exploration of the treehouse and the car scene where Goofy checks the map. I did love that one shot of Giselle sprinting out into the storm to face Narissa with her “glass slipper” abandoned in the foreground, symbolically leaving behind the fairy tales to embrace a more active, modern womanhood, but I just wish we could have had more of that kind of visual storytelling.

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Giselle’s wedding dress on display at the El Capitan Theatre

To swing back to the positive again, one aspect of the film’s design which I cannot praise enough is its costume design, courtesy (as mentioned above) of Mona May. May had previously worked on Clueless (1995), The Wedding Singer (1998) and The Haunted Mansion (2003), the first of which was an iconic moment in nineties fashion, so Giselle and her friends were in good hands.

May spent a whole year in pre-production working alongside the animators and her costume department of 20 people, perfecting her designs and contracting with outside costume shops in Los Angeles and New York. She was brought onto the project just as the animators were beginning to design the faces and bodies of the characters, as they knew they would have to “translate the costumes from two-dimensional drawings to live-action human proportion”. May worked to keep the designs “Disneyesque to the core but {brought} a little bit of fashion in there and humour and {made} it something new”, while admitting how difficult this was because she didn’t want to tread on any toes when “dealing with iconic Disney characters who have been in the psyche of the viewing audience for so long”.

The highlight of the costuming was, of course, Giselle’s wardrobe, which evolves with the character as a visual showcase of her development over the course of the story. Every little detail from the cut, colour and style of Giselle’s dresses reflect where she’s at in that particular part of the film, with each one becoming gradually less and less fantastical until she winds up wearing something a real, modern woman would wear.

Giselle dancing around her room dress shot

Giselle starts out in a bright pink, floaty number that looks like something out of a classical painting, with hair like Botticelli’s Venus, no shoes and a halo of flowers. While very pretty, it feels like something a little girl would love to wear, with her bare feet indicating her total lack of practicality at this point in time.

Then comes the famous wedding dress, a wondrous fantasy of silk satin the size of a house which served to provide a “humongous contrast to the flat drawings” and accentuated the image of a Disney princess. The “extremely poufy” sleeves were designed to make the waist look smaller and the skirt look bigger (as well as serving as a call-back to Ariel’s attire), with the whole thing held up by a metal crinoline that supported 20 layers of petticoats and ruffles. Eleven versions were made for filming, each of which contained 200 yards (183m) of fabric and weighed around 40 pounds (18kg). The dress evidently took inspiration from the big-skirted gowns of the Victorian era and Amy Adams described wearing it as “gruelling” because “the entire weight was on her hips, so occasionally it felt like she was in traction”.

From this point, Giselle ditches her crinoline to clean the apartment, then makes an entirely new dress for her first day in New York out of Robert’s curtains. This summery green-and-white number dilutes the pure white colour scheme of the wedding gown, perhaps to symbolise a fresh start, and the slimmer silhouette feels more reminiscent of a late Edwardian style, bringing Giselle a little bit nearer to the modern era. On her second morning, she whips up another dress with more of a 1950s vibe, which features a complex pattern that reflects Giselle’s own increasing emotional complexity.

Giselle arriving at the ball

At last, she changes into her sleek purple ballgown for the film’s climax, where she is dramatically contrasted with the elaborately-costumed partygoers to show how far she’s come. May drew inspiration for this one from 1930s musicals and particularly the gowns of Ginger Rogers, but also incorporated elements from early conceptual drawings of the classic princesses and gave it a modern touch, to make it seem like it could have been bought from Bergdorf Goodman. She explained, “It’s so important to be slick and modern, to be not fairy tale anymore, because we’ve seen the fairy tale… She’s now a modern girl. She’s deciding to stay here to really understand this world, to know her feelings and who she is”, an idea she felt was supported by the gown’s silhouette and colour (purple can be said to represent dignity, or in this case perhaps maturity, contrasting with the girlish pink of Giselle’s first dress). Amy Adams helped to design the “glass slippers” she wears during the scene, which were custom made to allow for dancing.

Giselle dancing in the apartment dress shot

By the time we last see her, Giselle has donned an ordinary yellow dress with flat shoes and a simple ponytail, reflecting the completion of her transformation into a real woman. I do love the way the costuming was used so creatively to express Giselle’s journey, but if I had to nit-pick one little thing, it would be that she is technically not following the ball’s dress code at the end and looks out of place. Reading around, it seems many other critics didn’t care for her purple ballgown, either, considering it to be a “make-under” when compared to her lavish costumes from earlier, but then I guess that’s the point. Perhaps if they’d just chosen a more flattering style? (Also, I know the upkeep of long hair is a pain, but it always hurts to see Giselle lose half her lovely locks at the end too!)

Edward in the living room

Mona May certainly didn’t slack off when it came to the other characters’ costumes, either. Prince Edward never adapts to the real world as Giselle does and so required only one costume, but what a costume it is! She made sure “not to lose Marsden in the craziness of the outfit… where he still looks handsome”, and included padding in the chest, butt, and crotch (of all places) to give him the “same exaggerated proportions as an animated character” and improve his “posture – his back is straight, the sleeves are up and never collapse”.

Narissa crossing the street

For Narissa, Lima allowed May to be more “fashion-forward”, so she made her look like a “runway lady” wearing something that is “still Disney” but also “high fashion, like something John Galliano or Thierry Mugler might design”. Narissa would be appearing in all three of the film’s mediums: live-action, hand-drawn animation and (briefly) computer animation, so May had to make sure that the costume could be accurately translated across all three in terms of “colour, shape and texture”. Narissa’s outfit includes a leather corset and skirt (what is it with bad guys and leather?) to make her look more “reptilian”, as well as a cape for pure drama (Grimhilde and Maleficent both had magnificent capes). May worked with the animators to incorporate aspects of the dragon’s form into the costume, making the cape resemble its wings and wrapping the layers of the skirt around like a tail; even Narissa’s precious crown morphs into the dragon’s horns later on. Truly exceptional work all around.

Soundtrack

To really make this the ultimate Disney love letter, composer Alan Menken and lyricist Stephen Schwartz were invited to create the music for Enchanted (although king-of-parody Weird Al was apparently being considered as a songwriter at one point). The pair had collaborated several times prior to this on works such as Hunchback and Pocahontas and knew their way around a Disney film, so they began by searching for the appropriate moments to introduce songs into the story beats. Schwartz found the process of incorporating and justifying songs easier in this film than other live-action musicals because its unique concept “allowed the characters to sing in a way that was completely integral to the plot of the story”.

Performed by the Hollywood Studio Symphony and conducted by Michael Kosarin, the music of Enchanted is one area where I genuinely have little to criticise – Alan Menken rarely puts a foot wrong as it is, but when joined by Schwartz they truly do make magic. Menken was clearly having a blast with all the references, loading the score with whimsy and nostalgia while also leaning into melodramatic bombast at times, and it really kicks the whole thing up a level. My favourite part of the score was probably Narissa’s leitmotif, particularly when she’s rising up out of the manhole – what an entrance.

Although the pair completed six songs for the film, only five were kept in the finished film. A title song called Enchanted which would have been a duet between Idina Menzel and James Marsden was cut, presumably quite early as Menzel has mentioned being hired on the understanding that she would not be singing. Apparently, a song was also originally written for Narissa, but that got cut for pacing because it occurred too close to So Close (ironic) and in Lima’s words, he wanted to prevent the film from becoming a “full out” musical. (Whatever that means.)

Just like the rest of the film, the music is packed with references to Disney classics. True Love’s Kiss, the first number set in Andalasia, was written to be “a send-up of, and an homage to, the style of those Disney animated features”, particularly I’m Wishing from Snow White and A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes from Cinderella, which were also about the joys of being in love. Menken and Schwartz found it a challenging piece to create because of the “many preconceptions with that number”; it had to be reflective of two different eras of Disney history and it took some time before they had something that satisfied everyone. Amy Adams wound up performing it in more of an operetta style to keep it closer to the sound of the earlier princesses, as opposed to the more Renaissance-era Broadway sound of newer ones like Ariel.

True Love’s Kiss makes for an excellent opener, striking just the right balance between mockery and respect with its unashamedly over-the-top emotions. It’s dreamy, romantic and completely outside of reality, the perfect song to express Giselle’s character at that point in the story, and it actually reminded me somewhat of the Road to the Multiverse episode of Family Guy from 2009, which I suspect may have been partly inspired by this film. Disney’s old, sentimental musical numbers are an easy target for parodies and they’re always enjoyable for fans. Also, if you look closely, you’ll notice that the mannequin of Giselle’s “true love” that she’s constructing during the song is dressed like Robert will be at the ball later in the film (the outfit is an homage to Beauty and the Beast).

True Love's Kiss reprise

In true classic Disney fashion, the short reprise of this number after Giselle meets Edward is almost better than the main song, ending with a beautiful swelling harmony which really shows off Amy Adams and James Marsden’s voices.

Giselle’s next two songs, Happy Working Song and That’s How You Know, pay further tribute to Disney’s past. Lyrically, Happy Working Song pays homage to such songs as Whistle While You Work (Snow White), The Work Song (Cinderella), A Spoonful of Sugar (Mary Poppins) and Making Christmas (The Nightmare Before Christmas), while the instrumentation references Heigh-Ho and the works of the Sherman Brothers (along with a self-parodic “Alan Menken style” middle eight that references Belle from Beauty and the Beast). Orchestrator Danny Troob pointed out that “Beauty and the Beast was, for its time, very forward-looking, and Happy Working Song is deliberately retro”. Troob played a big part in shaping this number, actually, steering the song away from Menken and Schwartz’s original 1970s-inspired arrangement to try and draw it closer to the 1950s.

Happy Working Song was among the film’s most popular numbers with critics (even those who disliked the film in general) and I have to agree; it’s always the one I find myself humming after watching. It’s bouncy and bright, making the scene a technical and musical triumph that serves to emphasise Giselle’s best qualities – when she finds herself in a difficult situation, she makes the best of it and cheerfully does what she can to improve things, even embracing the city vermin as “new friends” (although perhaps someone should tell her about the diseases they’re surely loaded with).

That's How You Know imagery #1That's How You Know imagery #2That's How You Know imagery #3That's How You Know imagery #4That's How You Know imagery #5That's How You Know imagery #6

Next up is That’s How You Know, the film’s big Central Park spectacle which offers a parody of many of Alan Menken’s Disney compositions, including numbers like Under the Sea (The Little Mermaid) and Be Our Guest (Beauty and the Beast). Schwartz stated that he had to “push it a little bit further in terms of choices of words or certain lyrics” while maintaining “the classic Walt Disney sensibility”, but Menken pointed out that his Disney songs have always been “a little tongue-in-cheek”.

This is another insanely catchy bop that makes you want to get up and dance, and it’s interesting to see that it incorporates more contemporary music styles, a theme that continues as Giselle moves further away from her fairy tale roots. The blending of different cultures (like the calypso singers and mariachi band) feels very New York, while also serving as a fun nod to the calypso vibes of The Little Mermaid as well. As Giselle spreads joy throughout the people of New York, building to that final gleeful crescendo at the Bethesda Fountain, it’s hard not to crack a smile in spite of yourself. This film is relentlessly cute.

For the penultimate song, the lilting ballad So Close, Menken and Schwartz looked to the titular song from Beauty and the Beast specifically, which Menken himself had written the music for. The cinematography was deliberately planned to invoke the camera movements of the film’s ground-breaking ballroom sequence, and Adams and Dempsey attended several dance classes together to perfect their moves before filming the scene. Adams was used to dancing solo and found the experience of learning to dance with a partner unusual as she had to “break down some of {her} own barriers”, struggling to let Dempsey lead and losing a few toenails in the process. Eventually, a professional was brought in who advised her to “surrender” to Dempsey, reminding her that “you are dancing your own dance even though you are being led”.

Music supervisor Dawn Soler recruited Jon McLaughlin from his record label when Menken and Schwartz began searching for the right singer, and the final track was arranged and produced by Robbie Buchanan, who had previously arranged the pop versions of the themes from Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Pocahontas. Unlike the film’s earlier songs, the songwriters felt it appropriate to have this late number performed by an “outer voice” instead, presumably to reflect the fact that Giselle has by this point become too real to keep bursting into song. Patrick Dempsey protested the idea of singing a small portion of the song under his breath as he does in the film, but Schwartz insisted, again thematically linking everything together by showing us that Robert, too, has changed.

I was surprised to find that this is considered one of the film’s weakest numbers, as I personally adore it. Sure, it’s a little sentimental, but as my regular readers know, I’m a sap for these treacly romantic ballads and this one is aching with longing – Adams really sells the emotions in this scene.

Ever_Ever_After_music_video

The film’s final song is non-diegetic, playing over a montage of the characters settling into their new lives. Ever Ever After completes the film’s musical journey into the contemporary by embracing a more country/pop sound, complete with Carrie Underwood to perform it. It was the last song to be written, replacing the cut Menzel and Marsden duet, and was accompanied by a music video in which Underwood appears in both animated and live-action forms, rather like what was done with Elton John for The Road to El Dorado. It’s a decent ending number with some impressive belting from Underwood, but for me, this is the film’s true weakest song – it sounds like generic radio fare and doesn’t stick with you the way the earlier pieces do. I suppose it’s the same problem I had with Giselle’s purple ballgown, and with Robert; the “real” in this world is eclipsed by the fantastical.

I won’t spend too long on the acting as this is starting to run on a bit. I’m sure I don’t need to restate just how marvellous Amy Adams is in this role; it’s no wonder it made her a star. It would have been so easy to phone it in with a role this hammy, but she does a good job of keeping Giselle feeling grounded and believable even in her zaniest moments, giving her a playfulness that makes her endearing while also delivering the heavier moments with appropriate sincerity. Elsewhere, I can’t get enough of the pairing of James Marsden and Timothy Spall, both of whom were perfectly cast and play off one another nicely, but I must admit that I don’t care much for Patrick Dempsey’s Robert, who comes across as dull and isn’t given space by the script to really shine. Susan Sarandon also feels rather wasted, although she does have a great voice for animation. If only they could have kept the dragon quiet! Jodi Benson and Rachel Covey deserve a mention too, for making their small roles stand out with their charming performances.

Final Verdict

As I’m sure many of you will remember, Enchanted was a major critical and box office success in its day, establishing Amy Adams as a household name and raking in more than $340 worldwide. It won three Saturn Awards and landed two nominations at the Golden Globes, as well as three more at the 80th Academy Awards, all for Best Original Song. Only three other films have ever had three songs nominated at once, those being Beauty and the Beast (1991), The Lion King (1994) and Dreamgirls (2006). However, the latter film and Enchanted failed to win for any of their nominated songs, so the Academy subsequently chose to limit all future films to only two song nominations apiece.

Enchanted was the first film to be released under the Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures name following the retirement of Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, and it topped the charts in territories across the globe, doing particularly well here in the UK and in Italy. Its earnings made it the second-highest Thanksgiving opening after Toy Story 2 in 1999, as well as the first Thanksgiving film to open at number one in the twenty-first century. Roger Ebert, LA Weekly, The Philadelphia Enquirer, Rolling Stone, Premiere, USA Today, and The Boston Globe were just some of the many critics who gave the film positive reviews, with most mentioning Adams’ performance as a notable highlight. Some compared it to her star turn in the Oscar-nominated Junebug (2005), then her best-known work, while others noted the similarities between her career trajectory and that of Julie Andrews, whose appearance in Mary Poppins had a comparable effect (and who, lest we forget, is also in this film).

Originally, there were plans for Disney to add Giselle to the official princess line-up (although she isn’t technically a princess by the film’s end), with a 2007 Toy Fair showing an early design for a Giselle doll whose packaging declared her new status. However, Disney realised that doing this would require them to pay Amy Adams lifelong royalties for the rights to use her image, so the idea had to be scrapped. Still, while Giselle may not have been marketed as an official princess, there was no shortage of Enchanted merchandise to be had from various outlets, with all Giselle merch featuring Adams’ animated likeness.

The film arrived on DVD and Blu-ray in 2008, but has yet to appear on Disney+ as yet because (presumably) they’re waiting to release it with its upcoming sequel. Titled Disenchanted, this new film has been in development since 2010 and is expected to premiere directly on the streaming service, thus bypassing theatres (a worrying new trend). Directed by Anne Fletcher and written by Jessie Nelson, Disenchanted is being filmed as we speak, and the title alone suggests intriguing possibilities. It will be interesting to see what they do with the sequel to the film that kicked off this whole “woke Disney” trend, as it feels like so much has changed since 2007!

Now, as we reach the end of another review, I feel I should probably apologise to fans of this one, because I’ve unintentionally torn it to shreds. I wasn’t expecting to be so critical of Enchanted going into this; it’s one of those films where it doesn’t hold up well under scrutiny, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun watching it. This served as a kind of Endgame crossover for Disney fans of my generation, long after Roger Rabbit and long before Ralph Breaks the Internet, so it’s worth seeing for the references alone, but I would also recommend staying for the music, the charming hand-drawn animated sequences and above all, for Amy Adams. This film really wouldn’t have worked without her.

Thank you so much for reading, and I hope you’ve enjoyed this review! Next time, we’ll be starting our Pixar season with The Incredibles, which will be going up sometime next month if all goes well. We also still have two more entries in the First Thoughts series, the next of which is Over the Garden Wall; I’ll try to cover that before August is over, too. Work commitments continue to mess with my deadlines, but I’ve been looking forward to this next film for a long time, so I swear I will try to make time! Until next time, take care and staaay animated!

My Rating – 3/5

*Fun fact: According to Word, I’ve used the word Disney 86 times in this review.

References

I consulted various web sources for this review:

By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12789497 – credit for poster

By A. Hunæus – http://romanovaoa.blogspot.de/2010/09/blog-post_9334.html (direct link), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32440689 – credit for image of Princess Dagmar of Denmark in crinoline

By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43136541 – credit for shot of animated Carrie Underwood

By Mcanevet – Flickr (voir ci dessous), CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3259067 – credit for shot of Timothy Spall and James Marsden during filming at Columbus Circle

By Shoshanah – Giselle’s Dress, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5487646 – credit for shot of Giselle’s wedding dress on display

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/274930752222798278/ – credit for Edwardian dress

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/422845852491178909/ – credit for 1950s dress

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbvZbhQ0N7I – Doug Walker’s Disneycember review of the film

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGjcfwNgAqY – It’s quite fun to watch CinemaSins poke holes in the flimsy romances

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMaZniSpmFM – Behind-the-scenes special features on the making of the film

https://slate.com/culture/2007/11/there-s-something-rotten-about-enchanted.html – a critique of consumerism in the film by Dana Stevens

https://feministdisney.tumblr.com/post/19584487854/a-feminist-review-of-enchanted-new-sparkles-on – an interesting review of the film from FeministDisney on Tumblr

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enchanted_(film) – Wiki page

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0461770/ – IMDb profile

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8 Replies to “Film Review: Enchanted (2007)”

  1. This is one of my absolute favorite, favorite films. I mean, yeah like you said it opened the door for mean-spirited subversions of fairy tales like Ralph Breaks the Internet (shudder), but on its own, it does a great job bringing fairy tales into the modern era while retaining that childhood imagination that makes us all love classic Disney so much. It always makes me feel better after a rough day. And the costumes are GORGEOUS. Narissa is my dream cosplay, and I actually do cosplay Giselle’s True Love’s Kiss dress (complete with beanie baby chipmunk). I definitely agree that shoving Edward and Nancy together in the end was cheap, but hey, there’s a sequel coming so the worlds can’t stay that separate!

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  2. I know what you mean, it’s always a good time when you watch this one. I honestly wasn’t expecting to pick it apart like I did, but it just didn’t seem to hold up well under scrutiny. Love the music and costumes though! I’m still waiting to do my first cosplay, it was meant to be last summer but the event keeps getting postponed haha. Narissa would be an AMAZING cosplay – just watch your ankles in those crazy shoes!

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  3. I don’t think you nitpicked the film too much; it seemed a fair amount to me. I do think this is one of Disney’s better films though and one of the few live-action Disney films I’ve actually given an “A” to, lol!

    I also admire your standing up for and defense of the older princesses and their positive characteristics and “traditional” feminine tropes and that not everything has to be deleted and done away with.

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    1. Glad you like it! I’m always quick to defend the old princesses, even from Disney themselves. They are *not* bad role models, and I do get tired of people saying so. Cancel culture ain’t claiming those girls if I can help it.

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  4. As you might recall from my comment on the latter film, my experience with ENCHANTED was pretty much the same as it was with TANGLED: The pre-release marketing really turned me off, and it was quite a while — nigh unto 6 years, in this case — before I actually saw it, but it grew on me after the first two or three viewings. That said, I must thank you once again (after your deconstruction of FROZEN) for giving me some food for thought about the creative choices made during production.

    I agree that Kevin Lima’s background at WDAS certainly helped in striking a balance between spoof and sincere homage, but if you ask me, he wouldn’t have been able to pull it off if he hadn’t gotten to gain some experience in live action with ELOISE AT THE PLAZA (made for “The Wonderful World of Disney”) and 102 DALMATIANS. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that he’s probably the most consistently successful film director of the “cut their teeth in animation and transitioned to live action” category. (From what I’ve read, Brad Bird’s TOMORROWLAND was a near miss, while Rob Minkoff succeeded beautifully with STUART LITTLE (I’m reserving judgment on THE HAUNTED MANSION).)

    As far as the actors go, I must admit that I prefer Amy Adams as the more emotionally mature Mary in THE MUPPETS (2011), but I do appreciate her effusive joie de vivre as Giselle; it just goes to show, she really has some range. Likewise, I agree that Susan Sarandon has a natural voice for animation; her readings as Miss Spider in JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH is proof positive of that. (Speaking of Narissa not having a song, I read on Stephen Schwartz’s website that he and Alan had written one for her called “Nobody Gets in My Way;” you can read the lyrics on pages 4 and 5 of this Q&A document: http://stephenschwartz.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Disney-Enchanted-1.pdf)

    You’re also right on the money with Patrick Dempsey being the weak link in the cast; he’s almost as dull here as he was on GREY’S ANATOMY (my mom’s a fan of the series, though I fail to see why). Interestingly, the first of his performances that I heard — namely, as the replacement voice for Kenai in the BROTHER BEAR sequel — was actually not that bad (though I would have been **much** happier if they had either brought back Joaquin Phoenix*, or cast an Alaskan Native actor who could closely imitate him, at the very least).

    *I have the same objections to the casting of Rob Lowe as Simba in THE LION GUARD (with which I have several other issues, but that’s a discussion for another time); if they couldn’t bring back Matthew Broderick, then would it have killed them to allow Cam Clarke — who was voicing a different character in the series — to record the character? I mean, he had done so for a few TIMON AND PUMBAA appearances and CIRCLE OF LIFE: AN ENVIRONMENTAL FABLE, as well as singing “We Are One” for SIMBA’S PRIDE…

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