movie film review | chris tookey


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  Enchanted Review
Tookey's Rating
10 /10
Average Rating
6.59 /10
Amy Adams , Patrick Dempsey , James Marsden
Full Cast >

Directed by: Kevin Lima
Written by: Bill Kelly , with songs by Alan Mencken and Stephen Schwartz

Released: 2007
Origin: US
Length: 107

Enchanting, fantastic fun for all the family.

Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Enchanted is easily the best family film of the year – superior even to Ratatouille – and, though it may seem at first to be designed for little girls, it’s really aimed at anyone with a sense of humour and a willingness to be entertained. This most touching of the year’s romantic comedies is also the most tuneful musical since Beauty and the Beast, and the most inventive combination of animation and live action ever (yes - even better than Mary Poppins and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?).

It deserves to make a household name of its leading actress, the gorgeous, witty and sublimely talented Amy Adams (pictured). If you’re looking for a film to see this Christmas, this is – as Jose Mourinho would say - the Special One.

The film starts out as a deliciously camp, over-the-top parody of Disney cartoon at its most sickeningly sweet, though children may take it at face value.

Giselle (voiced by Adams) is a fairytale princess who sings to woodland creatures with the sweet soprano soppiness of Disney’s Snow White. She is about to marry the ridiculously handsome but extremely thick Prince Edward (James Marsden), only a day after literally falling into his arms, when his stepmother, a wicked Queen (a splendidly vicious Susan Sarandon), pushes her down a magic well and into a terrible land where there is no such thing as “Happily ever after”. That’s present-day New York City.

Within minutes, the live-action princess (now played by Amy Adams in the flesh) has been robbed of her tiara by an elderly vagrant. “You are not a very nice old man!” she scolds him. She is rescued by a six year-old girl (Rachel Covey) who believes she is a real princess. The child’s lawyer father Robert (Patrick Dempsey), considers more realistically that Giselle is probably a mental case. She offers to move in with any local dwarves she can find (“I hear they’re very hospitable!”) but none seems to be available.

Hardly has she woken up the next morning and impulsively turned Robert’s curtains into a new dress (the first of several affectionate nods to Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music) than she is clearing up his bachelor-style mess with the help of the local Manhattan fauna – not the usual Disney bunnies, deer and lovebirds but a grisly collection of rats, pigeons and cockroaches performing Busby Berkeley routines – to The Happy Working Song, an inspired mix of lilting melody and witty lyrics that actually made me weep with laughter.

Against his will, Robert – a jaded realist about love, who is contemplating getting engaged to his girlfriend of five years - becomes weirdly enchanted by Giselle’s innocence, ultra-femininity and all-round adorability. She has pretty much the same effect on everyone in Central Park, whom she incorporates into the biggest and best production number since Oliver!, entitled That’s How You Know.

More and more fairytale characters cascade into New York, either to save or murder the princess: the impulsive Prince Edward, who finds Manhattan more than a little confusing and needs time to work out how to use a revolving door; a helpful animated chipmunk appalled to find himself in a world where chipmunks can’t talk; the Queen’s obedient sidekick Nathaniel (played by the great Timothy Spall); and finally the wicked Queen herself.

I won’t tell you more, except that the story takes many delightfully unexpected directions, and artfully incorporates computer-generated effects into its storyline - not to mention a glass slipper, poisoned apples, a fancy dress ball and a dragon. It’s never less than marvellously magical.

It doesn’t end up as a savage satire on the tweeness of Disney - a wise decision, but one that is bound to disappoint some critics. Instead, it’s a heartfelt celebration of innocence, kindness and the kind of love that lives happily ever after, as long as you work at it.

The brilliance of Enchanted is that it’s a generous homage to the traditional Disney virtues, but with a new, knowing twist. It’s bound to be compared with Shrek, but it has more charm and sincerity, a praiseworthy determination to be wholesome and family-friendly, and much catchier songs.

If I were to nitpick, it could have done with one or two more production numbers and a few better jokes for Timothy Spall, but Enchanted achieves a joyous perfection that no other Hollywood release this year has managed. It’s the kind of movie, like It’s A Wonderful Life, that audiences instinctively applaud at the end, then find themselves wanting to see again and again.

The music is by one of the few melodic geniuses working in musicals today, Alan Mencken, and every number from the hilariously cheesy opening love duet True Love’s Kiss onwards is a knockout, in the finest tradition of his work on The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.

The clever lyrics are by Stephen Schwartz, who also worked with Ashman on the excellent score for The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The director is Kevin Lima, who made the superb cartoon version of Tarzan. The inspired script is by Bill Kelly, who penned that underrated charmer starring Brendan Fraser, Blast From The Past, another comedy about an innocent fish-out-of-water trying to survive and find love in a big, cynical city.

Even the costume designs are funny and romantic enough to warrant the price of admission. They’re by Mona May, whose previous credits include the similarly witty Clueless and The Wedding Singer.

But the star of the show is Amy Adams. I first noticed her talent as the touchingly shy young wife of the con-man anti-hero (Leonardo DiCaprio) in Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can. She was funny as the heroine’s self-absorbed sister in The Wedding Date, and brilliant as the naive, not-very-bright sister-in-law in Junebug, for which she rightly won an Oscar nomination. She even managed to shine in a minor comic role in the blokish Will Ferrell vehicle, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. But Enchanted is the movie which will catapult her to the top of every Hollywood casting director’s A-list.

It’s easy to see that Princess Giselle could have been camped up and made thoroughly annoying, if played by the wrong actress. Adams is emphatically the right one, taking her as seriously as if she had been created by Chekhov, but never forgetting to make her adorable and fun. Not since Julie Andrews burst upon the Hollywood scene with Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music has a musical comedy marvel of this magnitude appeared. A superstar is born.

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