**SPOILERS** for Enchanted below.
When I heard of the premise of Enchanted, in which a Disney cartoon princess becomes transmuted into real-life New York City, I thought it would be dumb. Then I saw a preview and could not stop laughing. The movie lived up to the trailers’ promise–funny and as good a romantic comedy as any I’ve seen in a long while. Amy Adams and Patrick Dempsey are fantastic as the leads, walking a very difficult line between unbelievable (as in what guy could ever accept a woman coming from nowhere and acting like Disney’s Snow White into his NYC apartment?) and totally credible (and if he did, how could he help falling in love with her?). The movie is deft in accomplishing this–we are willing to forgive logistics non-sequiturs like the villain suddenly appearing as a hot-dog vender or a restaurant waiter attempting to poison Adams’s Giselle merely because that’s how it’s done in the classic cartoons, but give an appreciative nod to Dempsey’s Robert taking the precaution of having his daughter come to his room to sleep for the night because he’s letting a total stranger stay on his couch. A highly realistic thread is Robert’s struggle between his feelings for Giselle and his resistance to their fairy-tale quality and his engagement to a woman he doesn’t love so much, out of his sense of realism and a lurking fear that he must do this for the sake of his daughter’s motherless state–Dempsey conveys all this on his face and in his eyes, finally put to very good use after a few years of dogging hapless Meredith Grey on television. And it is notable that he does not step up to give Giselle The Kiss of True Love, even at the point of her possible death, until released from his former promise by the grating but ultimately goodwilled fiancee. This Austen-esque sense of duty and honor is compelling and, like many other touches, brings a lovely gravity to the movie’s light-hearted hilarity.
When I saw James Marsden as the cartoon Prince Edward, I had a fleeting thought of “I’ve see him before” and flashed a little on Ally McBeal, but still didn’t truly put it together until I saw the credits–he was so convincing and so far out of the last role I’d seen him in, as Cyclops in X-Men, that it was startling. Susan Sarandon gives a suitably evil performance as evil stepmother/wicked queen/poison-apple hag, and Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz put their long-honed Disney songwriting skills to wickedly funny use, as in Giselle’s housecleaning song that calls all available New York animals and gamely rallies after discovering they’re all “vermin.” And a cameo by The Little Mermaid herself, Jodi Benson, wraps it all up into a nice self-parodying package that manages at the same time to give out a big dose of warm-hearted joy.
Woven of two levels–obvious enough that any little girl who’s ever watched a Disney movie will understand the humor but grown-up enough for adults to enjoy the romance and ridiculous situations–this movie is very well done on a premise that could have proved far more difficult.