Traditional Meets Postmodern Enchantment
By Rianne Hill Soriano
Disney’s ‘Enchanted’ is the best postmodernist fairy tale I have seen to date. And I am confident to say that it is bound to become a classic. This shimmering pastiche is obvious but inescapable: ‘Enchanted’ is as good as its name.
How refreshing it is to be able to gently make fun of Disney tradition while upholding it at the same time – no cheap or vulgar jokes or any treacle of whatever kind. Under director Kevin Lima’s inspired helm, this heart-winning musical comedy is a new breed of fairy tale that pokes fun at Disney’s animated classics without any hurting. ‘Enchanted’ maintains a delicate balance between the magic of traditional fairy tale and the deconstructionist approach to the princess genre. As a sweet, lighthearted antithesis to what is commonly shown in cinemas nowadays, this sardonic fairy tale unites animation and live action, fantasy and realism, practicality and dreaminess, and CG effects and hand drawn elements all suitable for kids and adults alike. Essentially postmodern and deconstructionist, the film indulges in all the dreams of fairy tale romance while making some 21st-century adjustments. It equally sprinkles fairy dust to its world of traditional fairy tale animation and its contemporary New York counterpart. As an expert blend of comedy, romance, and adventure, it proves that a motion picture can be light and frothy and yet still be intelligent and emotionally rewarding.
‘Enchanted’ takes its enchanting premise and prances away with it, and in turn, holds the audience happily captive. An irresistible blend of screwball comedy and fairy tale musical, it manages a warm, charming story that makes itself much more than a simple satire. It successfully recasts the traditional, sugar-spun Disney fairy tales into a winning, modern-day opus spinning its story with the needed puffiness as provided by its sharp and clever script, enchanting direction, and charming performances. This witty romantic fantasy romp playfully spoofs animated-fantasy formula with unabashedly romantic goofiness and clever winks – delightfully reworking the many old Disney favorites while incorporating fresh twists of its own as it commutes between Disney’s patented cartoon universe and the real world all with cleverness and grace. This surprisingly sophisticated riff on animated fairy tale movie clichés is one of those rare pieces that will actually work for all ages: not only kid-friendly but a guilty pleasure for adults as well. In short, it provides an all out entertainment for the whole family.
Disney really goes ‘meta’ in this witty, exuberant musical comedy with classic Disney set pieces, splashy production values, and freshly deconstructionist approach to what the Disney canon has offered for all these decades. From its real world fairy tale premise, its parody of its own is notable for how its heroine makes us realize how far a bit of innocence and optimism can uplift the people’s outlook in today’s untrusting world. While keeping its wish-fulfillment fantasy aspect in tact, it recognizes the idea that the world inhabited by its audience is filled with disappointment as well as with joy. And its pastiche and nostalgia serve as a sweet and affecting romance with fluffiness surviving the needs of its postmodernist attack.
The situations in this cinematic charmer are funny. It feels effortlessly fun. As a hugely clever and comic story of a fairy tale heroine who finds herself in real-life New York City, Princess Giselle’s happily ever after views on life and love changes after meeting a handsome and pragmatic lawyer from the Big Apple. What is even more impressive is how the film’s postmodernist outlook effectively tries to touch on both sides of the world’s duality: the traditional and the modern as seen from the plot to the production design; the happily ever after concept of love and the realistic pains and happiness of loving; the damsel/prince charming in distress and the damsel/prince charming fighting and saving her/his true love; the lover who fights for his love and the lover who loves unconditionally to the point of doing the ultimate sacrifice; the sweet and adorable animals on children’s stories and the sweet and not so sweet animals found in the big cities; and the storybook romance and the complicated situations in the real world of love and relationships. There are simple and yet commendable symbolisms all throughout the film. And it gets its message across and makes us think of what are the Andalasias and New Yorks in our own lives.
Cinematography, production design, visual effects, editing, sound design, and music are pretty tight in contributing to the film’s acceptable musicality, fluffiness, and puffiness to the point that some may even want to sing all the way home and make some clothes out of the favorite curtains.
Anchored by an entrancing performance by the lead performer Amy Adams, along with the strong ensemble cast, the film is sensationally fueled. To begin with, watching Amy Adams’ thoroughly captivating acting as Princess Giselle is worth the price of admission. Her genuine comical charm weaves some serious movie magic as she keeps up with her role as a ‘Disney heroine come-to-life.’ Truly magical and cartoonish in the right dose of it, she looks and sounds as if she really emerges from a fairy tale land. This bewitchingly good actress is every Disney princess in one ebullient package. The sight of her gliding and beaming and chirping in this film is nothing but a magical cinematic fair. She brews up her most transfixing expressions and sings great fairy tale songs that absolutely complement her vivacious performance. She does something akin to what Johnny Depp has in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise where an adorably inventive performance is what it takes to push the film over the top. Patrick Dempsey as Robert Philip is terrific for his role as the representation of the postmodernist-deconstructionist thrust of love and life. James Marsden as Prince Edward makes a wonderful version of the storybook Prince Charming with a comic touch to it. Susan Sarandon’s wicked Queen Narissa blends with the ensemble even though her real-life version tends to look more like a drag queen than the typical dark, evil queen and witch with a traditionally classy but menacing beauty. The rest of the ensemble makes the film nothing but a true delight to the eyes, ears, and heart. This includes Rachel Covey as the cute, sweet, and street-smart little girl Morgan Philip, Idina Menzel as the modern woman with a soft side Nancy Tremaine, Timothy Spall as the loyal servant and guilty struggler Nathaniel, among others. Most people will adore the slapstick performers as well – including a prominently featured CGI chipmunk. Indeed, all of them contribute to a musical comedy so affectionate with the conventions it spoofs and the message it brings.
Disney returns to its roots while embracing the manhole covers of actuality and modernism in this rare musical comedy that will appeal to the whole family. ‘Enchanted’ may not be a perfect film, but it is so thoroughly delightful that the audience can’t go wrong with its lightly and sprightly demeanor. It’s silly and sweet, but never cloyingly so – bringing sheer movie bliss to its audience. A great family film that entertains both the kids and adults, ‘Enchanted’ hits every high note it sings… and it more than lives up to its title.