Eugene Weekly : Movies : 1.3.08


Magic Well
Taking a cosmic tumble

ENCHANTED: Directed by Kevin Lima. Written by Bill Kelly. Songs by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz; score by Alan Menken. Starring Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, Susan Sarandon, Timothy Spall, Rachel Covey and Idina Menzel. Walt Disney Pictures, 2007. PG. 107 minutes.

Giselle (Amy Adams) discovers a whole new world

Even before I saw Enchanted, I had the film’s centerpiece musical number, “That’s How You Know,” stuck firmly in my head. But watching it on YouTube has nothing on seeing it in the theater. Now, I go to sleep with the song running ’round my head like a toy train on a circular track, and I wake up with it still spinning. I feel about this song rather like I do about the movie in which it appears: On the one hand, its sugar-bright perkiness is tempered with some sweet notions about the realities of love and life — chiefly that one’s love ought not be taken for granted. But on the other hand, the girl is singing about how it’s the boy’s responsibility to prove his love, and it’s still all about finding your special someone.

But happily ever after does get a bit of makeover in the hands of screenwriter Bill Kelly (who also — oh, no! — wrote the stinker Premonition) and Tarzan director Kevin Lima. Enchanted takes some of the classic bits of Disney’s fairy-tale films — the handsome prince, the instant love, the woodland animal friends — and makes them into the assumed reality of the film’s animated land, Andalasia. When we meet Giselle (Amy Adams), she’s singing to a chorus of critters about how she’s dreamt of a kiss from her true love, who’ll doubtless be along soon. That’s all it takes in this world: You kiss the right person, you’re golden. But Andalasia also has rather backward inheritance rules: If the prince marries, Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon) loses the throne, which she’s not happy about. There will be no youthful, spunky princess for Prince Edward (James Marsden). A little shove into a magical well will take care of that.

Oh, what a well. Giselle finds herself, after a stunning fall through some sort of cosmos, in New York City at its hustling, bustling best. There, she meets Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and his princess-loving daughter Morgan (Rachel Covey), who, in one of those totally un-New York turns, take in the possibly batty Giselle. Over a few days, these folks all take turns teaching each other things. Giselle learns about dates and divorces; Robert learns about romance and the incredible ways pigeons and cockroaches can clean your apartment if you just sing the right song to them.

Much of Enchanted is irresistible, and that’s largely due to Amy Adams. Giselle is a mash-up of Disney lasses; she’s got Ariel’s flowing red hair, Snow White’s forest friends and, eventually, a beast borrowed from Sleeping Beauty to face (the actresses who voiced or sang Ariel, Belle and Pocahontas, by the way, show up in small roles). She’s also got the shallow pep that marks so many Disney characters, and the best thing about Enchanted is the gradual, graceful way this too-innocent sweetheart awakens to the possibilities and depths of life and love.

Adams, even when you just want her to snap out of her storybook sweetness, is a charmer, with her wide eyes and endlessly gesturing hands, and she sweeps the film along like the skirt of her massive, poufy white dress. But as self-possessed as she winds up — and what a refresher that is — in the home stretch, Enchanted can’t resist some of the very happy ending standards (and other Disney clichés) that it sort of, kind of, maybe wanted to send up a little. The wicked, jealous old queen must be soundly defeated, and Giselle, no matter what she learns about dates and the real life of a single father, is going to get her Prince Charming, even if he’s not a prince. At least she gets a career, too. And I can hope that maybe, every so often, she takes the initiative in showing him she loves him, no matter what that damn song says.