Thursday, November 29, 2007

Movie Review: Enchanted

The name pretty much says it all: "Enchanted" is an adorable Disney film that may not breach any standards of cinematic excellence, but is nevertheless a solid, entertaining movie and a great way to spend a few hours.

I think what I liked most about "Enchanted" is the way it plays with the fairy tale formulas. Unlike the "Shrek" movies, which had fairy tale characters responding to their environment with realistic perspectives, "Enchanted" drops your stereotypical naive songbird, vapid prince and evil witch right into the heart of New York City (a transition that also moves the film from animation to live-action). The twist is that they arrive with their native qualities intact, so when Giselle, our Snow White-esque heroine, starts singing, animals respond as they do in her homeland... except, since she's in New York, she gets cockroaches, rats and pigeons rather than deer, bluebirds and chipmunks. And when Prince Edward valiantly slays a "steel beast" with his sword, he has to deal with a pissed-off bus driver.

I also appreciate the fact that the relationship between fantasy and reality is a two-way thing; the "Shrek" films were, in my opinion, wholly iconoclastic in that, by design, Shrek and his companions are always overturning and lampooning the age-old shlock Disney's been foisting on us for decades. But "Enchanted" takes a different approach: yes, we're certainly meant to find Edward's empty-headed preening amusing, and Giselle's blind faith in true love and innate goodness get her into plenty of trouble... but on the other hand, urban characters such as Robert, Morgan and Nancy don't really benefit from their realistic, sophisticated points of view. These are people who've taken practicality to its extreme, and find themselves stuck because of that choice.

It's rare to find a movie that doesn't ask you to choose sides in an ideological conflict: "Lord of the Rings" is pretty strongly biased against industry, and I can't see anyone agreeing with the Fairy Godmother that Shrek doesn't deserve a happy ending just because he's an ogre. "Enchanted" manages to pull off a nice balance between the two worlds it depicts, all the more impressive given that it's a Disney film.