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ENCHANTED

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, Timothy Spall, Idina Menzel, Susan Sarandon
Director:  Kevin Lima
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  Walt Disney
Features:  See Review
Length:  107 Minutes
Release Date:  March 18, 2008

“Gees, lady…are you for real?”

“I…I think so…”

Film ***1/2

Enchanted is the kind of off-beat romantically comic musical that openly defies the cynic in you.  It’s like an effervescent sugar rush where the bubbles tickle your nose and go straight to your head.

Leave it to Disney, ever the pioneer in the history of animation, to turn the format upside down.  Here, we begin with what looks like a typically gorgeous, musical and funny Disney cartoon, but switches gears and puts its characters into the real world for the ultimate fish-out-of-water tale.  How does a filmmaker apply the rules of animation to reality?  It must be harder than director Kevin Lima makes it seem.

We begin in the land of Andalusia and a perky, pretty young maiden named Giselle (the remarkable Adams), the kind of Disney heroine that can beckon woodland critters to her side when she bursts into song.  She dreams of a handsome prince, and that prince would be Edward (Marsden).  They fall in love instantly (of course) and plan to marry.

This doesn’t sit well with Edward’s wicked stepmother Narissa (Sarandon), who will lose her spot as queen once Edward takes a bride.  So she disguises herself and tempts Giselle to a magical well, but the well doesn’t grant wishes…it’s a portal to a place where dreams don’t come true and there is no happily ever after.  That would be modern day New York.

The innocent and sunny Giselle is as lost as she can be amongst the attitude and bustle of Manhattan, but darned if she ever loses her spirit.  A handsome young divorce lawyer named Robert (the McDreamy Dempsey) and his daughter try to help out against Robert’s better wishes.  Giselle seems a little touched in the head for his taste, particularly when she summons New York’s wildlife (that would be rats, roaches and other assorted vermin) in a musical number to help clean his apartment.

In the meantime, Edward, who’s as handsome and inept as any in the grand tradition of Disney cartoon princes, comes through the well and intends to rescue his beloved.  But he’ll need help, especially since his sidekick Nicholas (Spall) really intends to make sure Giselle never returns to Andalusia.  That help comes in the form of the chattering chipmunk Pip, who can talk in his animated world, but is reduced to a squeaky voice none can understand in reality!

The real world can be a hard, cold place, even for an animated character, but Giselle never seems to lose her spirit.  In one of the most joyful moments of the year, she coaxes the cynical Robert to express his love for his girlfriend in a rollicking Oscar nominated musical number “That’s How You Know”, which blends tradition musical strains with the street sounds of New York and turns a hardened city into a blissful cabaret, if only for a few minutes.

May I just say…Amy Adams is simply stunning.  I fell in love with her with her Oscar nominated turn in Junebug, but what she does here (and, ahem, SHOULD have been nominated for an Oscar for) is nothing short of magic.  With an infectious charm that would seem like parody in the hands of a lesser actress, Ms. Adams anchors the insane proceedings with an earnestness and a genuine spirit that will warm the coldest heart.  And man, she can really sing, too.  There’s no end to her surprises.

It would be easy to dismiss Enchanted as silly, or light, or inconsequential, but in reality, this is a true musical in the grandest sense of Hollywood classics.  I never thought a modern musical could capture that spirit without seeming goofy or constantly winking at the audience, but this film deserves to be remembered alongside many of the great ones.  It really is that magical.

BONUS TRIVIA I:  Director Kevin Lima provides the voice for Pip in the real world.

BONUS TRIVIA II:  Julie Andrews provides the narration, and look for former Disney princesses Jodie Benson (Ariel in The Little Mermaid), Paige O'Hara (Belle in Beauty and the Beast) and Judy Kuhn (Pocahontas) in cameos.

Video ****

Simply breathtaking…the combination of animation and live action make for a splendid blend that brings out the best DVD can offer.  The images are bright, colorful, and crisp, with excellent detail and contrast throughout.  Lighter are darker scenes are both equally strong.  Superb!

Audio ****

With both DTS and Dolby Digital, you can’t go wrong with this dynamic, energetic and expansive audio offering.  Dialogue is clean and clear against a bed of constant effects and Alan Menken’s remarkable music.

Features ***

Included in the extras are three “Fantasy Comes to Life” featurettes, which show the behind-the-scenes of the “Happy Working Song” and “That’s How You Know” musical numbers, plus the big ball at the end.  There is a blooper reel, six deleted scenes, and a cute “pop-up” story featuring Pip for the kiddies.  Rounding out is a music video from Carrie Underwood and a preview of the Blu-Ray version of the title.

Summary:

Enchanted is whimsical, musical, escapist fare that will warm the heart and tickle the funny bone at the same time.  Kevin Lima has resurrected more than one art form with this turn.  And Amy Adams proves she has more than what it takes to be the cinema’s next shining star.

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