The Fairest of Them All!
by Scott Mantz
Starring: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden
Directed by: Kevin Lima
Magic movie on the wall — who is the fairest of them all?
That would be Amy Adams, the irresistible star of Disney’s “Enchanted” — a delightful, witty and very funny new family comedy that has the words “instant classic” written all over it. Talk about a charming crowd-pleaser, “Enchanted” has something for everyone, since it’s a fairy tale in the classic Disney mode that cleverly pokes fun at other fairy tales in the classic Disney mode.
The fact that it works as well as it does is a huge testament to Adams, whose revelatory performance as a woefully naïve pregnant girl in 2005’s little-seen “Junebug” was rewarded with an Oscar nomination. But if that film was her breakthrough, then “Enchanted” is her breakout — and what a breakout it is, since it could (and should) lead to another nomination.
With her beaming blue eyes, pearly-white teeth, fire-engine red hair and vibrant delivery, Adams fits the role of Princess Giselle like a glove — or, better yet, like a glass slipper. That’s obvious from the moment she is banished from the magic kingdom of Andalasia to the mean streets of New York City, where her transformation from traditional 2-D animation to live action flesh-and-blood does nothing to dispel her idealistic, energetic, trusting disposition.
Her knight in shining armor comes in the form of Robert Phillip (Patrick Dempsey), an overworked divorce attorney and harried single father. He takes Princess Giselle under his wing, where she proceeds to cast a spell on his life whether he likes it or not (and eventually, he does). Complications further ensue when the dashing Prince Edward (James Marsden) crosses over to win his princess back — but that’s not going to happen if his mother, the evil Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon), has anything to do with it.
Where films like 1987’s “The Princess Bride” and 2001’s “Shrek” successfully managed to spoof the genre while fitting the bill as timeless fairy tales in their own right, “Enchanted” has the added bonus of coming from the studio that made cinematic fairy tales so magical in the first place. Of course, that’s Disney, the happiest place on earth whose best-known classics — ranging from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Cinderella” and “Mary Poppins” to “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Little Mermaid” — get clever nods here.
And the film is in good hands, thanks to the direction of Kevin Lima, a Disney veteran whose experience in both animation (he co-directed 1999’s “Tarzan”) and live action (2000’s “102 Dalmatians”) serve him well in this hybrid. Lima is right on target with the tone of Bill Kelly’s sharp, witty screenplay, since he keeps the fairy tale stereotypes grounded in reality — when the characters break out into song, everyone looks at them like they’re crazy; when Giselle talks to the animals, they usually end up being rats, pigeons and cockroaches.
But what really pushes the film over the top is how brilliant the actors are at staying true to their optimistic animated characters even after they cross over into the pessimistic live action world. Adams gives a star-making performance, but James Marsden — on a roll after playing Corny Collins in “Hairspray” — is also hysterical as the heroic prince. Susan Sarandon seems to relish playing the wicked queen, while Patrick Dempsey (McDreamy on “Grey’s Anatomy”) anchors the film as the level-headed attorney who soon realizes that opposites attract.
At one point in “Enchanted,” Queen Narissa says that there are “no happily ever afters.” By the time the movie is over and you’re beaming with a big, fat, giddy smile on your face, you will beg to differ. And that’s a fitting conclusion to the movie that really is the fairest of them all — and then some.
VERDCIT: SEE IT!