'Disenchanted' Review: The Suburbs Come to Life With Magic
Amy Adams leads a fairy tale excursion into suburbia. But is that a good thing?
Now Streaming: What comes after 'they lived happily ever after'?
Released in November 2007, Enchanted merrily played with the popular conception of the Disney princess, plucking the cheery Giselle (Amy Adams) from her 2D animated world, where she was about to marry Prince Edward (James Marsden), and dropping her into modern-day Manhattan. The 'fish out of water' story, written by Bill Kelly, was clever, funny, and entirely family-friendly. It caught the tenor of the times, boosting Adams' rising star in the process and becoming a certifiable box office hit.
Three years later, a sequel was announced and entered into 'development hell.' Adam Shankman (Hairspray) was announced as director in 2016, but it took several more years before the sequel was finally given a 'green light' for production, based upon a screenplay by Brigette Hales (11/22/63, Once Upon a Time); Richard LaGravenese, David N. Weiss and J. David Stern are credited for the story, which begins some years after the events in the first film, which charmingly brought Giselle and Robert (Patrick Dempsey) together with his 6-year-old daughter, Morgan.
With the passage of time, Robert has become a successful lawyer, and so the family decides to move to suburbia, a not-uncommon decision for Manhattan residents of a certain age and career achievement. Giselle is eager to explore the new customs of Monroeville, while Morgan, now a teenager in her petulant years and played by Gabriella Baldacchino, whines and wishes to return to New York City.
Thanks for reading Everything But Horror! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Truth be told, it only takes 24 hours for Robert to realize he doesn't relish the idea of commuting to work every day, and Giselle quickly years for things to be better than they are; to add another challenge, their palatial home is still under renovation by, it looks like, a billion tradespeople. (Just how successful has Robert become to hire so many people to renovate his home? The film doesn't say, but it serves as a quick reminder that THIS IS A FANTASY.)
The wishing well in the first film appears again on Giselle and Robert's property, though it is a wishing wand that serves as the sequel's deus ex machina, allowing Giselle to transform Monroevieville into a fairy-tale town overnight. The immediate effect makes everything better, at least to Giselle's eyes, but soon enough, cracks begin to appear, and Giselle begins to wish that she had wished a different wish.
Under Adam Shankman's reliable direction, the musical numbers are a stand-out once again, though the funny business that surrounds them is not, of course, as fresh and clever as the original. Amy Adams, who made the original sing with her sincerely pleasant and positive outlook, does her best to make the sequel sing too, this time with a personality that is increasingly affected by the dark side of the magic that she brought forth into her world. Adams is quite agile in bringing forth the contrasting sides of her personality, and switching like quicksilver from one to another in completely convicing fashion.
Gabrielle Baldacchino adds teenage angst and a robust singing voice to the production, and the return of Idina Menzel ensures another top-flight voice is in the mix, to add to Adams' and Marsden's voices. As in the original, Alan Menken composed the musical score, and once again teamed with lyricist Stephen Schwartz for the tuneful, witty songs.
On the "evil" side, Maya Rudolph is very, very funny as the 'queen bee' of Monroeville, who is transformed into a wicked Queen through Giselle's unintentional machinations. In the original, Susan Sarandon brought gleeful meance to the villain role; here, Maya Rudolph brings a different energy that feels more like your mother pretending to be evil; you know, at heart, that she's not all bad, and that contributes to our contented enjoyment of her performance.
Disenchanted is entirely pleasant and an enjoyable watch, even if it's not quite up to the original's reinvention of the Disney princess. In short: it's fun, and that's certainly a good thing. [Disney Plus]