A fairy tale princess finds true love and happiness amid the traffic jams of New York City, in a delightful new family film from Walt Disney Pictures that is part animated, part live-action. Alan Silverman has a look at Enchanted.
Once upon a time in a far-off land there lived a fair young maiden named Giselle who, like so many of her fairy tale sisters, would burst into song at a moment's notice, accompanied by a chorus of charming woodland creatures. Enchanted begins in the familiar world of Disney animation; but as Giselle prepares to marry her charming Prince Edward, the wicked Queen Narissa banishes the young woman to - as the Queen puts it - "a place where there is no 'happily ever after:'"
At the other end of Giselle's tumble down a magic well is New York's neon-lit Times Square. Not only that, she has been transformed from animated to a real, live woman ...albeit a confused one.
Luckily for Giselle, she is rescued by a harried business executive and single dad named Robert; and before the tale is done, each learns something new about reality and fantasy and love.
Amy Adams stars as Giselle who grows into a real person while not abandoning her her fairy tale animated origins.
"That was something I loved about the script: she got to take that journey and it posed a really great challenge for me as an actress to try to make that transition subtle and not too jarring for the audience and still keeping with the spirit of Giselle," says Adams, "...not changing who she is, just changing her reality. I still wanted her to have the essence of the end. I didn't want to strip her of her goodness and kindness and loving spirit. I just wanted to lift the curtains a bit."
In her fairy tale world, Giselle just calls out the window and darling woodland creatures scamper to her side; but in New York, they are rats and pigeons and cockroaches. No matter, in one of the film's funniest scenes, she enlists them to help clean Robert's messy apartment while, of course, singing a 'Happy Working Song.'
"Oddly enough, you can not train a rat to scrub a toilet. I've tried, but they don't really get it," she says. "There are ones that sit and ones that scamper. They can train a bird to fly on cue from one trainer to the next. The cockroaches ...I don't work with cockroaches. I draw the line. It's funny, the smallest of the all the animals that can cause me no harm and I'm just like 'get 'em away.' "
Patrick Dempsey, a co-star of the TV hit Grey's Anatomy, plays Robert, the New Yorker both bewildered and dazzled by Giselle's innocence.
"I think the real challenge was trying to find the right tone," Dempsey says. "How much humor can you bring to it as well as how much reality d you bring to it ...and where does it get in the way? Sometimes that was a lot of fun and sometimes it wasn't, because everybody is having a blast around you and you couldn't get caught up in their style of acting ...and then you're driving the plot; but at the same time, the reactions that my character has is how the audience is going to know how to react and that was really important."
Of course, a Disney fairy tale must have a wicked villain and Oscar-winner Susan Sarandon revels in the role of Queen Narissa.
"It is so much fun. It is almost addictive fun to be evil and when you look at the Disney iconic characters, why you love those evil gals ...like if you look at the one in "Snow White" ...she just relishes the fact that she's evil. She just has no empathy or compassion," Sarandon says. "She just doesn't care (and) that's so liberating. You spend your life trying to get rid of all those dark things and then you play someone who is just completely over-the-top evil ...it's fabulous."
But will she get what she deserves in the end? It's a fairy tale, of course; and Enchanted director Kevin Lima, whose previous films include the live-action version of 101 Dalmatians, says he wants to entertain the whole family.
"One of the things that I enjoy about making family movies is that the movies always have a tendency to have hope at their center," he says. "There's a sense of joy in making a family film and, no matter how cynical we become, I don't think that goes away. I think it still lives deep inside of you and I hope, in some way, that this movie allows it to come out and express itself."
Enchanted also features James Marsden as the charming, though a bit befuddled, Prince Edward; Timothy Spall plays the evil Queen's hapless henchman; and Broadway stage veteran Idina Menzel is Robert's fiancee. Also from Broadway, the musical score is by Alan Menken with lyrics by Stephen Schwartz.