Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I've been dreaming of a true love's kiss

Honestly loyal blog-readers, there are many movies out there I don't like. Honest and truly. I'm not some sap with no taste that giddily approves of everything I see. It just so happens I've been lucky/unlucky enough to hit a streak of material that not only connects with me on an emotional level, but has had enough critical grist for me to chew over. I will hopefully appreciate lots more films on an intellectual level for the rest of the year but I doubt I will love (and I mean LOVE) another movie that comes out this year the way I loved Enchanted.

Yes, yes I am a giant lame girly-girl. Now shut up and read. This is the best film that Disney (sans Pixar) has put out since the Lion King. Oh yes, I went there.

Director Kevin Lima has flown under the radar for a while with reliable but not particular memorable flicks both live action and animated (Tarzan, 102 Dalmatians). Here, he connects with screenwriter Bill Kelly who has written a few high concept screenplays such as Blast from the Past, with intriguing premises but suffer from lackluster execution. With Enchanted everything comes together for these two in a way that is nothing short of extraordinary. As sturdy and fun as the concept is (animated princess and prince stranded in live action New York for those of you who shut themselves indoors during Thanksgiving) the film's heart beats because of two performances; Amy Adams and James Marsden as Giselle (love that name) and Prince Edward respectively.

This is not to say that Adams hasn't been outstanding before. Her work in 2005's Junebug was remarkable (though admittedly at the time I attributed this to her playing an overtly likable character in the script). She's also been perfectly pleasant in her brief bits in Catch Me If You Can, The Office and as Will Ferrell's act three romance in Talladega Nights. Enchanted, however, is Adams chance to step up to the plate on a national level and she knocks the sucker right out of the park. It's a character that any other actress would've been walking a thin line at best. Giselle could come off as cloying, winky or God help us, saccharine. I shudder at the thought of Zellweger or a Bullock taking a crack at this. With Adams though every move and gesture, every word out of her mouth is so completely genuine. She is simply a Disney animated princess come to life. There can be no other explanation. Look at the way she moves her hands, the way she sits, her singing and dancing (both of which make the film a contender for my favorite musical of the year despite only three brief but charming Menken/Schwartz songs-all three got applause from my audience). Everything is effortlessly lifted from all over the Disney cannon. No way Adams doesn't at least win the Comedy/Musical Golden Globe. A gorgeous redhead princess named Giselle. Sigh, I'm in love.
One performance this outstanding would be enough for any movie. Enchanted has TWO. James Marsden is having a year un-equaled by any male actor (with the possible exception of Josh "Holin' in my" Brolin*). I don't know if it's him or his representation, but Marsden has unquestionably found his niche in Hollywood. He'd been stuck in bland second-man parts, but in light musical-comedy...forget it, the man OWNS! Take everything I said about Adams and change the gender and you've got Marsden in this film. He's gloriously brash and buckles swash with the best of them. Every single line and move elicited huge laughs from me. It's an incredibly bold performance, but again, never tounge-in-cheek.

As for the other actors, Patrick Dempsey turns in fine enough work but he's in an unenviable position of being surrounded by out-sized incredibly fun characters. Who could compete? Susan Sarandon plays the wicked Queen in a different kind of over-the-top that doesn't quite match what Adams and Marsden are doing (and her dialouge at the end is obvious and nearly dips the movie into, heaven help us, Shrek territory). Timothy Spall and a CGI chipmunk are also way more winning then I expected, the later being a clear audience favorite. Idina Menzel (who alas does not sing in the movie) as the other woman and Rachel Covey as Dempsey's daughter give good reaction but again its hard to talk about them considering what they're up against.

The film is loaded with all sorts of references to other Disney classics some obvious, others more subtle. It'll be fun revisiting the film (something I plan on doing often) to look for more. The script also has some fun in exploring the social mores of the pristine animated fantasy world against our own less idealized one. There's a part of me that wishes this went deeper (the script hints at this when Giselle notices Dempsey's chest hair poking out his bathrobe and its not played completely for laughs) but ultimately this a film that anyone can go see and enjoy be they total gushing romantic or if they have fond memories of the Disney animated classics. Consider this a new addition to that list.


El Gigante said...

*From the CHUD podcast

A-Train said...

Wow, a sparkling recommendation! Were you able to enjoy the film even after your tampon fell out? ha ha. Actually, a very thorough review. I must check it out.

harley said...

I can't believe they put Idina in a movie with singing and didn't have her sing. Do they put ScarJo in movies where you can't see her? I think not. Lame.