When I was growing up, I was obsessed with Disney princesses. For some strange reason, of all of the doe-eyed beauties that populated the cartoons, I loved Pocahontas the most. At summer camp while most people (i.e. boys) were out taking archery lessons (which would have benefited the Pocahontas in me) I was inside making replica necklaces that I claimed were for my mother. Luckily I knew she wouldn’t be caught dead in a string of beads with an aqua bear tooth dangling from the end; it was all mine.
Ever since “The Little Mermaid,” I eagerly awaited the arrival of each subsequent movie, as it played into not only the musical theater side of me but the merchandising freak as well. Burger King tie-ins, future Broadway musicals, and everything in between; these movies helped define my childhood in a very strange way.
In the past few years, they’ve all been released on DVD and as I watch each one I’m amazed at how ridiculous they are. Some of them have great music, but on a whole, the women are lovesick, bordering on the verge of psychotic, damsels in distress who meet their prince and fall in love as soon as his nipple-less chest comes into view. I’m amazed that a good parody of the genre hasn’t come along until this week’s release of “Enchanted.”
In true Disney fashion, they’ve been advertising this one for months in advance. Part classic animation, part live action, (with a small amount of 3-D thrown in), “Enchanted” is the closest thing I’ve seen to a true Disney princess movie since Mulan (which aside from introducing Disney’s first male character with nipples, didn’t do much for me…or anyone.)
“Enchanted” begins as a cartoon in the land of Andalasia, where Giselle sits awaiting “true love’s kiss.” As soon as her Prince Charming rides up on his white horse, they fall in love much to the dismay of the evil Queen mother. Rather than have Giselle usurp her, the Queen disguises herself and banishes Giselle to New York City, and real life.
Upon her arrival (out of a manhole in Times Square) the scenario draws immediate laughter. In the hands of anyone less capable than the truly stellar Amy Adams (who knew what a great actress she was when she did “Drop Dead Gorgeous?!”) the joke would grow tired very quickly. Decked out in a ball gown with a circumference as big as a small planet, she stumbles around New York searching out anything familiar; what she finds is Patrick Dempsey.
Blessed with a head of hair that would make a Treseme model swoon, Dempsey’s character has a moment of hesitation before taking Giselle into his New York apartment. This is where the movie starts to unravel slowly. The initial shock and humor of seeing a cartoon character in the real world starts to wear off, and it becomes clear that the script rarely transcends the generalities of the cartoon movies which it spoofs.
There are a handful of charming songs, written by Disney veterans Stephen Schwartz and Alan Menken that keep the proceedings moving along quickly for the first half of the movie before petering out. Along with spoofing the songs of past Disney hits quite nicely, the cast is populated by all of the women who reigned as Disney princesses in the 90’s. Lining the scenes, the keen observer (or Disney nut like I used to be) will recognize Jodi Benson (Ariel), and Judy Kuhn (Pocahontas), as well as Broadway veterans Tonya Pinkens and the usually fabulous Idina Menzel.
With the introduction of Menzel’s character, the seemingly icy girlfriend of Dempsey’s family man archetype, I started to lose interest. Menzel, who has appeared on stage in “Rent,” and won a Tony Award for “Wicked,” makes it clear that she should stay on the stage. Something about her acting style reads awkwardly on screen, and in addition to that, she has some very unfortunate wig and costume choices towards the end of “Enchanted.”
Anyone who knows me will be sure to point out that I seem to be a fan of spoofs. The unfortunate thing about “Enchanted” is that it rarely rises above the level of the material that it lovingly mocks. There are things that an audience will allow characters to get away with in a cartoon world that just aren’t acceptable in a live action feature. Character development is one of them, and while Ariel’s swooning over Prince Eric the moment she sets her fins on him appeared cute, here it seems more strange than "enchanted."