Thursday, 24 January 2008

The Good, The Bad, and the Cinematic: Enchanted

There isn't a sensible person in the world who doesn't enjoy the occasional Disney film. I, myself, am pushing the boundaries of an acceptable fondness for Disney with my quest to own all their animated classics on DVD - 14 so far, and probably 15 by the end of today, should things go my way. Still, the idea of an animated Disney princess being thrown into the real world is one that should rightfully terrify any respectable film fan. Alternate reality switcheroos tend to end badly in terms of how good the film actually is, especially when the film is one aimed primarily at children. Characters get overplayed to an embarrassing level of pantomime acting, and jokes become increasingly slapstick as the film goes on.

Not in Enchanted. Well, not much at least. The characters are charming and lovable where they should be, destestable without being silly when demanded, and generally well rounded. Even Timothy Spall, who is left with the comic-relief henchman role and is responsible for the few moments of pantomimery (new word!) in the film pulls himself together superbly (if predictably) by the end. Lead actress Amy Adams is clearly on the verge of real success, and is so fantastic in the role of Giselle that were it not for intelligent career choices already made (such as her role in Charlie Wilson's War) she would risk being typecast as the perfect princess forever more. Patrick Dempsey plays down his role, and is a great success in doing so, and the exceptional supporting cast, including James Marsden and the always-fantastic Susan Sarandon don't let down the film for a second.

Perhaps what makes this film such a triumph for Disney is their willingness to take a step back from recent failures and return, even though they maintain a modern feel, and pay tribute to the classics that made the studio such a success in the past. There are more references to past films than Tarantino pays to pop-culture in his - the actresses behind no less than three previous Disney princesses make physical appearances, references to famous scenes are made, and even when a scene contains no references it is written so well that it often feels like there is one.

The greatest parts of Enchanted though are the song and dance numbers, each a perfect addition to the Disney songbook. Not only are they the first memorable Disney songs since perhaps even Hercules, which was released over ten years ago, but they are also fantastic songs in the context of the film alone - it is no wonder that three of them have been nominated for an Oscar. The standout song, and the one that deserves above all to win the Academy Award is 'That's How You Know', possibly the best Disney song since The Little Mermaid's 'Part Of That World'. The scene, too, is fantastic - a live action representation of all the animated dance numbers in the vain of Aladdin's 'Prince Ali' or The Lion King's 'I Just Can't Wait To Be King'. The film smartly satirises itself when Dempsey's character wonders aloud at the beginning how everyone is able to sing a song nobody knows - 'How do you all know this song? I've never heard this song before!'

mp3: 'That's How You Know' by Amy Adams


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