A princess movie charms with mix of sweet and tart

Posted: November 20, 2007

There's a word for women like Giselle: Supercalifragilistic. Ditto her film, Enchanted.

A cartoon princess from the fairy-tale kingdom of Andalasia, Giselle falls down a well, comes up a sewer, and lifts a manhole cover to find herself - now made of flesh and blood - smack in the middle of Broadway. Both in the geographical and musical meanings of the word.

Amid the hectic rush and rudeness of this Whole New World, the pilgrim in white taffeta remains undaunted in her quest for True Love's Kiss, which inspires her to song.

Never mind the sourpusses in the cynicism epicenter of the universe, Enchanted's princess looks for happy-ever-after and attracts a metropolis' worth of converts to her cause.

Rapturously played by Amy Adams, Giselle will likely win over everyone from America to Andalasia.

In the kitchen, acidic liquids dissolve sugar. With Giselle, it is the opposite. Her sweetness, never cloying, dissolves acidic personalities. Like that of Robert (Patrick Dempsey), the grouchy lawyer who takes in the homeless princess because his daughter, Morgan (Rachel Covey), begs him to.

Morgan is smitten with Giselle, who explains that just before she was to wed to The Prince (James Marsden), she fell out of Andalasia and into New York. Giselle was, in fact, cursed by the Prince's Evil Stepmother (Susan Sarandon, underutilized and overplaying).

Waltzing between animated and live-action realms, Enchanted likewise waltzes between Grinches and Glindas, bringing together both personality types on its polished ballroom floor.

The concept is swell, the execution smile-making. But the movie, an iridescent bubble that ascends, impervious to punctures by wrought-iron fences or prickly people, soars with the helium-lightness of Adams' performance.

Familiar as Will Ferrell's salvation in Talladega Nights and Oscar-nominated supporting actress for Junebug, Adams here looks subversive because she plays it straight.

A composite of every full-skirted, animal-loving, housecleaning Disney cartoon princess, Giselle keeps a civil tongue in her head. It's the movie, directed by Kevin Lima, that has its tongue in cheek.

In Manhattan, Giselle has no woodland creatures to help her tidy Robert's grimy pad. So she summons pigeons and rats and roaches while singing a "Happy Working Song" that is the film's highlight.

The song, like the movie, is cheerfully gross enough to get boys - and their fathers - into theater seats for a story every tween and her mother will love. The film's gentle collision of earnestness and sarcasm has the effect of charming the larks and the snarks.

For those scoring at home, the subtext of Enchanted is that Disney, long the target of lampoons by DreamWorks' Shrek franchise, gets to mock itself while baiting its lampooners. To this end, a big green ogre is slain in Enchanted's early scenes.

Nearly as delightful as Adams is James Marsden, jut-jawed and Dudley Do-Rightish, as the Prince who follows Giselle down the well and up the sewer, effectively completing Disney's conquest of Times Square.

A squirrel named Pip, a squirrely emissary from Anadalasia played by Timothy Spall and an underused Idina Menzel as Robert's fiancee round out the cast.

This charmer of a film runs a little long and is heavy on the CGI dragon. The real special effect is Adams, who sings the Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz songs with brio, complementing her vivacious performance.


Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at http://go.philly.com/flickgrrl/

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|