Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Enchanted is Enchanting

And Amy Adams' star-making performance in the lead role is pure comedy gold. Could an Oscar nom be in the offing?

See my review of Disney's Enchanted, published in the St. Petersburg Times, here.

Or check out the full text of the review, below:


Grade: A-

Director: Kevin Lima

Cast: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, Timothy Spall, Idina Menzel, Rachel Covey, Susan Sarandon

Screenplay: Bill Kelly

Rating: PG; mildly scary images, comic violence

Running time: 107 min.


"Do you like yourself?" asks dastardly henchman Nathaniel (Timothy Spall), possibly suffering from a bout of low self-esteem, in the contemporary fairy tale Enchanted.

"What's not to like?" says the pretty, and pretty dim, charmer Prince Edward (James Marsden).

The same might be said about the Disney-made romantic comedy, directed by Mouse House regular Kevin Lima (102 Dalmatians,Tarzan): It's fresh, funny, features a starmaking performance by Amy Adams and is packed with surprisingly rousing, and hilarious, musical numbers. It's hands-down the most entertaining family film of the season so far.

Packed with references to Disney classics, including opening and closing narration by Julie Andrews, Enchanted works its spell by gently tweaking several familiar story elements -an evil stepmother, poison apples, a fire-breathing dragon, a sort-of magic mirror, a sleeping princess who can be awakened only by a true love's kiss - and not talking down to its target audience.

In a departure from many comedies aimed at young viewers, Enchanted isn't crammed with pop culture references sure to fly over their heads. Adults and kids alike can appreciate the sight gags and plot twists, penned by Bill Kelly (Premonition,Blast from the Past). Some parents will be relieved to know, too, that the movie is absent of sexual double entendres and practically devoid of bathroom humor.

Enchanted opens with a blast from past Disney triumphs, a brief sequence featuring gorgeous hand-drawn animation. The comic tone and retro framework - nods to Cinderella and Snow White, among other favorites - are introduced, along with the setup. Narissa (Susan Sarandon), the mean queen of Andalasia, is determined to keep stepson Edward from marrying sweet, innocent, animal-loving Giselle (Amy Adams), lest the wicked royal mother lose her throne.

The quick fix: Narissa, reborn as a scary hag, knocks Giselle into a magical well, which transports her to the land of flesh-and-blood live action. The story moves to New York City, where Giselle emerges from a manhole smack in the middle of Times Square.

It's a kick watching Giselle, all fairy-tale values and no experience with anger, sadness or the laws of gravity or physical attraction, adapt to the "real" world. First, there's friendship with divorced divorce lawyer Robert Philip (Patrick Dempsey) and his young daughter (Rachel Covey). Dad is on the verge of marrying an attractive go-getter (Idina Menzel) who may not be his ideal mate.

During Happy Working Song, an update of "Whistle While You Work," Giselle enlists rats, flies, pigeons and singing cockroaches to help her clean up Robert's apartment. In one of the most exuberant, humorous passages in the film, the jaded lawyer and the eternally optimistic would-be princess get to know each other better during a stroll through Central Park, and Giselle breaks into song again. For That's How You Know, she's joined by a steel-drum group, a hippie guitarist, a mariachi band and all manner of singers and dancers.

Dempsey ("Grey's Anatomy") is suitably sympathetic as the preoccupied lawyer. Spall (Peter "Wormtail" Pettigrew in the Harry Potter movies) is watchable as the bumbling bad guy. Marsden (Cyclops in the X-Men films, Hairspray) is adroitly cast as the open-faced, weak-brained prince. And Sarandon, resplendent and goth-glamorous in black leather, nails the perfect mix of high camp and menace, and she is truly frightening when transformed into a warted, bent-nosed, ancient woman (with the help of veteran makeup wiz Rick Baker).

Oscar-nominated for her turn as a pregnant, emotionally abused Southern woman in the little-seen 2005 indie gem Junebug, Adams is required to hold the center of Enchanted. She does so marvelously, with impeccable comic timing and a real knack for conveying utter innocence. The new generation's breakout screen comedienne, and a serious actor to boot? Adams' time has arrived.

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