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Who better to deliver in the family friendly genre on Thanksgiving than Disney with their new animated/live action hybrid Enchanted. This movie is very cute and quite good at being both wholesome for the kiddies and tongue-in-cheek for the adults. You need to appreciate a studio being able to poke fun at itself. By using the classic stories of Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty, all made famous in their own right by the Mouse House, we are given some big laughs. The acting is very self-referential and broad as far as the fairy tale roles that make the journey into our world’s New York City go. Screenwriter Bill Kelly gives the cast some great lines and set pieces to play in, ultimately showing us that the storybooks aren’t always right. True love does exist, but not necessarily with the one you first think. The message is good, the songs are good, the animation and acting are good—Disney came through with this one. Along with Meet the Robinsons, Mickey and friends may be turning the ship around into a new renaissance.

We are ushered into the story with some 2D animation of Giselle, a pretty girl looking for her Prince Charming. That man is in fact Prince Edward, recently being led by his stepmother’s henchman to battle ogres and partake in adventure to keep his mind off a wife. You see if he marries, Queen Narissa loses her crown and he becomes King. She is having none of that and will cross into evil stepmother/queen/hag territory to trick Giselle into falling through a portal to our world. Now a fish-out-of-water, she must find her way back to her love, that eventually comes looking for her along with her best friend Pip the squirrel and the evil witch’s lackey Nathaniel. It is on this path that she runs into divorce lawyer Robert Philip and turns both his and her life upside down.

I love how the fantasy world comes into ours so awkwardly. Giselle’s ability to call on all the animals of her meadows allows her to do the same in NY, only the creatures she gets are rats, pigeons, cockroaches, and flies—yet they all do the work anyway—it’s priceless. Also, when she breaks into song, all the people on the streets join along and have a blast being part of the huge choreographed numbers. Her innocence is very precious and trying new things always gets her new lawyer friend in trouble, yet helps those in her wake. Patrick Dempsey plays that friend to great effect. He sees what she is doing and can’t help but fall for her joyful, inability to see cruelty in the world. Playing the straight man to her craziness leads to wonderful moments of laughter as well as those full of poignancy and compassion, giving the kids in the audience something to think about and lessons to learn.

While Dempsey’s evolution as a man is something to appreciate, it is the transplants that shine. Amy Adams and James Marsden play Giselle and Prince Edward respectively. They bring the happy-go-lucky mentality of Andalasia to our disenchanted realm. The over-acting is great and the culture shock fantastic. Adams is gorgeous and has the chops to make the aloofness work, but also change later on into a human being that sees what reality brings. When she tells Edward that she was thinking instead of singing, his reaction really hits home on the vast void between storybook fantasy and the real world. As for Marsden, his childish actions are truly funny; a borderline simpleton, he believes in chivalry and when he is told a suspected villain is really a friend, he just flips a switch and is ok with it. His smile is infectious and his vacant expressions indispensable to the film working on the dual levels it does.

Everything works here to bring a wonderful family-friendly story to life. Complete with its pop-up book bookends, Enchanted is truly magical. I don’t know how it could ever have worked as a complete animated work, as I have read it originated as, so thankfully they took the plunge to expand it with live action. Crossing between the two worlds is seamless—2D characters turned into humans or 3D computer generated animals. With many instances ripe for a wrong turn, the filmmakers seem to come to all the right decisions. Working in older Disney yarns and playing each story thread to its effective conclusion leaves us with a tale that could become a classic amongst the ones it appropriates. So, if you are looking for a way to spend a couple hours with the whole family, Enchanted is definitely a great way to go.

Enchanted 8/10

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photography:
[1] AMY ADAMS in ENCHANTED ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved. Photo Credit: BARRY WETCHER/SMPSP
[2] SUSAN SARANDON (left), JAMES MARSDEN (right) in ENCHANTED ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved. Photo Credit: BARRY WETCHER/SMPSP

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