Disenchanted (Review) – Is It Too Late To Recapture The Magic?

DIRECTOR: Adam Shankman

CAST: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, Idina Menzel, Maya Rudolph, Gabriella Baldacchino, Yvette Nicole Brown, Jayma Mays, Kolton Stewart, Oscar Nunez, Griffin Newman

RUNNING TIME: 122 mins

CERTIFICATE: PG

BASICALLY…: Giselle (Adams) attempts to put a fairy tale spin on her new suburban life, with mixed results…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

Back in 2007, Disney took the then-bold move to send up their own fairy tale tropes with the animated/live-action hybrid Enchanted, and thanks to a collection of catchy Alan Menken songs, a vibrant sense of humour, and some hilarious turns by the likes of Amy Adams and James Marsden, it became a mini-sensation in its own right. A sequel was inevitable after its critical and box office success, but even after fifteen years in development limbo there’s little sight of the magic that once shone bright – sad to say, like a lot of many-years-too-late follow-ups, Disenchanted is not even close to being as good as the original, and is rather disappointing in how much it underwhelms.

Taking place a few years after the events of the first film – handily summed up for us by an animated chipmunk in the 2D-animated land of Andolasia – that land’s former Princess Giselle (Adams) has settled into family life in live-action New York, with her husband Robert (Patrick Dempsey), their new baby Sofia, and his now-teenage daughter Morgan (Gabriella Baldacchino). When the family moves to the suburban community of Monroeville, things are quite as glamorous as Giselle would have hoped for, especially with Morgan moodily starting to dismiss her step-mother – so, using a magic wand given to Sofia by her godparents, King Edward (Marsden) and Nancy (Idina Menzel) of Andolasia, Giselle wishes for her life to be much more like a fairy tale. Before she knows it, everything and everyone in Monroeville is acting like they’re in an animated Disney musical (or, more accurately, a live-action remake of a Disney animated musical), but it isn’t long before the consequences become apparent, as Giselle begins to turn into a wicked step-mother figure to Morgan.

There are decent ideas on display here, some of which are kind of disturbing when you get to the root of it – Giselle is essentially, and knowingly, brainwashing an entire town to conform to her inner most desires, à la Wanda Maximoff in WandaVision – and the actors are clearly having fun playing off of typical fairy tale types, including Maya Rudolph as an evil Queen and Patrick Dempsey as the brash and adventurous hero who often wins the day in the Disney films of old. The problem, or part of it at least, lies in the execution: Adam Shankman, who takes over from Kevin Lima as director, is unable to bring out much joy or liveliness from this all too straightforward script (which is saying something because Shankman is a far more experienced director than Lima, who hasn’t directed any features since that first film), resulting in a lot of the performances and musical numbers seeming somewhat stilted in their delivery. You’re never invested in the plot because it ends up following many of the beats you would expect it to hit, and after a point many of the characters – particularly the newer ones – become so one-note that there’s barely anything interesting left about them to make you want them to have their happily ever after.

While that first movie managed to be both a parody and a genuine love-letter to that classic fairy tale formula, this one plays it all too straight, with a less obvious self-awareness which ends up making a lot of the typical Disney stuff, from the bright and cheerful singing to the comic relief side-characters, quite obnoxious to sit through. It’s never all that funny either, as neither Amy Adams nor James Marsden – the latter of whom is barely in the movie, to make more room for his on-screen spouse Idina Menzel – are given nearly as many comedic gems to work with, although performance-wise they’re still clearly heavily engaged with their characters, and make the most of whatever screen time they may have. As for Menken’s songs, they’re about as forgettable as the movie; only one or two of them are passable at best, while everything else leaves very little impression, if any at all. Needless to say, you won’t be seeing any of these tracks pick up a few Oscar nominations, as was the case with the last Enchanted movie.

Perhaps the biggest issue of all is that, as can be the case for a lot of sequels, there’s no real reason for it to exist, other than because the first one was such a big success. At no point do you feel like anything significant is being added to its canon, nor do you feel that its characters have grown any further than last time; by the end, it hardly feels like anyone has taken further steps towards anything, and are back to how they started at the beginning, or even how they ended things last time. It just feels like they made this movie because they could, and that lack of enthusiasm does unfortunately show in this very by-the-numbers and ultimately unmemorable sequel to a pretty good movie. Let me put it another way: if the original Enchanted was intended to mimic the typical traits of a traditionally animated Disney musical, then Disenchanted apes whatever the live-action remake turned out to be, but not in any way that’s really commendable.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Disenchanted is a disappointing sequel that contains very little of the charm, humour and magic of the original, failing to take advantage of its promising ideas through a stilted execution that’s as unmemorable as the script, which constantly struggles to justify its reason for existing.

Disenchanted is now available to stream on Disney+

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