Synopsis: Ten years after her happily ever after, Giselle questions her happiness, inadvertently turning the lives of those in the real world and Andalasia upside down in the process.
Stars: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, Maya Rudolph, Yvette Nicole Brown, Jayma Mays, Gabriella Baldacchino, Idina Menzel, James Marsden
Director: Adam Shankman
Running Length: 118 minutes
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review: I first saw Disney’s Enchanted when I was out on the road touring with a musical over the holiday season in 2007. Packed into a random theater in some East Coast state I don’t recall, a bunch of visiting actors roared along with the local audience at the charming studio comedy. Both a clever wink to hand-drawn animated films from two decades earlier and a frilly Broadway-esque musical bursting with cheer, it was one of the more “subversive” films for Disney and an opportunity for them to control some self-mockery. More than anything, it spotlighted a fresh-faced star that had received a surprising Oscar nomination (her first of six) a year earlier.
It’s almost hard to wrap your head around it now, but when casting Enchanted, Amy Adams (Hillbilly Elegy) was nearly passed over because the studio wanted an established star in the role. Original director Kevin Lima pushed for the triple threat performer, and she proved to be the perfect fit, very nearly snagging another early Academy Award nomination for her outside-of-the-box approach to playing Giselle, the animated almost-princess displaced to real-world New York by an evil queen. That film ended with Giselle finding her true love Robert (Patrick Dempsey, Bridget Jones’s Baby), and living happily ever after with him and his young daughter in the Big Apple.
With its massive take at the box office, a sequel was put on the books, but with Adams’s career skyrocketing and after many false starts, it has taken an eternity for a follow-up to come to pass. I’m not saying that Adams had some extra time on her hands, but the roles she had fallen into didn’t fully align with the talent everyone knew she had. The Oscar her loyal supporters craved for her remained elusive, but desperation seemed to cloud her choices. Thankfully, the pieces for Disenchanted finally came together, and it’s proven to be precisely the restart button Adams needed.
It’s been a decade since Giselle and Robert tied the knot. In addition to Robert’s daughter Morgan (Gabriella Baldacchino, Annie), the couple is enjoying new baby Sophia. Still, life in the harsh city is starting to take its toll on Giselle’s open-air spirit. A billboard for Monroeville, a new community not far from the city, beckons to her. It seems like a perfect solution for the peace Giselle craves while allowing Robert to commute to work. Understandably, the move isn’t ideal for everyone, and Morgan finds the adjustment to a new school challenging.
Giselle also clashes with a trio of PTA moms led by Malvina (Maya Rudolph, The Way Way Back). They don’t take as kindly to her sunny disposition, especially after she makes a series of missteps threatening Malvina’s authority. Using a wand gifted to Sophia by King Edward (James Marsden, The D Train) and Queen Nancy (Idina Menzel, Cinderella) of Andalasia, Giselle makes a simple wish she hopes will correct some of the deficiencies that instead puts her family and forest friends into grave danger. At the same time, the magic she conjures changes her into what every fairytale princess fears most…a wicked stepmother.
In Disney years, Disenchanted could feel like an ancient property to some. After all, many of the fans that pined for a sequel have moved on (and grown up) by now, but I’m guessing there are even more that will tune in when it premieres November 18 on Disney+ to watch Adams get back to what she does best. That would be singing, dancing, and charming the ever-lovin’ pants off viewers – and wow, does she get the job done. A veteran of the grinding work in dinner theater musicals, Adams knows how to sell a song (even the few clunkers present in the Alan Menken/Stephen Schwartz score) but makes the entirety of her job look effortless.
Apart from Adams, the supporting cast is ready and willing to play. Returning cast members Dempsey, Marsden, and Menzel, are all given swell moments to shine, with Menzel especially having more time in the spotlight. Now a far bigger name than she was in the previous film (thank you, Frozen and Frozen II), she lets her huge vocals rip into “Love Power,” a belty number that builds into just the kind of tune you’d expect to hear from the former-Broadway star. It’s no surprise that Rudolph sinks her teeth into the villainess role, and while her duet with Adams gets off to a shaky start, it works itself into a fine frenzy by its conclusion.
Director Adam Shankman (Rock of Ages) also serves as Disenchanted’s choreographer, allowing him to train his eye on every part of what we’re seeing where movement is concerned. That helps give Disenchanted a nice flow and considers spacing for the camera and the dancers. Shankman lets the film linger on the sweeter moments between Giselle and Morgan as they continue to define their bond as stepmother and stepdaughter. It leads to a finale that blends classic fantasy elements with a strong message that I found thoughtful and moving.
Almost assuredly destined to please the tiny royalty in training roaming around your home and stir up your good memories from years back when the original was released, Disenchanted is a sequel worth hanging around for. I recall enjoying the first film but not being as bowled over by it as some. For this follow-up, whatever magic ingredient was missing for me was finally found, and it all fell into place. While it may not create the kind of awards buzz Adams is used to by this time, she’s so good in it that you could see a world where a performance like hers gets recognized for its joy to the viewer.