Thursday, March 13, 2008

The fairest one of all

Like many people, I have a thorny, love-hate relationship with Disney. It's hard not to admire the craft that goes into many of the films while at the same time being repelled by their message and the image of the company as a whole. Having absurdly enjoyed the soundtrack to Enchanted (yes, that'd be the one that clogged the Oscars with three performances), I finally caught the movie on DVD. If only it could have ended after 45 minutes…

The premise is simple: a typical animated Disney princess falls in love with a prince after knowing him for about five seconds, and is dispatched to real-life Manhattan by his power-hungry stepmother; she leaves behind her meadow of singing animals and talking chipmunks to enter a city of precocious six-year-olds and Crackberry addicts. The best part is that the irrepressibly perky Giselle still acts in NYC as if she was living in animated la-la land. This is where the movie is really inspired, and I'm not sure it's entirely on purpose (whatever: I'll take it). You see, Giselle behaves as if she's clinically insane, and thanks to the comedic chops and natural charisma of Amy Adams, who plays her, the viewer is torn between feeling sorry for nutso Giselle and being totally charmed by her. In that part of Enchanted, you're watching a delusional woman act out her fantasies of a rose-colored world—like someone who's watched too many Disney movies and started believing their noxious subtext. She gets the local fauna to help her in a musical number, for instance, except of course it's rats and roaches and pigeons. Giselle is the most beautiful bag lady you've ever seen, spouting crackpot wisdom and surrounded by vermin. Needless to say, I loved that bit.

This being Disney 2008, Enchanted goes on to 1. indulge in a ridiculously over the top battle with Susan Sarandon as a giant dragon (shades of Sleeping Beauty's Maleficent of course, but boring as hell, like a cheesy outtake from Ghostbusters), 2. have Giselle save her new prince instead of vice versa and 3. have Giselle become a fashion designer, ’cause she's not a stay-at-home princess (and her helpers are animals, not Chinese people in sweatshops). Sigh.

P.S.: This is a musical in which Broadway pros like Idina Menzel and Tonya Pinkins (and Julie Andrews, who narrates) don't even get to sing!

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