A Fairy Tale Gone Wrong Makes For Charming, Stuffed Sequel
Jan 24, 2023
Home Movie Reviews Disenchanted Review: A Fairy Tale Gone Wrong Makes For Charming, Stuffed Sequel
However, even if some things aren’t quite as magical this time around, Disenchanted still holds plenty of wonder thanks to Adams’ winning performance.
Amy Adams and Maya Rudolph in Disenchanted
In 2007, Disney wowed audiences as it took playful aim at its own image with Enchanted, a refreshing send-up of fairytale tropes led by the delightful Amy Adams. Now, fifteen years later, the Mouse House has finally made a sequel, and the result is something mostly worth the wait. Adam Shankman’s Disenchanted, heading to Disney+ this weekend rather than theaters like its predecessor, has the clear feeling of being a sequel, in that it’s far bigger than the first movie and perhaps didn’t need to be made. However, even if some things aren’t quite as magical this time around, Disenchanted still holds plenty of wonder thanks to Adams’ winning performance.
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As an animated opening helpfully reminds viewers, Enchanted left off with onetime fairytale princess Giselle (Adams) finding her happily ever after in modern day New York City, settling in alongside her true love Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and his daughter Morgan (Gabriella Baldacchino, perfectly taking over from Rachel Covey). However, in the years since that conclusion, the allure of this life has dimmed for Giselle, who longs for her world of Andalasia. She uproots her family and has them move to the suburban town of Monroeville, a change that displeases Morgan greatly. Desperate to achieve the life she desperately wants, Giselle makes a wish with an Andalasian wand gifted by Edward (James Marsden) and Nancy (Idina Menzel) that brings the fantastical into the real world. However, as all wishes do, Giselle’s dream has unintended consequences.
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Amy Adams, Gabriella Baldacchino, and Patrick Dempsey in Disenchanted
Unlike a good number of long-awaited sequels, Disenchanted doesn’t attempt to merely recreate what came before. Instead, screenwriter Brigitte Hales crafts a new story that explores a popular trope within fairytales: Wicked stepmothers. Disenchanted is at a slight disadvantage right from the beginning; when the first movie came out, its subversive handling of the Disney-approved happy ending was a breath of fresh air. Now, there have been other projects that seek to dismantle these well-known archetypes (starting with ABC’s Once Upon a Time, which also stemmed from a Disney branch). Still, even if it isn’t quite as original anymore, Disenchanted deserves some kudos for finding sparks of creativity. This is largely done through Giselle’s story, which sees the bright-eyed, constantly singing heroine fall prey to her darker side. Adams jumps into Giselle’s dueling natures with gusto, oftentimes shifting between earnest and conniving multiple times within the same scene. It’s a gimmick that can get old, but as Disenchanted gets further into its runtime, Adams is able to really sink her teeth into her own version of a classic fairytale villain.
However, that isn’t the only conflict at play here. Maya Rudolph joins the fray as Malvina Monroe, the unofficial queen of Monroeville who becomes the actual queen after Giselle’s wish takes hold. Rudolph proves to be an excellent addition to the Enchanted franchise as she stalks and sneers her way through the story. Disenchanted turns the musical aspect of this series up to eleven, with new songs from Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz popping up with frequency. Not all of these songs land; some in fact slow the action down. Menzel gets to show off her Elsa pipes with a stirring solo of her own, but a delightfully campy duet between Adams and Rudolph threatens to steal the show entirely. It’s incredibly fun to see the two actors square off, and their gorgeous costumes (designed by Joan Bergin) only heighten the number’s appeal. Though CGI still plays a large part in the action, Disenchanted gives itself an air of realism by keeping many sets practical. Dan Hennah’s production design creates a fantasy world come to life, and it’s one a viewer would definitely want to visit if possible.
James Marsden and Idina Menzel in Disenchanted
For all its charms, though, Disenchanted has its flaws. Over-reliance on musical numbers aside, certain returning figures fall to the wayside as the movie focuses more on Giselle and Morgan’s arcs. Dempsey’s Robert has hints of a compelling storyline, but his scenes are disjointed, thus making his arc feel incomplete. Marsden, always a charismatic screen presence, doesn’t get as much to do either, and all the newer characters aside from Malvina struggle to make an impression. Additionally, Disenchanted’s final act takes its time unraveling. It’s a drawn-out conclusion that ends up lessening the stakes simply because of its slower pace. In the end, though, it’s hard to resist a movie that allows Adams and her fellow co-stars to play in such a fun sandbox.
Whether Disney hopes to someday pull an Enchanted 3 out of thin air remains to be seen, though this sequel gives another conclusive ending in case the story finishes here. Because of its grand scale, one does wish Disney had opted to give Disenchanted a theatrical run; nevertheless, it will surely drum up some impressive viewership numbers on streaming. This is a sequel that doesn’t quite surpass its original, but is still a worthy follow-up all on its own. Anyone who enjoyed the original Enchanted should find plenty to love here.
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Disenchanted is now streaming on Disney+. It is 118 minutes long and rated PG for mild peril and language.
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