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Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2007 04:10 am

Enchanted enchants

Fairy tale flick sports a secret weapon named Amy Adams

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Untitled Document What does it say that Disney’s Enchanted pulled in $50 million over the course of the long Thanksgiving weekend to set a new record for that period? Surely the Mouse Factory’s savvy advertising arm had something to do with this big haul, as did the fact that there wasn’t another family-oriented film in sight. Although each of these factors played a part, the plain truth is that Kevin Lima’s film is a smart, sassy movie that gleefully pokes fun at itself and everything Disney. It also sports a secret weapon: Her name is Amy Adams, and if you haven’t heard of her before, you surely will soon.
Writer Bill Kelly expertly re-creates most every element and archetype of every animated Disney fairy tale and then skewers them with abandon. Six years after Shrek fired one major shot after another at the house that Mickey built, the studio is finally getting in on the joke, lampooning its many sacred cows and laughing all the way to the bank as a result. The film begins as a crash course in classic Disney animation as we meet Giselle, a maiden in the woods who finds her true love in the form of Prince Edward, a vacuous hunk whose stepmother, Queen Narissa, fears that she will lose her throne if he marries. Before you can say, “poison apple,” the paranoid monarch banishes Giselle to a faraway land, and her beau is soon following after to rescue her. The faraway land happens to be modern-day New York City, and once Giselle enters the realm (through a manhole cover in Times Square), the film becomes a live-action comedy that rarely stops to catch its breath. Giselle (Adams) searches in vain for her Prince Charming and has to settle instead for single dad Robert Phillip (Patrick Dempsey), who simply wants to get his daughter, Morgan (Rachel Covey), home but winds up rescuing a damsel in distress instead. Before you know it, Giselle has the urban wildlife cleaning up the Phillips’ apartment and is cutting new dresses from the curtains, much to the delight of momless Morgan and the dismay of her beleaguered dad, whose girlfriend, Nancy (Idina Menzel), stumbles in to witness it all. But help is on the way in the person of Edward (James Marsden) and his manservant Nathaniel (Timothy Spall), who do their best to navigate the mean streets of New York, slaying a city bus here and accosting vile sewer workers there. The cast have their collective tongue planted firmly in cheek, and the conflicts that arise from this dynamic generate the film’s best moments. Dempsey is wonderfully dazed and confused by the turn of events that have brought a fairy princess to his door, and he’s balanced perfectly by Covey, who welcomes the situation as a dream come true. Meanwhile, Marsden plays his narcissistic prince to the hilt, wonderfully earnest and at times buffoonish as he renders everyone as a straight man to his antics. Though Susan Sarandon dominates every scene she’s in as Queen Narissa, she’s given far too little to do.
However, everyone works in the shadow of Adams whenever she appears on the screen. She projects a genuine sense of innocence, and her sweetness is pure magic. Giselle charms everyone she meets, and Adams does the same where the audience is concerned; her sheer joy in performing is evident as she brings this innocent to life. Giselle sees nothing but good in everyone and everything she encounters; I couldn’t help but wonder what a conversation between her and Will Ferrell’s Buddy from Elf would be like. (Put those two characters in a movie and I’m there in a heartbeat.) Adams brings the cinematic Disney magic that is normally generated by the company’s famed animators.
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