When Disney’s live-action animated film “Enchanted” released in 2007, it was a box office hit, setting records, including being the first film in the 21st century to open at No. 1 on the Thanksgiving frame. It received numerous nominations and wins for awards, including a Saturn award for best fantasy film and best actress for Amy Adams.
It captivated audiences with its wit, sophistication, superior acting from arguably the entire ensemble and Menken’s ingenious soundtrack.
The Sequel’s Premise
While the first film takes an approach most emulating “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,” “Disenchanted” opts to beat the dead horse of a Cinderella story. It takes place 15 years after its predecessor with major elements of the film exploring the dynamic between Giselle and her step-daughter Morgan as their family, including Robert and Giselle’s newborn child Sophia, who could have easily been removed from the movie due to her lack of purpose, moving away from the big apple to the small suburban town of “Monroeville.”
I would have loved to see a post-partum depression storyline in this film, which the first quarter of the movie had me set out to believe would be a premise, and an important one for viewers to see be portrayed in the media.
When growing pains in their new home arise for all of those involved, Giselle wishes for the real world town to transform into a fairy tale, however, it comes with a hefty price and a mirage of comically flat consequences.
The laws and lore of the magic are not nearly as consistent or believable as they are in the original and the tropes used are much more juvenile. “Enchanted” is silly, flamboyant and definitely took itself lightly, with its sense of whimsy however it was always thoughtful in how it went about this, still keeping a grounded story and never coming off as immature.
“Disenchanted” missed that mark completely. The sequel was overloaded with songs (a whopping 14). Even more confusingly, the final act is incredibly on the nose with referencing Disney’s third Cinderella film, (ironically, another movie created for straight to home viewing, and serves as an example of how to do a sequel justice). This wouldn’t be as problematic if done well, but it was a clear way to shoehorn in the brand, without much effort.
The returning cast for the sequel includes Amy Adams, as the bubbly, sweet, idealistic Giselle as well as Patrick Dempsey alongside her, reprising his role as love interest Robert, a formerly cynical divorce lawyer. (And if you managed to forget his character, don’t worry! The writers did too, as he is severely underutilized in this sequel, despite Dempsey providing one of the stronger performances in the movie).
Rachel Covey, who played Robert’s daughter Morgan in “Enchanted”, was replaced by Gabriella Baldacchino, which I admittedly did not realize until my post-watch research. Alas, Robert is not the only character in this film reverted to the sidelines.
Throughout the entire duration of “Disenchanted’s” preposterous 2 hour 2 minute run time, I found myself yearning for more of James Marsden’s character Prince Edward, who appears for maybe 10 minutes of screentime in total. I did appreciate the undeniable on-screen chemistry between Idina Menzel’s Nancy, also returning, and Giselle, as this was a dynamic that was able to flesh itself out more than it had time to in “Enchanted.”
For all that the sloppily implemented magical mechanics that “Disenchanted” incorporates, I could provide some mercy if these rules had been to act as a segue for Susan Sarandon’s deceased character from the first film, Queen Narissa, to reemerge as the story’s primary antagonist once again.
Unfortunately, she is absent from the film, in favor of Maya Rudolph’s character Malvina Monroe, who I felt was flat and lacked substance, part of this due to the asinine mechanics. To the credit of Rudolph herself, she does manage to deliver a quirky and well done duet with Adams. Alongside her are Jayma Mays and Yvette Nicole Brown, who I can’t help but feel bad for, as their characters are more props than anything, serving only the purpose to play into the Cinderella story.
Maybe if the writers had a more effective “Happy Working Song” to write their screenplay, they could’ve found their footing and produced a beautiful, concise sequel that honored the source material, which as a stand alone film has aged truly wonderfully.
Until then, viewers are left with an exorbitant amount of generally forgettable songs, a lack of substance further projected by a new cast of one note characters, and lazy plot devices that drive the entire storyline which all result in an uneasy nostalgic feeling and a happily never after, despite the truly thoughtful efforts and well done performances by the cast. There are very few movies in cinema that I would decline a second watch, however unfortunately “Disenchanted” is one of them.