If you thought that Disney might use “Enchanted” as an opportunity to satirize the post-feminist, frills-and-tiaras “princess” phenomenon that currently has a chokehold on young girls under the age of 11 or so, think again. (Disney is, after all, the principal purveyor of all those princess costumes, toothpastes, and other lifestyle accessories.)
What “Enchanted” does do, however, is take an amusing peek at what might happen to a cartoon princess should she suddenly find herself in real-world Manhattan — think of it as “The Purple Rose of Cairo” for kids.
Amy Adams stars as Giselle, an animated princess of the pre-ironic school, who is fated to marry the romantic but somewhat dim Prince Edward (James Marsden). Knowing that the marriage will end her reign over the kingdom, the evil Queen Narissa (a game Susan Sarandon) lures Giselle to a pit and pushes the girl into it. When Giselle emerges, pushing up a manhole cover, she’s in live-action Manhattan, still singing a cheery tune and wearing a rather unwieldy gown.
In short order, she meets hunky lawyer Robert (Patrick Dempsey), a single dad raising a daughter and kinda-sorta involved with career gal Nancy (Idina Menzel). Giselle winds up moving in, and she sings for her animal friends to help clean up Robert’s messy apartment. New York being New York, of course, the custodial beasts wind up being rats and pigeons rather than the squirrels and swallows she’s used to.
While “Enchanted” has lots of fun with the rules and the occasional ridiculousness of classic Disney animation, it’s not a snotty spoof of the “Shrek” school — parents and kids alike will recognize the tropes being needled, but the humor is all very affectionate. And the five new songs by Stephen Schwartz (“Pocahontas”) and Alan Menken (“Beauty and the Beast”) ride a similarly fine line between parody and celebration.
The movie’s gender politics will no doubt stem consternation in some quarters — you haven’t seen a Cinderella Complex until you see an animated princess made flesh and blood — but there is perhaps a danger in overthinking it. I
t’s obvious that the right women will wind up with the right men because that’s just how these stories turn out. And, hey, there are worse fates in the world than having to choose between Patrick Dempsey and James Marsden. (Neither is called upon to do much more than be cute and occasionally funny, but they excel at both.)
Ultimately, “Enchanted” rides on the petite shoulders of Amy Adams, who is hell-bent for satin to be as utterly lovable and, yes, enchanting as possible. She may have indie cred for her Oscar-nominated work in the low-budget Sundance comedy-drama “Junebug,” but she deliciously, shamelessly sets out to win over the audience. Much like Jennifer Hudson’s steamroller of adorability in last year’s “Dreamgirls,” Adams does everything possible to ensure that you (and you, and you) are gonna love her.