“Disenchanted” stars Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, Idina Menzel, Yvette Nicole Brown, Jayma Mays, Oscar Nunez, and Maya Rudolph. Released on Disney+ on November 18, 2022, the film has Giselle saving her family from a magic wish.
The film was directed by Adam Shankman, who also directed films such as “The Wedding Planner”, “Bringing Down the House”, “Hairspray”, and “Rock of Ages”. It is a sequel to the 2007 film “Enchanted”. Disney has a recognizable trend of bringing classic fairy tales to life through the art of animation and storytelling. From “Snow White” to even “Frozen”, the studio has reimagined these iconic stories into beloved masterpieces filled with memorable princesses, light-hearted songs, and “happily ever afters”. In 2007, Disney celebrated this trend by releasing a unique movie that pays homage to and parodies the tropes seen in its animated treasures. That film was “Enchanted”, which centers on an animated princess surviving the modern world of New York City. With its combination of live-action and animation, the movie became a critical and commercial success, with people hailing it for its screenplay, songs, and Amy Adams’ performance as Giselle. As a result, a sequel became a no-brainer for the money-making studio. However, the follow-up took more than a decade to see the light of day. Now that it has finally arrived on Disney+, was it worth the wait? Let’s find out.
The story is set ten years after the first movie, with Giselle (Adams) and Robert (Dempsey) living happily ever after with their daughter Morgan (Gabriella Baldacchino) and their newborn baby Sophia. However, their “happily ever after” means another chapter of their story as they move from Manhattan to the suburb of Monroeville, run by Malvina Monroe (Rudolph). Unfortunately, with the new environment and Morgan being a teenager, Giselle realizes that being a stepmother in real life is more challenging than she thought. Giselle eventually makes a wish that her life will be like a fairy tale. However, she gets more than what she bargained for when Monroeville becomes an actual fairy tale world, and Giselle is slowly transforming into a wicked stepmother. As a result, Morgan, along with Edward (Marsden) and Nancy (Menzel), must help Giselle break the curse before midnight.
My experience with “Enchanted” is something that I would call “magical”. It gave me a bunch of nostalgic moments that hearken back to the days of watching classic Disney movies. But, more importantly, it’s also highly entertaining and consistently hilarious with its fairy tale satire. The film became one of my favorites to watch occasionally because it celebrates Disney’s tradition of providing fantastical fairy tale classics in a comical and heartwarming manner. So it’s unsurprising that I was both curious and concerned about its sequel, which represents life after “happily ever after” for Giselle.
One of the things I enjoyed about “Enchanted” is that it resembles a familiar fairy tale story with enough modern twists to make itself unique. It delivers a fun and heartfelt take on the difference between reality and fantasy. “Disenchanted” expands on this difference by having Giselle face the next step of her new life in the real world: being a stepmother. If you grew up reading fairy tales, you’d know what they’re like. There’s definitely some intrigue in its concept since the first film is known for satirizing elements from specific fairy tales. Unfortunately, that intrigue quickly disappeared into an unoriginal plot that heavily relies on the formula it’s parodying.
“Disenchanted” offers plenty of elements we’ve seen numerous times, including a family moving into a new environment and the strained relationship between parents and teenagers. The primary example is Giselle and Morgan, who struggle to adapt to suburban life outside New York. Additionally, Morgan (as a teenager) has difficulty accepting Giselle as a mother due to Giselle’s history and her being a stepmother. So when Monroeville is in danger of being a straight-up fairy tale, Giselle and Morgan must rely on each other to save their new home before Giselle becomes an evil stepmother forever.
It’s easy to say that the story in “Disenchanted” is a noticeable downgrade from its predecessor. Not only did the plot constantly depend on its stale formula to carry the sequel, but it also lacked the wit and uniqueness that made the first movie memorable. Admittedly, there are a couple of amusing jokes that poke fun at the fairy tale elements and plenty of easter eggs relating to Disney’s animation library. So if you loved “Enchanted” for those reasons, you might get a kick out of what the sequel offered. It also has a heartfelt message about the power of motherly love that’ll resonate well with kids. However, they’re sadly not enough to grant its wish of having a refreshing screenplay. I also feel that the movie is 20 minutes too long despite the pacing being decent.
Even with the flaws shown, the film delivered the usual charm and beauty the predecessor is known for regarding the direction and musical numbers. I didn’t mind Adam Shankman being the movie’s director instead of Kevin Lima since he’s no stranger to injecting energy and joy into musicals and comical scenarios. While I can’t say his direction is better than Lima’s, I can admit that Shankman knows how to make a film’s cliches tolerable. I also thought Shankman did a decent job making the musical numbers entertaining and lively.
Another key element relating to its charm is the cast. Amy Adams made her mark in the acting business thanks to her portrayal of Giselle in “Enchanted”. The sequel sees Adams returning to that role fifteen years later, and I have to say that she still got it. The actress retained the cheerfulness and innocence that made Giselle a beloved and original Disney character. However, she’s also not afraid to be gleefully villainous when Giselle’s wicked side takes over. Patrick Dempsey and Gabriella Baldacchino were both decent as Robert and Morgan, respectively, and James Marsden continues to deliver solid laughs as Edward. Maya Rudolph also makes for another watchable antagonist regarding her performance as Monroe. But, of course, I can’t forget about the great Idina Menzel as Nancy, with her song “Love Power” being one of my highlights from her.
Another thing I’d like to point out is the movie’s animation. Like the first film, “Disenchanted” includes a couple of Andalasia sequences that used 2D animation. I admired that the filmmakers decided to use traditional animation for the sequel instead of CGI because it’s part of its predecessor’s homage to the classic Disney Renaissance of the 1990s. Having it be CGI would’ve made it feel like a cheap shortcut despite the studio’s reliance on it in their recent movies. It shows that it’s okay to go back to the basics and relive the joy of watching old-school animation. The number of Andalasia scenes is pretty short, but the animation accompanying them is unsurprisingly gorgeous enough to compensate. It makes me wish that Disney would bring this style back for one of its future projects.
Overall, “Disenchanted” has a good amount of heart and magic, but its narrative failed to cast a spell that’s as effective and iconic as its predecessor. It means well in its presentation and enjoyability, but regarding the storytelling quality, it’s far from an enchanting experience. Amy Adams is as delightful as ever as Giselle, and Shankman’s direction works well for its charm and musical numbers. Unfortunately, they couldn’t overshadow its formulaic plot, witless screenplay, and length. Like Disney’s direct-to-DVD sequels of years past, the movie shows that it’s best not to know what happens after its “happily ever after”. Fans of “Enchanted” will likely get some amusement out of it. Otherwise, there’s nothing too magical about this fairy tale follow-up that’s worth remembering.