Thursday, December 27, 2007

Random thoughts on Enchanted

Tim Callahan already reviewed Enchanted for this blog, so a full scale review from me is basically out, but I finally got around to seeing it and wanted to provide a few thoughts of my own. Spoilers, and a lack of organization, follow.

Though he only mentions it in passing, Tim nails exactly what this movie is. It is not about a conflict between an idyllic fairy tale world and the harsh real world. It is about the conflict between an idyllic fairy tale world and a near-idyllic live action adult romantic comedy. In this sense it is closer is spirit to genre-jumping movies like From Dusk Till Dawn and A History of Violence than it is to Grant Morrison-esque "fiction invades reality stories." Genre jumping is often a great idea, but here there is not enough difference to provide much energy. The theme of the movie is "Happy endings do not exist in the real world, no wait, yes they do." There is a surprising amount of urine and feces and roaches in this movie as well -- this suggests to me that the film-makers are not sure what they are up to, as that works great if you think Dempsy's world is the real world, but not so great if you realize that it is a romantic comedy. It is unclear to me if Giselle's presence transforms the world she visits, or if she merely reminds Dempsy and company of what they have forgotten, which is that they are all romantic comedy characters.

Amy Adams and James Marsden are disarmingly fun, to the point that you will feel like a grouch being to hard on this movie. A dance sequence in Central Park is also silly buy quite fun, and I left the movie with the main song stuck in my head, as it stuck in the head of everyone I saw it with -- surely the mark of a good musical. Susan Sarandon is AMAZING as a live action old crone, and I wish we could have seen more of her in that role. But the movie is very confused a lot of the time.

Marsden's character is a total narcissist -- it seems like this will come back as a plot point, but it doesn't. Wont he be a terrible husband to Menzel, who is also not attractive enough to be marrying him? Dempsy admits that he never talks to his daughter, or anyone, about how his wife walked out on them -- and by the end of the movie he still hasn't. There is an odd scene where Giselle is telling the little girl a fairy tale and when the girl says that that is not how it happened Giselle says that Little Red Riding Hood does tell it differently -- which suggests that even in the fairy tale world there is a split between how a story appears and how it really is, just as Giselle is discovering in the real world. This is almost intriguing, but I really do not know what to do with it. I also Why does Giselle eat a fish out of the fish tank in the law office? I am supposed to be asking questions like this? Idina Menzel, a Broadway musical star who was in the fairy tale revision Wicked just suddenly find happiness with Marsden at the end, because that point in the screenplay demanded it. She does not sing in the film at all -- is our knowledge that she can sing supposed to satisfy us as to why she would be happy in a fairy tale world? I was also confused by the epilogue -- does Giselle inherit her new husband's ex-fiancee's dress making operation after Menzel goes to the fairy tale world? Because that is really very strange. The third act goes to the zoo, as the fairy tale meets romantic comedy thing gets dwarfed by a very unnecessary third genre -- big monster attacks New York. Feminism is sort of wrangled in -- a book about tough real women heroes is frowned upon by the little girl, we see Giselle reading it at one point (though she does not talk about it, I think), and then at the end of the movie, she takes on a more heroic role. There is some seriously strange imagery used for Giselle's shift of worlds -- she falls into a galaxy, is covered in little dots of glowing white goo -- suggestive of sperm swimming to the egg -- before being "reborn." A pop up book epilogue is a great effect, and there is a great detail, Sara noticed, in Dempsy's law office -- an elevator music version of a song from The Little Mermaid is being pumped in. Also there is an ad for Superman Returns in Times Square over Marsden's head, which I quite like -- in Enchanted, Superman Returns, and X3 he gets ditched by the girl he loves. Sad. Perhaps he will do better with Kathrine Heigel in that new movie they are in together.

The movie is fun, but odd, and not as strong as it could be. The screenplay could have used a few more drafts, I think, and the film as a whole just needed someone to come in and provide some kind of unified vision of what it was supposed to be about.

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