Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Cheap Critic: Enchanted


Ok, even a dedicated cheapskate spends a buck every now and then. We have out-of-town guests staying with us for Thanksgiving and we all decided to go see Disney's Enchanted at a first-run theater. The late show at the Southpoint Theater in Durham, NC. If you were there too I was the guy in the fourth row who muttered about "ten bucks to see an f'in' movie" though the opening credits.

I don't have time for a lengthy review. Did I mention out-of-town guests? Well, they are starting to wake up and my hermit-in-the-office time is limited, plus there's that big raw bird in the refrigerator to deal with...

Without giving away anything that isn't obvious from the trailer, Enchanted is the story of a Disney princess from an animated world -- small animals that talk and sing, birds that can tie ribbons into bows, that sort of stuff. She has a run-in with an evil queen and winds up magiced into gritty, live-action New York. While she is waiting for her handsome prince to come rescue her she is taken in by a world-weary divorce lawyer (divorced himself) who lives alone with his young daughter.

Enchanted is a lovely film and succeeds wonderfully at what it tries to do. It is an excellent example of a rare form: the affectionate parody -- parody without snarkiness. In Enchanted Disney spends the entire film making fun of Disney films, with specific references to all of their animated films and deft send-ups of the patented Disney Schmaltz. In the animated portions there are just a few too many cute talking animals helping our heroine, a few too many hearts and flowers and the songs are just a bit over the top. But it's wonderfully subtle, you can get the joke without stepping out of the experience. In the live actions sequences the cartoon romanticism collides with gritty, New York realism and comes off better than you might expect -- not because the characters are surrounded by some sort of Glenda-the-good-witch bubble, but because princesses turn out to be more resilient than you might expect. There is not one shred of alienation in the whole film.

One gets the sense that the entire rather-large cast of Enchanted consists of insider cameos. In recent years Disney has had a series of mega-hits on Broadway which has given them a New York Theater vibe to offset their Los Angeles Movie biz connections. With Enchanted Disney is flexing their New Yorker muscles: Enchanted is very much a New York City movie -- several plot elements revolve around addresses (New Yorkers love the yeah, I've been there thing) and there are fantasy elements designed just for residents of the Big Apple; talking chipmunks and giant dragons may be fantasy elements for the rest of us but that rent-controlled apartment with a view is the stuff of dreams for New Yorkers.

Bottom line: If you take a very jaded view of things Disney you might miss the cynicism of other parodies that target Disney films (see The Cheap Critic: Shrek Third) but if you are looking for an almost perfect family film you might drop a couple of bucks on Enchanted. I spent ten to see it and I am only mildly cranky about it: the movie is that good.

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