“Enchanted” was my very first introduction to Amy Adams and technically the first film that introduced me to musicals (that I remember) and how magically they have the potential to be. Given how much my sister loves the first film, she, of course, had to sit me down to watch “Disenchanted” when it came out on Disney Plus.
Sorry sis. This ain’t as magical as the first time around and that’s a damn shame.
Amy Adams, as expected, puts her best foot forward returning as Giselle and effortlessly adds more color and dimensions to her character with varying success. Patrick Dempsey is alright, James Marsden and Idina Menzel are barely given enough screentime to be truly involved in the story but make the most out of it regardless, Maya Rudolph is…..Maya Rudolph and the rest of the cast are harmless.
Despite what I’ll have to say later, I can applaud the overall team for not blatantly rehashing the plot of the first film again and actively making a continuation to the story. Adam Shankmans directing is at least aware of that despite the tackled on callbacks, motioning through every scene with a semi-robotic but somewhat earnest delivery. It’s serviceable for what’s in front of us yet also lacking in imagination.
I have confidence in saying the cinematography and editing are solid, the runtime is essentially the same, it keeps a firm grip on the overarching tone of the film without turning too parodical and while the score is still as sprightly as I recall, the music itself isn’t as memorable. They serve their purpose for the narrative, sure, but there’s hardly an earworm in sight…..not that that’s an immediate turnoff.
Here’s the thing: I get the emphasis on what they’re doing with the story: to go beyond the staple ending and explore what happily ever after really looks like; to capture the honesty about what it’s like to truly fight for love, regardless of the hoops you have to jump through to make it work. It does however fall squarely into that ever familiar overused trope of ‘Be careful what you wish for’ and is heavily light on the characterization needed to the essential beats of this particular story really stand out. And even then, it uses done-to-death plot devices with hardly any deviations and everyone is, and I quote, “living the full cliche here”.
Production design’s limitations were surprising, never quite matching the scope or scale of the story presented despite some neat looking sets, the aforementioned scope or scale of the story or the world is not present, the poorly expressed animation sequences are a scathing indictment to Disney’s efforts to abandon animation as a medium and the conditions animators have to work under, same goes with the CGI, the songs frequently break the pace of the movie even if you did give a damn about the plot, nothing about the dialogue is memorable and with the exception of Giselle, all of the familiar characters aren’t half as compelling as they were previously while the new characters on the block are dull, boring, stock or all three at the same time. Everything is almost immediate; no gradient turn for the people, no generational change when one could’ve really been used and the surprising lack of chemistry and humor with anything was staggering but unsurprising.
I think that’s the biggest issue to take away from Disenchanted: the film is too saturated and too safe, never growing beyond the basic fundamentals of what it needs to really get its points across. Yes, I get it, it’s meant to be for kids but the first one was for kids too and that presentation and blueprint of naïveté and eternal animated fairytale optimism mixed with real world cynicism is absent throughout here and the gaping hole of that void never fades away. It completely siphons almost everything memorable about the first film aside from the performances while completely assimilating all the potential this film could’ve had. Can you imagine how solid this would’ve been if this was Morgan’s story as much as Giselle’s; have Morgan gradually rediscover her love for magic, imagination and faith in finding that happy ending by becoming the untold heroine in this chapter while Giselle has to slowly find her way back to why she came to this world in the first place?
When Pip himself says he’s not proud of his part in the story, that’s not exactly a promising sign for the rest of the film and it showed. If you liked what they gave you, it’s fine. It’s completely harmless and it won’t do you no wrong watching it again but it could’ve been so much more.