Review: Disenchanted

Disenchanted

Trailer

They wear it wonderfully

15 years after first emerging in New York City, Gisella (Amy Adams) lives a happy, but sometimes stressful, life with husband Robert (Patrick Dempsey), stepdaughter Morgan (Gabriella Baldacchino) and new baby girl Sofia. Seeking an escape from the pressures of the big city by moving to the suburbs, Gisella inadvertently begins a magical catastrophe and takes steps towards becoming an wicked stepmother by making a wish for a more fairy-tale life, fundamentally altering her reality and creating danger for Prince Edward (James Marsden) and Nacy (Idina Menzel).

Enchanted was a fun little movie back in (weeps for a moment) 2007, a production that both skewered and paid homage to the tropes of the Disney fairy-tale, and balancing either axis remarkably well. A sequel was not really inevitable our required for this story, but it’s 2022, the age of streaming content needing to tumble out of our TV’s on the regular, and clearly the people pushing the nostalgia wave want to really push things and see if they can get away with it with just 15 years worth of distance. Hence Disenchanted, a not entirely organic feeling sequel that brings together much of the original cast with new writers and a new director, in the hope of re-capturing some literal and non-literal magic.

The result is actually rather decent, surprisingly so even, with the first films “fish-out-of-water” story changed into “Everyone else is the fish-out-of-water”. Everything was set-up here for a sad continuation marked by another Idina Menzel number (and she does, of course, get a song) but in leaning into a story that takes much of its inspiration from the pressures and stresses of modern life – themes include teenage surliness, the stresses of being a commuter, PTA rivalries and general mental well-being – director Adam Shankman (also involved with similar recent offering Hocus Pocus 2) manages to craft something that is bound to actually speak to the modern viewer and to the very reason why we seek out nostalgia bait (after all, the kids who watched Gisella the first time round are now in the housing market themselves). When Prince Edward comes to the wreck of Gisella’s new home and asks “Are you poor now?” the intended audience can all ache at the response: “No, it’s called a ‘fixer-upper'”.

And yes of course there is the expected ridiculousness, like animated sections in the fairy-tale world and a wonderful turn by Maya Rudolph as an evil Queen, but Disenchanted seems to mostly be about how hard modern life is and what you do to get around it. If Enchanted set out to do some light skewering of the fairy-tale formula, then Disenchanted sets out to skewer the idea that happy endings are just that, right from the start where a talking chipmunk sarcastically informs us that “There is no happily ever after, you just get married and then nothing happens to you ever again”.

Amy Adams steps back into the role of Gisella with aplomb, showcasing a very affecting world-weariness going up against endless fairy-tale optimism. Dempsey has less to do here, actually off in his own film for much of proceedings, which is a bit of a shame. Filmed mostly in Enniskerry, Ireland, Disenchanted looks great, with its parody of a Disneyfied world still finding the means to wow you from a visual standpoint, even if its just in the amazing villainess costumes Adams and Rudolph sport for the “Badder” number (it would be great if they had more time together on-screen actually). The combination of factors here makes for an entertaining diversion, and while it will never be able to fully replicate the impact and enjoyability of Enchanted, if this is the kind of nostalgia bait that Disney+ seems intent on serving up, then we could all do a lot worse. Recommended.

(All images are copyright of Disney+).

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