Disenchanted (2022) Review!!

Synopsis – Years after her happily ever after, Giselle questions her happiness, inadvertently turning the lives of those in the real world and Andalasia upside down in the process.

My Take – Released in 2007, Enchanted, directed by Kevin Lima and written by Bill Kelly, was a canny, crowd-pleasing charming parody of the Disney fairy-tale template that is notable for arguably being the breakout film for Amy Adams, who received wide acclaim for her lead performance as Giselle.

Filled with some tongue-in-cheek jokes about the ridiculousness of people bursting into song and dance in the middle of the street and princesses marrying men they met just minutes ago, the film certainly influenced the tone of Disney princesses to come. And backed by some original music, and a striking balance between fantasy and rom-com tropes, the film was certainly a refreshing watch.

With a global gross of $340.5 million, the long in development sequel certainly had big shoes to fill. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. Instead feels quite flat in comparison to the original.

While it does contain some fun moments, it never manages to capture the first film’s originality and magic. Part of that is because director Adam Shankman (Hairspray, Rock of Ages) and screenwriter Brigitte Hales pack too much into the sequel, resulting in a lot of abandoned plot threads and characters that had no role in the story but were just kind of there.

Yes, there were some interesting ideas presented, but mostly, the filmmakers struggle in anchoring the film towards the direction they want it to go towards, often shifting the story’s emotional arc to a relationship that never quite felt earned.

Sure, I didn’t have the highest hopes but this was a very disappointing experience on another level. They really did the original film injustice and I’m surprised they got all these actors to return with this script. It’s hard to imagine there being quite the same clamor for a third film as there was for a sequel.

Taking place eight years after the events of the first film, the story once again follows Giselle (Amy Adams), who along with her husband, Phillip (Patrick Dempsey) and his daughter Morgan (Gabriella Baldacchino) has continued to live as a family in the city while welcome a new baby, Sophia, into their lives. But Giselle feels a bit unsatisfied with her life, particularly due to the relative smallness of their apartment.

Instead opting to move to the suburb of Monroeville, believing the change will be good for them, much to the annoyance of Morgan who’s now a teenager and dealing with the typical angst with which that entails. But upon moving into the new home she is quick to find out that it wasn’t enough to fix her problems. Particularly as Malvina (Maya Rudolph), the town’s most dedicated and obnoxious citizen, feels threatened by Giselle.

And when Giselle ends up accidentally embarrassing Morgan in front of her new classmates, it ends up with a fight with Morgan harshly calling her as a stepmother, she ends up using a magic wand, gifted by King Edward (James Marsden) and Queen Nancy (Idina Menzel) of Andalasia, wishing her current life to become a fairy tale which results in Monroeville becoming more magical as a result, but with the price that Giselle turning into a wicked stepmother and all the evil that comes with it. Also, her wish causes all the magic to be sucked out of Giselle’s homeland of Andalasia, meaning Giselle and her Andalasian friends will soon cease to exist.

That’s a lot to pack into one film. And while the sequel like the first film has a strong concept like what happens after Happily Ever After and can it exist in the real world? it struggles to go through the motions. With the greater crime being how bad the animation looks. The slick simplicity of the original, recalling the pleasures of a sub-genre that saw its biggest successes in the 1980s allowed for breathing room that’s much harder to find here.

Here, the script is plagued with some busy, graceless first draft plotting tying itself into so many knots that we find ourselves struggling to untangle them. Directed by Adam Shankman, the film again plays cleverly with fairy-tale conventions, but without reflecting much growth, by Giselle or others, in the intervening years. If there appeared to be room to creatively advance the mythology, the sequel merely chooses to recycle it.

Its predecessor worked because it set up fairy-tale tropes in the real world, but here, the film takes away most of the playful jibes as the characters become the stereotypes that the first film mocked. Once Giselle wishes for her life to be more like a fairy tale, most of the characters stop being themselves and just start acting like fairy tale archetypes with Morgan acting like a standard Cinderella type protagonist and Robert doing an impression of Edward with the running joke being that while he now acts dashing and valiant he’s completely out of his depth. For a film that’s so intrinsically tied to the mother-daughter relationship, the sequel also doesn’t do a good job of showcasing it.

For one, Morgan never really gets to be her own character or share her side of the relationship. She’s just a surly teen who dislikes her stepmother for an unspecified reason, even though they were once close. It would be one thing if the film just focused on Giselle trying to rebuild that connection, but Giselle warps into her evil stepmother persona about halfway through, making Morgan the protagonist. And that’s a great pity, considering what a bad rap stepmothers get in fairy tales.

The first film focused on dismantling storybook-romance conventions like love at first sight, so shifting the focus to the evil stepmother trope and the mother-daughter relationship would be a great evolution. But that arc is never explored at the depth it needs in order to land emotionally.

Plus the songs that come courtesy of composer Alan Menken and lyricist Stephen Schwartz, are largely forgettable. They’re enjoyable as they’re happening, but beyond ‘Badder’, you won’t remember them beyond the credits.

Performance wise, both Amy Adams and Maya Rudolph absolutely commit to their roles. Adams in particular does a fantastic job of switching between her sweet, kind princess persona and her scheming stepmother personality. Gabriella Baldacchino is decent, Patrick Dempsey gets to have some fairytale hero fun and Idina Menzel gives her solo numbers everything, as you’d expect, sadly James Marsden is underused. Jayma Mays and Yvette Nicole Brown get some fun moments. On the whole, ‘Disenchanted’ is an overlong middling sequel that merely feels like an echo of its very popular predecessor.

Directed –

Starring – Amy Adams, James Marsden, Patrick Dempsey

Rated – PG

Run Time – 119 minutes

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