Disenchanted is too long and gets off to a plodding start but settles into a story about mothers and daughters that’s great fun.
We review the Disney+ film Disenchanted, which does not contain spoilers.
It has been 15 years since the surprise Disney hit. Enchanted has become a modern classic for today’s 20-something crowd. Set nearly a decade after the timeline of Enchanted, we now find Giselle (Amy Adams), Robert (Patrick Dempsey, in a role where the only requirement is to cast for the dimples), Morgan (Gabriella Baldacchino), and a new baby girl Sophia, moving to the suburbs of the magical town of Monroeville. Beautiful green grass, perfectly manicured front yards, and the schools look like modern-day palaces. So, pretty much you can smell the taxes in the air. They even are rebuilding a house into a magic castle. This new wonderland isn’t exactly Andalasia (or New York City, for that matter), but a family home is where the heart is, right?
Well, maybe not. Everyone is having trouble adjusting to their new life. Giselle has not received a warm welcome from the mothers of the local PTA and is led by Malvina (Maya Rudolph) in Monroeville. The poor Disney princess cannot sell baked goods on school grounds without permission. Then you have Robert feeling unfulfilled. Why? Edward (Dead to Me’s James Marsden) offers his sword to go on a quest so he can “really” do something or be someone. Life as a corporate lawyer isn’t the gallant, noble life he dreamed of in law school. Then you have Morgan. Now full of teenage angst, she is upset, mostly because she leaves all her friends and feels like an outsider.
Directed by Adam Shankman (What Men Want) and written by Brigette Hales (Hulu’s 11.22.63), Disenchantment is too long by 30 minutes. The main issue is that the film gets off to a plodding start, with setups from classic family comedies without falling into any disgusting bathroom humor, which is a plus. The design makes you feel that the wonderful first installment, which may have been the joke, was a bit one note. And you have to remember how different things are today. We live in a completely different time than in 2007 and see things differently. A time that has been filled with social justice initiatives, political corruption, and living through the worst pandemic in nearly a century.
However, about 35 minutes in, the premise begins to take shape. The story starts to evolve when Giselle is not transitioning from Disney Princess in the city to the suburbs. Giselle wishes to make Monroeville the most magical place, like Andalasia, to show Morgan how charming life can be in the suburbs. Of course, Hales’s script does something bright by showing the unintended consequences of significant changes. This causes Giselle to become a wicked stepmother, something feared in most fairytales. Adams’s performance is a joy to watch from this point on, as she displays a knack for switching between good and evil that is lightning quick and funny.
There are some delightful nods to other classic Disney fare. You have apparent and welcomed references from Cruella to Maleficent. Songs from Beauty and the Beast. When the town becomes a fairy tale, Morgan is presented as a Cinderella-like figure. You’ll even spot Snow White references. This all makes the film great fun, along with Adams and Rudolph performing some knock-out numbers, like “Badder,” and not to mention Idina Menzel showstopping every chance she gets.
At the heart of Disenchanted is a story about mothers and daughters, which is heartfelt. Like a good but forgotten Disney+ film, Godmothered, this is a wonderful trend in movies and streaming networks. Shankman’s film isn’t perfect, but his experience working with musicals works well here. This a musical worth watching with the family, despite its faults.
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