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Enchanted DVD Review

Disney's Enchanted movie poster Enchanted

Theatrical Release: November 21, 2007 / Running Time: 107 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Kevin Lima

Cast: Amy Adams (Giselle), Patrick Dempsey (Robert Philip), James Marsden (Prince Edward), Timothy Spall (Nathaniel), Idina Menzel (Nancy Tremaine), Rachel Covey (Morgan Philip), Susan Sarandon (Queen Narissa), Jeff Bennett (voice of Pip in Andalasia), Kevin Lima (voice of Pip in New York), Teala Dunn (voice of Bunny), Fred Tatasciore (voice of Troll), Tonya Pinkins (Phoebe Banks), Isiah Whitlock, Jr. (Ethan Banks), Jodi Benson (Sam), Julie Andrews (Narrator)

Songs: "True Love's Kiss", "Happy Working Song", "That's How You Know", "That's Amore", "So Close", "Ever Ever After"

Buy Enchanted from Amazon.com: Widescreen DVD • Fullscreen DVD • Blu-ray Disc


Enchanted isn't the first film to attempt to tell a modern day fairy tale, but it is one of the more inspired ones.
This is a movie which leans heavily on the long tradition of princess-centered Disney animation. Appropriately enough, it opens with some of the first traditional animation seen in one of the studio's theatrical features in over three years.

The blissfully 2-D cartoon world is Andalasia, where pretty redhead Giselle, dear friend to forest creatures, dreams of sharing true love's kiss with a charming prince that must be out there. He is; the handsome and brave Prince Edward comes to her rescue, all the while singing his own verses of her song. Naturally, they're to wed, but a wicked stepmother, Queen Narissa, disapproves for reasons that are not overly clear. Incognito as a hag, she impedes the rapid engagement by sending Giselle to a place where there is no "happily ever after": present-day Manhattan, where Giselle becomes flesh and blood (Amy Adams) as we shift to live-action.

It is not difficult to appreciate that the fish out of water here is a princess out of her fairy tale, as Giselle struggles to make sense out of the bustling city while saddled with a cumbersome white dress. New Yorkers, given a usual jaded portrayal, are in no rush to help this seeming sideshow in her quest to find her kingdom or her prince, whatever comes first. Instead, she encounters practical divorce lawyer/single parent Robert Philip (Patrick Dempsey, "Grey's Anatomy") and his young daughter Morgan (Rachel Covey). Reluctantly, Robert answers Morgan's wishes to assist what appears to be a genuine princess.

In the animated world of Andalasia, Giselle sings of meeting a prince (represented by the mouthless hodgepodge) and experiencing true love's kiss, while creatures of the forest listen on in Disney's "Enchanted." The newly-human Giselle (Amy Adams) gets her first look at our world, having just entered the middle of Manhattan through a sewer. As in many parts, the viewer can find meaning (intended or not) in several of the Times Square billboards. Mamma Mia!

The presence of the cheerful, naive Giselle poses problems for Robert at work and at home, where his fiancιe-to-be Nancy (Tony-winning Broadway actress Idina Menzel) disapproves of the situation. But he has trouble merely sending Giselle off in the world.

Meanwhile, three additional Andalasia residents cross over to real-world New York City: Prince Edward (James Marsden), the Queen's stocky henchman Nathaniel (Timothy Spall, Peter Pettigrew to Harry Potter fans), and the chipmunk Pip (CGI, of course). All are in pursuit of Giselle, but whereas Edward and Pip benevolently aim to rescue, Nathaniel plans to do Narissa's evil bidding with immigrant disguises and poisoned apples.

At all times, the movie is cognizant of fairy tale conventions, a fact it regularly reminds us of with playful allusions to classic animated Disney features. Where DreamWorks' Shrek films opt for irreverence in their warped depictions of folkloric icons, Enchanted is less decisive and abrasive. It is in favor of gentle mockery but at its heart it celebrates the genre, aware that people love traditional fairy tales. As such, entertainment is in much higher supply than surprises, which is appropriate and not a bad thing. The film walks a fine line between cloying and charming extraordinarily well, always straying closer to the latter.

Having recently made a dress out of his curtains, Giselle fawns in front of Robert (Patrick Dempsey). Three more residents of Andalasia scout out New York's Columbus Circle. They are, left to right: Nathaniel (Timothy Spall), Prince Edward (James Marsden) and, on statue arm, Pip the chipmunk.

Elements of the story are most directly inspired by Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Sleeping Beauty. In style, viewers should see a greater connection to the 1990s Disney animation Renaissance, particularly since we get a number of original songs by Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin)
and Stephen Schwartz (Menken's collaborator on Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame). Three of their Broadway-esque Enchanted compositions recently competed for the Academy Award for Best Original Song and though none won (presumably the result of a Dreamgirls-style neutralization), two of them -- "Happy Working Song" and "That's How You Know" -- are especially delightful, both in sound and the manner with which they're brought to life on film.

Though some of the Disney references feel forced, on the whole they make good use of the studio's rich history in a way that's infinitely more appealing than today's ubiquitous airheaded Disney Princess media. Particularly nifty is that three women who voiced '90s Disney heroines make appearances in the film: Paige O'Hara (Belle) and Judy Kuhn (Pocahontas' singing voice) have short cameos, while Jodi Benson (Ariel) does well in a supporting role.

For all the homage the studio pays to itself, the film manages to have a distinct personality of its own which doesn't get lost in the shuffle. It reminds one of Splash, Big, and Elf, three other comedic fantasies which are set in Manhattan to a degree that it's a character. If you're like most people, you'll agree that's some pretty terrific cinema to consider kindred.

Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon) wields the power to stop traffic and that's no mere metaphor. Robert emits a nervous chuckle as Giselle tries to understand his line of work (divorce law). The receptionist in the left side of the frame is played by none other than Jodi Benson, the singing and speaking voice of Ariel in all animated Disney incarnations of "The Little Mermaid."

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the film, which goes so right despite occupying the marketable cross-platform territory where Disney tends to get so excited that sales quickly overshadow quality (see "Hannah Montana" from point A and where the Pirates of the Caribbean series has gone). A few aspects of Enchanted deserve to be singled out in praise.

I appreciated how refreshingly hesitant it was to pander; a nearly all-adult cast and modern themes aren't too readily found in the studio's recent live-action output. There's one child who remains mostly in the periphery, not in the foreground supplying excess cuteness. I also particularly enjoyed the film's central contrast of fairy tale perfection with 21st century realities.
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Much of it is played for laughs in Bill Kelly's script (his third, following the fun Blast from the Past and the wretched Premonition). But the ideas still resonate, as the film both embraces and questions the "dreams come true" mantra. And one must admire how Disney at least appears to have depicted Times Square as is, rather than seek product placement funding or overemphasize the company's presence there.

The leading cast is excellent. In the flashiest and top-billed role, Amy Adams gives a star-making performance which is deserving of the Golden Globe nomination it received. It's a part that would be easy to miscalculate, but Adams strikes the perfect tone, conveying her character's enthusiasm and optimism without crossing into caricature, and exhibiting wise restraint in more tender scenes. Patrick Dempsey is quite apt as her foil, developing his callous persona with enough dexterity to ensure likeability. As Prince Edward, James Marsden brilliantly makes the most of his every scene and line, developing the gallant but aloof supporting character into one of the piece's funniest and most endearing. Though not utilized to maximum effect, Susan Sarandon is wisely cast and appropriately villainous.

Giselle's special rapport with animals isn't lost in New York. Singing a "Happy Working Song", she cleans Robert's apartment with the help of pigeons, rats, and cockroaches. Giselle ponders her future on her very first date with Prince Edward, who's amusingly decked in New York tourist gear.

Sarandon's queen is part of the film's second climax, which simultaneously feels inevitable, burdensome, and like one climax too many. It's unfortunate that both this and an unsavory Carrie Underwood pop tune come at the end of the film, but they're certainly not enough to sour the proceedings. Less easy to overlook is the film's excessive use of two characters: Pip, the chipmunk most prominent among CGI critters, and the Queen's stooge Nathaniel. Both have their moments, but begin to wear out their welcomes while performing some of the broadest material.

An overwhelming critical darling that appeared to boast wide appeal, it's not too surprising that Enchanted found success in theaters. What's somewhat less expected to me is that said success wasn't as tremendous as you might expect. With undoubtedly high production and marketing budgets, Enchanted can only be considered a modest hit in U.S. theaters, where its $127 million (and counting) gross was comparable to other clear hits of 2007 (Hairspray, Superbad, Bee Movie) but quite a bit less than the earnings of Disney's Jerry Bruckheimer sequels, annual Pixar release, and the head-scratching Wild Hogs. International markets help Enchanted's case, accounting for an additional $182 million of ticket sales to date. And when merchandise -- DVDs, dolls, etc. -- is considered, even creative accounting won't be able to deny the film considerable profits. But one has to think the company and its biggest fans hoped a little more attention would go to a project so wrapped up in what many consider the highest forms of "Disney magic."

Enchanted comes to DVD and Blu-ray in the middle of March, just in time for this year's early Easter and just shy of four months since it opened in theaters.

Buy Enchanted: Widescreen Edition DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
DTS 5.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: March 18, 2008
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99 (Reduced from $29.99)
Black Keepcase Housed in
Embossed, Holographic Cardboard Slipcover
Also Available in Reformatted Fullscreen Edition DVD
and on Blu-ray Disc

VIDEO and AUDIO

Enchanted arrives on DVD in separate widescreen and fullscreen editions. You ought not to pay any attention to the latter because, like most modern cinema, the film was meant to be seen in widescreen. Recreating the film's theatrical exhibitions, the first 10 minutes following the opening studio logo present the animation in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, windowboxed to preserve the sudden widening effect that marks the jump to 2.35:1 live-action. Picture quality is impeccable. Sharpness, color, and detail all impress heartily enough to make this demo material.

The excellent video is complemented by terrific audio. Enchanted joins the rare class of Disney DVDs equipped with a DTS soundtrack, very few of which have been released in the past couple of years (generally, just select direct-to-video animated sequels). The material makes use of the less compressive format with a dynamic mix that's big on surround effects, solid on bass, and able to present peaks, valleys, and music in a satisfying way. It's a soundtrack that's tempting to show off, provided you're into that kind of thing.

Though not quite as bubbly as Giselle, Amy Adams still oozes cheer in her interviews from the "Fantasy Comes to Life" shorts. Rachel Covey, easily the youngest among top-billed cast members, addresses the camera with the line that Amy Adams (rear) just forgot in the Blooper reel. Idina Menzel's Nancy has a short deleted scene at her workplace, but there is no sign of a rumored deleted song.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

For being a high-budget hit with critics and audiences as well as belonging to a much-storied tradition, Enchanted is dealt a surprisingly meager selection of bonus features on DVD.

First and, for some, most is "Fantasy Comes to Life", a section that gives slick, standard behind-the-scenes looks at two musical sequences and the explosive finale.
Interviews, set footage, and glimpses at visual effects in different stages add up to a welcome but fluffy application of ordinary making-of techniques to three of Enchanted's most memorable set pieces. The short featurettes are: "Happy Working Song" (6:25), "That's How You Know" (5:53), and "A Blast at the Ball" (5:27).

A short reel of Bloopers (2:10) provides mild amusement as finished-looking film comes to a halt on forgotten lines and actor falls.

Next come six deleted scenes, which run just 7 minutes and 50 seconds with introductions by director Kevin Lima. Aside from the extended Andalasia opening seen in storyboards, most of these short deletions are forgettable. The same is true of Lima's enthusiastic but generic explanations for the trims.

Pip and his magical nutdust are at the center of "A Pop-Up Adventure", which does fill in a narrative gap, just not in the most memorable way. Though not advertised anywhere on the set, Carrie Underwood's partially-animated "Ever Ever After" music video is found as an Easter Egg. Some should appreciate the simplicity of the Andalasia-set menus, but one wonders how the designers didn't think to include an option to cross into real-life New York City.

Last is "Pip's Predicament: A Pop-Up Adventure" (5:35), an animated short created for this DVD. Somewhat interesting visually (in spite of cost-saving minimalism), the cartoon is otherwise pretty dull as it tells of how the chipmunk and his... nuts help unfreeze Prince Edward and the rest of nature.

The first of two Easter eggs is bound to elicit groans from those sick of hearing about Blu-ray Disc.
It's an 80-second pitch for the film's concurrent Blu-ray release, specifically the exclusive Disney references guide which could have so easily been included here.

The second Easter egg is a more welcome inclusion: the music video for Carrie Underwood's "Ever Ever After" (3:25), which, like the film it comes from, juggles 2-D animation with live-action New York footage (that looks suspiciously not like New York). The singer and a stubbly vested young man are at the center of both medium's attentions in this goofy but well-meaning presentation of the film's obligatory pop tune.

Far from inspired, the animated main menu settles on a boring Andalasian waterfall after a brief intro. At least, pleasant score excerpts accompany this and static submenus.

The disc opens with a Disney company promo and, after the standard FastPlay prompt, promos play for Disney Blu-ray Disc, Sleeping Beauty: Platinum Edition, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, and Disney Movie Rewards. All but the first are also provided on the Sneak Peeks menu along with a Disney Parks commercial and ads for The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning, Minutemen, The Jungle Book 2: Special Edition, "Hannah Montana": One in a Million, and Tinker Bell.

The DVD's artwork largely recreates the film's theatrical one-sheet poster while adding an animated Pip and bluebird. Of course, you're given two ways to admire it because it's duplicated in a drastically embossed, selectively holographic cardboard slipcover. Inside the black keepcase are a scene selections insert and a mini booklet that provides the Disney Movie Rewards code and a coupon for $10 off the Enchanted Blu-ray which expires at the end of next month.

Making utterly clear their clashing life outlooks, Giselle carries a heart wreath and summons doves while Robert stares in serious disbelief. It just wouldn't be a princess movie without a ballroom dance, would it?

CLOSING THOUGHTS

It is pretty easy to call Enchanted Disney's best film of 2007 and among the better of all released last year.
Disney Checks, Labels, Covers
Blending fantasy and reality, animation and live-action, formula and originality, the movie is one which nearly all viewers will agree lives up to its title.

Expectedly, the DVD release doesn't slouch in the picture and sound departments, and I can't imagine anyone being disappointed by the disc in this regard. Bonus features are another story, though, for the modest slate hardly seems to do justice to the winning, elaborate film. The strengths are still enough to merit an easy recommendation, but be aware that a superior release might be down the line. It wouldn't be hard to cook one up and the Blu-ray exclusive suggests that the lack of supplements is at least somewhat deliberate.

Buy Enchanted from Amazon.com: Widescreen DVD / Fullscreen DVD / Blu-ray Disc

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
New: 101 Dalmatians (Platinum Edition) • Mrs. Doubtfire (Behind-the-Seams Edition) • The Aristocats (Special Edition) • Across the Universe
Songs by Alan Menken: The Little Mermaid (Platinum Edition) • Aladdin (Platinum Edition) • Beauty and the Beast (Platinum Edition) • Newsies
Songs by Stephen Schwartz: Pocahontas: 10th Anniversary Edition | From Writer Bill Kelly: Premonition
Directed by Kevin Lima: A Goofy Movie • Tarzan • Eloise at the Plaza • Eloise at Christmastime
New York City Comedies: Big (Extended Edition) • Oliver & Company • Jungle 2 Jungle • The Wild • Night at the Museum
Princesses: The Princess and the Frog • Shrek the Third • The Princess Diaries • Disney Princess Sing Along Songs, V1 • Enchanted Soundtrack
2007 Disney Films: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End • The Game Plan • Ratatouille • Meet the Robinsons • Bridge to Terabithia

125x125 Princess Disney collectibles

The Cast of Enchanted:
Amy Adams: Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian • Julie & Julia • Doubt • Underdog
Patrick Dempsey: Grey's Anatomy: Season One • Brother Bear 2
Susan Sarandon: Shall We Dance? (2004) • In the Valley of Elah | Timothy Spall: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

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Reviewed March 8, 2008.