Disenchanted (2022) Review

A SEQUEL THAT’S CUTE,

YET NOT MAGICIAL ENOUGH


 

In 2007, Walt Disney Studios released Enchanted, a fantasy musical comedy, that seemed to riff on the fairy tale-esque and signature ideas that Disney had employed in their animated classics. Directed by Kevin Lima, the film, which starred Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, and Susan Sarandon, follows a young girl named Giselle, an animated fairy tale princess from the magical world of Andalasia, who gets exiled into the live-action world of New York City and befriends one Robert Phillip, who shows the new world and falls in love with. Enchanted went on to be critically praised for its overall execution widely and critically, with many giving praises to the film’s direction, parody-esque outlook on fairy tale cliches (most from Disney themselves), the visual presentation, the music / songs, and the cast, especially in Adams’s performance, which established her as leading lady. The movie went to gross over $340 million worldwide at the box office and received several awards / nominations, including winning three Saturn Awards (Best Fantasy Film, Best Actress for Adams, and Best Music for compose Alan Menken), received two nominations at the 65th Golden Globes Awards, and three Best Original Song (“So Close”, “Happy Working Song”, “That’s How You Know”) nominations at the 80th Academy Awards. Now, after fifteen years have passed since the release of Enchanted, Walt Disney Studios and director Adam Shankman present the long-awaited sequel the beloved 2007 film with the release of Disenchanted. Is there still some magic left in this next chapter for Giselle in friends or is it an unnecessary fantasy sequel that has lost its touch?

THE STORY


Ten years have passed since Giselle (Amy Adams) settled in New York City with her husband, Robert Phillip (Patrick Dempsey), and his daughter, Morgan (Gabriella Baldacchino), with her married “happily ever after” life expanding the family, as baby Sophia makes for a fuller house. Tired of the humdrum of city life, Giselle and Robert decide to move the family to the suburbs, with a fixer-upper in Monroeville dwelling that is surrounded by a tight community that is ruled by Malvina Monroe (Maya Rudolph), who isn’t too happy about the newest addition to the town. With Robert commuting back and forth to NYC for work and Morgan being a moody teenager, Giselle soon fears she’s made a mistake, using a wishing wand gifted to her old friends by King Edward (James Marsden) and Queen Nancy (Idina Menzel) of Andalasia to change her experience for the life she wants knew and loved….the life of a fairy tale. Waking up to amazement, Giselle finds that Monroeville has been transformed into Monolasia, a fairy tale-esque world that resembles the same type of energy, aesthetics and nuances of that of her home world of Andalasia. Feeling the warmth and magic of familiars, the cost of the wish has a price, with Giselle slowly turning her into a wicked stepmother, while Malvina sets her sights on collecting the wand, eager to claim ultimate power. Yet, unbeknownst to all, the price for Giselle’s wish starts to effect Andalasia, which is been ripped apart.

THE GOOD / THE BAD


As I’ve stated many times before, I’ve always been a longtime fan of Disney’s animated films, especially the more classic and / or “second renaissance” motion pictures. This, of course, played a part in what I liked about 2007’s Enchanted, which parody (in a good way) of the ideas of animated fairy tale characters (i.e. singing princesses, dashing princes, talking animals, hopeful “happily ever after” premise, etc.) and have it collide with the more realistic ways of today’s modern world. Of course, I do remember I wanted to go see this movie when it initially came out in 2007, but I went to go see it by chance. I went to the movies and planned on seeing an advance screening of 2007’s The Golden Compass (another movie I was quite interested in seeing), but it was sold out. So, instead of just heading home, I went to go see Enchanted that night and I was delighted that I did, especially when I did see The Golden Compass and how much I was frustratingly disappointed with the fantasy blockbuster. As for Enchanted, I really liked it. It was fun and lighthearted feature that poked fun of the classic Disney princess (and their fairy-tale nuances) that was well-met, well-conceived, and well-executed. I always remember that I love (and still do) that animated sequences in the movie, especially that was back when Disney’s animated feature films were a bit weak (the 2000s era) and didn’t have the same type of energy and satisfying flair as was the ones during the 90s or even the 2010s eras. Plus, I felt that the cast of the movie was spot on throughout. Adams was fantastic as the fairy tale princess Giselle, Dempsey was great as the single-dad lawyer Robert, Marsden was hilarious as the stereotypical dashing hero Edward, and Sarandon was deliciously fun as the wicked queen. In addition, the film’s songs were memorable and having that touch of Disney flavor, especially since longtime Disney composer Alan Menken, worked on the film. All in all, I think that Disney struck cinematic gold when the produced Enchanted; finding a silver lining that spoke to their inherit legacy style of fairy tale characters and blending modern aesthetics of the real world. The result was….quite literally….enchanting and made the film memorable from onset to conclusion.

This brings me back to talking about Disenchanted, a 2022 fantasy musical and the sequel to 2007’s Enchanted. Ever since the success of Enchanted had received during its theatrical release, it has been long rumored that a sequel film was in the works, with many praying and hoping that one would materialize from the “House of Mouse”. After some delays and mostly small snippets of one in the near future, it was announced back in 2020 that a sequel for Enchanted was officially greenlit and that it would be released sometime in 2022. I was kind of interested in seeing it, especially since I love the first one and was interested of where this potential sequel would take the narrative. Yet, I did feel (at the same time) that a sequel wasn’t completely necessary, especially since the first movie sort of “closes out” the story of Giselle and the rest of the characters and really didn’t warrant a “next chapter” adventure. Still, I was keen on seeing what Disney would eventually cook up for this Enchanted 2, with a film’s movie trailer being released during the September of 2022 that showcased the first glimpses of the upcoming sequel that was now being called Disenchanted. From the trailer alone, it looked like an interesting movie, which certainly continued to take cues from Disney’s signature of classic fairy tale life as well as bringing in new elements of the real world. Plus, it was great to see that a lot of returning cast members (Adams, Dempsey, Marsden, and Menzel) would be coming back for the respective character roles. All in all, I was interested in seeing Disenchanted when it was set to be released (not theatrically), but to be released on Disney+ on November 18th, 2022. I did watch the movie the day after its release on Disney+ and I did wait a few days after that to get my review done for the movie, especially since my work schedule was a little bit heavy. Well, I finally have the time to share my thoughts on this fantasy sequel. And what did I think of it? Well, it was just okay. Despite its attempt for some indeed cuteness and lighthearted moments (as well as attempts of sincerity), Disenchanted feels like a disjointed sequel that is both empty and overstuffed at the same time. I really wanted to like this movie and it definitely has the potential, but it ends up being middling endeavor that lacks the same magic as the 2007 feature.

Disenchanted is directed by Adam Shankman, whose previous directorial works include such films like Hairspray, Rock of Ages, and A Walk to Remember. Given his back endeavors that have a more lighthearted tone and / or family friendly template and motifs, Shankman seems quite the suitable director to helm such a project like a sequel to Enchanted. In that regard, I think that Shankman does a pretty decent job in approaching material by creating enough whimsical nuances and lighthearted moments to make the movie’s whole endeavor breezy, even though the film’s runtime is by long by clocking in after two hours. Still, Shankman definitely knows what viewers want to see in a Enchanted sequel and “doubles down” on that, with more time spent with fan-favorite Giselle, along with adding more time to the character of Pip, who gets his own side-story misunderstanding along the way. By doing this, Shankman gives plenty of time to actress Amy Adams to toil around with as she gracefully fills the scenes in every way possible…. even if her character is good or bad.

For the most part, Disenchanted harkens back to the classic notion of “be careful what you wish for”, with Shankman playing up those tendencies in the movie. This results in the movie having a good moral lesson to be learned of having what you have and appreciate it, and never think of “what could’ve been” unless it consumes you. Of course, these thematic elements are a bit watered down (in a good way) to create a kid-friendly feature film that are good for the film’s targeted audience. Shankman always keep that in mind and makes Disenchanted have that “cute” and “fun” feeling throughout. This makes the movie approachable for most ages as it is not to scary nor too childish to tackle such thematic elements as well as developing a lighthearted sequel endeavor that’s able to speak to the 2007 production as well as stand on its own feet. The result can be a bit of a mixed bag at times, yet still manages to cultivate something fun to watch. Naturally, the fairy tale elements are always a welcomed one, with Shankman allowing to develop some very cool and interesting aspects as Giselle’s wish to make Monroeville to Monolasia, which helps play up those stereotypical ideas of a fairy tale and monikers and (like the first feature) is able to play around such nuances to make for fun and creative ways for some amusement plot points.

What I personally liked about the first Enchanted was the cartoon animation sequences that were featured in the movie during the moments that showcased Andalasia. Thankfully, Shankman and his team utilized this presentation again, with some return moments of showing us (the viewers) for scenes in Andalasia, with some animation scenes. Of course, like before, these scenes are limited, especially since majority of the feature is kept in the live action “real world”, but the cartoon sequences are still great and are better detailed in Disenchanted than in Enchanted. All in all, despite some glaring points of criticisms, I do have to admit that Shankman does do a decent job in bringing a new whimsical adventure to Giselle and company in Disenchanted.

For the film’s presentation, Disenchanted is definitely solid throughout, with the film’s visual aesthetics and other background nuances being indeed a welcoming one that speaks to its predecessor as well as making its own mark as a motion picture. Naturally, the film’s setting helps build upon that particular presentation, with the narrative setting of Monroeville having that sleepy suburb feeling when first introduced and then becoming a fully fairy tale kingdom of Monolasia by the time when Giselle makes her wish. The duality of such different depictions is indeed when “realities collide” and helps bring the bright, vibrant, and whimsical aesthetics of a fantasy world to life from the humdrum and stereotypical setting of suburbia. Everything from the film’s set décor, production builds (interior and exterior), costumes, and make-up are indeed great and to help build upon the fanciful setting that the movie is trying to present. Thus, the feature’s “behind the scenes” key players, including Dan Hennah (production design), Jack Connolly and Jenny Oman (set decorations), Joan Bergin (costume designs), and the entire art direction team as well as the hair / make-up team, for their efforts made in bringing Disenchanted’s world to life through their respective talents.

In addition, the film’s cinematography work by Simon Duggan is pretty good, which adds enough nuances to make a few scenes have some dramatic effect. It’s nothing substantial or groundbreaking, but it is enough for some cinematic moments to help build upon those fantastic scenes. Also, I forgot to mention that the film’s animation sequences that depict the fairy tale land of Andalasia are great to see and, while there not as heavily featured (similar to the first one), it is still a welcome sight to see, especially in the somewhat “lost art” of traditional Disney style animation rather than just CGI constructs. Lastly, the film’s score, which was composed by Alan Menken is still rather good and has all the flourishes and nuances one would expect from an Enchanted endeavor. Of course, I’m talking about the score of the movie and not the songs (more on that below), but, while not as palpable as the soundtrack produced in the first film, Menken’s contribution is still a welcomed sight to see (or rather hear), with plenty whimsical charm throughout his musical composition.

Unfortunately, Disenchanted, despite its intent of a proper sequel throughout, does struggle to find its proper footing, with several glaring points of criticisms that weight the feature down from reaching its memorable (or rather “enchanted”) results. Perhaps the most notable one that many can agree with is in the whole endeavor of an Enchanted sequel. What do I mean? Well, for better or worse, 2007’s Enchanted was definitely a memorable hit that worked within its confines and context as well as having its own close-ended narrative. Thus, the film’s conclusion perfect ends the story of Giselle and her friends with a classic “happily ever after” notion, which makes the continuation of the tale a bit superfluous. Of course, like many, I was a bit curious to see where this Enchanted sequel, but Disenchanted kind of opens up another chapter in the story of Giselle (and friends) that really didn’t need to be opened. Basically, the movie feels quite superfluous from the get-go and goes with Disney’s common notion of somewhat “milking” off the success prior endeavors with lesser sequels. Disenchanted feels like that and, for better or worse, comes off as a discounted version of the first one that didn’t need to reexamine for another cinematic adventure. What’s presented is okay, but it’s clear that the movie didn’t need to be made, despite the fan base that wanted to see it, and ends up being a lame sequel.

From a writing standpoint, Disenchanted feels quite limp with a story that goes limp as the feature moves forward. It’s not for a lack of trying, with the movie’s script, which was penned by Brigitte Hales, J. David Stem, David N. Weiss, and Richard LaGravenese, presenting an interesting storytelling premise that looks good on paper, yet feels a bit hollow in its overall execution. The premise of this sequel is decent and makes for some good ideas, yet the movie never goes further than just surface level, for there is so much more that the movie could’ve explored. Of course, the script makes Giselle the central figurehead (as was before in the first Enchanted), yet it’s a bit too much focus on her as most of other characters (new faces and old familiars) sort of get pushed aside and come off as weak iteration throughout the movie. Because of this there is a certain unbalance nature to Disenchanted….one that hinders the feature and creates a lot of wonky and rather clunky material and a haphazard execution from onset to conclusion.Plus, I do have to say that the movie does become a bit too preachy / cheesy when it is trying to get its point / themes across throughout. I definitely get it and yes the first Enchanted film sort of did that a bit, but Disenchanted goes a bit too hard to get those particular view points across, which comes off as a bit forced and hokey…. even if the movie is riffing on the ideas of stereotypical fairy tale aspects.

From a director’s standpoint, Shankman kind of hits and misses the mark when shaping the movie towards his liking. While I mentioned the positives above, the criticism that I have with the director’s decisions in Disenchanted are felt throughout the movie, especially in the film’s pacing issues. The first act of the feature is pretty good and offers up a solid pace of things introducing everything, yet the rest of the feature has some issues with the pacing, with a certain “stop and go” feeling throughout where Shankman keeps things moving for a time, but then abruptly halts the everything. It’s kind of frustrating and one that is definitely felt during the latter half, which causes the ebb and flow of Disenchanted to become wonky and disjointed. This also comes into play during the final climatic battle scene, which kind of feels like a bit of letdown, especially since there has been so much build to this particular moment that it kind of feels underwhelming. All in all, I think that Shankman is a capable director, yet lacks the finesse that is need for handling such a film like Disenchanted to make for some compelling motion picture.

Another problem that I noticed with the movie is the feature’s limitation that it has. What do I mean by that? Well, what I could say is that the film does seem to take a few shortcuts in a few areas and don’t exactly benefit the overall presentation of the movie. The prime example of this is found in Robert’s subplot in the picture, which sees him going up against two fantastical creatures. Yet, those two scenes are quite “blah” because those scenes clearly show the film’s budget and the limitations that is placed upon Disenchanted. Shankman definitely wants to show something, yet doesn’t have the means (and heavy CGI budget) to produce something that could’ve been quite interesting to see. This is also clearly shown in the film’s final act, which (again) wants to be large and expansive with blockbuster flourishes, yet clearly feels small and lacks the means to showcase the proper tone and visual nuances that it wants to project. In the end, I couldn’t find the production budget for Disenchanted, but it’s clearly that the movie was held to a restraint that has limitation in the sequel.

Lastly, the film’s music is a bit problematic in the movie. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t say that they are bad or anything as they definitely fit the movie pretty well, especially within the context of Disenchanted story. Songs like “Even More Enchanted”, “Fairytale Life” (both versions), “Perfect”, “Badder” and “Love Power” are all effective in what they want to convey and are beautifully by the acting talents involved. Anything song that Adams singing is fun and joyful, especially in “Even More Enchanted”, while “Badder” is nice touch to the dueling wicked villains and “Love Power” gives Menzel a classic Frozen-esque ballad to riff on. Well, not completely a bad thing, but it goes without saying that the numbers featured in this sequel were just okay and just mismanaged in the overall movie’s narrative structure. While the first Enchanted did utilize a few key songs, they certainly played the backseat to the story being told. Unfortunately, Disenchanted kind of heavily relies on the songs, which are far too numerous and sometimes overshadow the film’s tale being told. Thus, the movie wallows too much on the songs to be sung instead of the story, while the songs themselves are good, yet not really completely memorable.

What kind of helps elevates those points of criticism is found in Disenchanted’s cast, with some acting talents returning from the original 2007 film to reprise their character roles once again. Unfortunately, those same returning players comes at cost, with their character’s participation in the overall grand scheme of the feature. Perhaps the best one that the film has to offer is found in the central main character of the two Enchanted films of Giselle, who is once again played by actress Amy Adams. Known for her roles in Arrival, Man of Steel, and Sharp Objects, Adams has certainly become a well-known actress since her time in the first Enchanted film, which helped build and establish her name as a capable talent in the lead role. Of course, her performance in Enchanted was quite endearing and found the certain “sweet spot” in making Giselle, the classic and almost stereotypical fairy tale princess, make for such memorable and likeable character as she found herself in surreal circumstances of trying to navigate in the real world of today. Thus, it comes as no surprise, that Adams return as Giselle in Disenchanted is indeed a welcome one that is easily the best part of what the feature has to offer. Adams easily slides back into the role as if she never left it and makes for another endearing portrayal of the fairy tale princess. Her earnests and eternal optimism / outlook continue to be the “bread and butter” of Adams’s Giselle, yet the main plot of this movie gives a new layer to the character of seeing her slowly becoming the classic wicked stepmother archetype. Naturally, this gives Adams some new material to play around with in Disenchanted, with the actress playing up those “evil” with such whimsical fun in a sort of “good to be bad” type of way, which makes Giselle memorable. Yes, it is quite clunky how some of the plot points are handle in her character and could’ve been better represented much smoother, but it’s thanks to Adams’s performance that makes Giselle’s on-screen return one that keeps the feature afloat.

Unfortunately, all the other returning talent from the first feature are woefully underutilized and it’s quite a shame that they didn’t have much time in the movie to play a more of a pivotal role in this sequel’s story. This includes actor Patrick Dempsey (Grey’s Anatomy and Made of Honor) as Giselle’s husband Robert Phillip, actor James Marsden (Hairspray and X-Men) as Andalasiaian royal Prince Edward, and actress Idina Menzel (Frozen and Rent) as Edward’s wife Nancy. Robert does get a semi-sub plot in the movie as he tries to be the classic fairy tale hero / prince, yet it feels a bit underwhelming, which is due to the limitation of the feature altogether. Who fares the worst is in the characters of Edward and Nancy, who are pushed aside in Disenchanted and act more like cameo-like appearance in this movie. Of course, Menzel’s Nancy gets a bit more than Marsden’s Edward in the film, due to her singing, but it feels a bit of a disappointment because there could’ve been so much more to these two characters.

Looking beyond the returning talents from the first one, Disenchanted does feature the return of the character of Morgan, Robert’s daughter and Giselle’s stepdaughter, who is now played by actress Gabriella Baldacchino (The Conners and Ask for Jane). I have nothing to complain about Baldacchino as I think she gave a rather good performance in the movie, especially playing up the annoyed teenager portray of Morgan, who is frustrated with her new life and with Giselle’s whimsical optimism, but it felt like there could’ve been so much more if the feature’s script was better planned out. Baldacchino does a good job in the role and her on-screen chemistry with Adams is spot on, but I felt like there could’ve been more substance in the character of Morgan.

The other new player that is integral part of the film’s narrative is in the character of Malvina Monroe, the presiding main “queen bee” of Monroeville and becomes the Queen of Monolasia when Giselle makes her wish, and who is played by actress Maya Rudolph (Sisters and Bridesmaid). Rudolph usually plays comedic roles throughout her career and, for the most part, I do find her performance hilarious as she can usually “tap into” some memorable bits throughout the various roles she has played. The same can be said in her portrayal of Malvina, with Rudolph playing the part with great ease and can easily play up the villainy ticks and nuances of such of an evil queen. Perhaps the struggle that I find with Malvina is how she is written into Disenchanted and how clunky it is presented. The character is clear and straightforward, but it feels a bit haphazard and not enough substance to warrant such a big placement on Malvina, especially towards the latter half. It becomes a bit monotonous, flat, and, generic. Even better, I believe that the character should’ve been written out of the movie altogether and could’ve delve into more of Giselle’s descent into evil. Additionally, while I did like Rudolph’s performance in the movie, I kind of felt that actress Kathryn Hahn would’ve been a bit better in the role of Malvina, especially after seeing her performance as Agatha Harkness in WandaVision.

The rest of the cast, including actor Kolton Stewart (Some Assembly Required and I Declare War) as Malvina’s son Tyson, actor Oscar Nunez (The Lost City and The Proposal) as Edgar, actor Griffin Newman (The Tick and Draft Day) as the voice of talking squirrel from Andalasia named Pip, actor Alan Tudyk (A Knight’s Tale and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as the voice of a talking Scroll, and actresses Yvette Nicole Brown (Community and Repo Men) and Jayma Mays (Glee and Epic Movie) as Malvina’s two minions Rosaleen and Ruby, make up the minor supporting characters in the movie. Most of these characters are played up for laughs and a few scenes in the movie, yet all the acting talents involved make the most of their limited time. Yet, I would say that Stewart’s Tyson could’ve had more involvement in the film, especially since his ties to his mother and to Morgan.

FINAL THOUGHTS


Seeking a way to connect with her stepdaughter and longing for her old life, Giselle makes a wish for a fairy tale life, which goes awry and makes her the villain in the movie Disenchanted. Director Adam Shankman’s latest film presents the follow-up tale to 2007’s Enchanted, with a returning of whimsical fairy tale magic and spirit for another outing of colliding worlds. While the feature certainly has enough charm as well as a wonderful presentation and the return of several players from the first one, most notable in Adam’s performance, the film struggles to find a proper balance with this next chapter, especially in the film’s direction, several limitations of the presentation, a wonky and crammed narrative, and a few lackluster pieces, that hold the movie back. Personally, I though this movie was just okay. The main plot premise was amusing, it was great to see the return of some of the acting talents, and the production quality was solid, but the story did feel underwhelming and overstuffed at the same time and not as well-put together (story and characters) as the first one. There was just something about the feature that felt lacking and humdrum. Plus, as mentioned above, I really didn’t feel a sequel was needed. Thus, my recommendation for this one is an “iffy choice” as I’m sure some diehard fans of first one will enjoy it as well as the younger crowd, while others will feel underwhelming over this long-awaited sequel. It’s not as terrible as some are making it out to be, but it’s far from what made the first Enchanted movie….well….enchanting. In the end, Disenchanted is a fun and cute returning to adventures of Giselle and her family, but lacks the memorable tones of the first one as well as not being magically enough and really warranting a sequel endeavor.

2.9 Out of 5 (Iffy Choice)

 

Released On: November 18th, 2022
Reviewed On: November 24th, 2022

Disenchanted  is 118 minutes long is rated PG for mild peril and language

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