In hindsight, it's surprising that 'Enchanted' is one of the only times in Disney's history that the studio has attempted to re-imagine one of their animated classics as a live-action feature. Granted, 'Enchanted' is not based on any one Disney fairy tale, but it so effortlessly weaves together the magic of such beloved classics as 'Cinderella' and 'Sleeping Beauty,' that it can legitimately stand tall with its famous forebearers. Leaving the dreadful '101 Dalmatians' update out of this (as well as 'Pirates of the Caribbean,' which wasn't originally a movie anyway but a theme park ride), if the success of 'Enchanted' is any indication, the studio should try out the conceit more often.
Our story begins exactly how it should, with an animated storybook sequence (narrated by Julie Andrews, no less) introducing us to Princess Giselle, who lives in a far-off land of magic castles, talking animals, and happily ever afters. Much to the delight of the kingdom, Giselle is about to marry her supposed soulmate, the dashing Prince Edward, with the nuptials only hours away. That is, until Queen Narissa, who is bitterly envious of Giselle's youth and beauty, decides to crash the party, springing a booby trap on our unsuspecting heroine, and sending her down a deep well to her doom.
It's here that 'Enchanted' really comes to life, as Giselle emerges from a manhole on the streets of New York, magically morphing into the form of Amy Adams. Lost, penniless, but still every bit a fairytale princess (she's even got the dress to prove it, bitches), she's befriended by Robert Philip (Patrick Dempsey) and his daughter Morgan (Rachel Covey). Robert soon takes in Giselle, and is at first befuddled by her relentless optimism, as well as her bizarre stories of Prince Edward, fairy castles, and romantic longings. Soon, despite the fact that Robert is engaged to marry fashion designer Nancy Tremaine (Idina Menzel), Robert and Giselle begin to fall in love (even if they're the last people to realize it). Robert and Nancy make a nice, attractive couple, but there is no real passion in their courtship -- a problem made all the more obvious by Robert's obvious attraction to the magical Giselle.
At this point, it's clear to even a six-year-old in the audience where all this is going. Do you think Giselle will thaw Robert's cold heart, win over little Morgan, and the three of them will live happily ever after in the kingdom known as the suburbs of New York City? (Do you really need to guess more than once?) What saves 'Enchanted' from falling down the well of old-school Disney sentimentality is the fact that it uses the animated/live action gimmick to subvert the traditional romantic fantasy of the studio's past animated classics. Rather than perpetuating fairy tale cliches, the film adds a refreshing post-modern spin to what could merely have been a cynical regurgitation of tired material.
The masterstroke of 'Enchanted' is not in bringing a second-rate version of 'Cinderella' to life, but in allowing Prince Edward (James Marsden) to come along for the ride -- he's the real catalyst for Giselle and Robert's courtship. In one of the film's many amusing and well-staged sequences, Edward dashes around New York (in full-on Prince regalia), seeking to "rescue" Giselle and whisk her back to their fairytale land of idealized love. Some of the film's most effective emotional notes are subsequently struck not between Giselle and Robert (their growing attraction, while cute, is hardly original), but between Giselle and Edward, as the pair realize that in the real world, they literally have nothing at all in common. The joy for me in 'Enchanted' was not in watching a Princess fall in love, but watching a Princess fall out of a romantic fantasy and into romantic reality -- it's genuinely poignant to witness Giselle (and by identification, the young pre-teen girl audience Disney clearly targeted with 'Enchanted') come to understand that marriage cannot merely be destined, but has to be created by the commitment of two flesh-and-blood, imperfect people.
Of course, no Disney movie would be complete without a big, fiery climax involving a wicked villain, and when Queen Narissa learns of Edward's valiant attempt to save Giselle, she too crosses the boundary into reality and sets the stage for a showdown. Narissa is perhaps the movie's most under-written character, and as played by Susan Sarandon, she pulls the film dangerously close to camp territory (with her over-the-top attire and Kabuki makeup, Sarandon seems to be channeling her old 'Rocky Horror Picture Show' days, only playing Dr. Frank-N-Furter instead of Janet). If director Kevin Lima still nicely stages the CGI-laden conclusion (involving a costume ball, a dragon, a skyscraper, and a talking squirrel -- don't ask), the resolution remains utterly formulaic. Yet, because 'Enchanted' so cleverly developed the Giselle/Edward/Robert triangle, our attachment to these characters and their predicament is unbroken. Even at its most predictable, 'Enchanted' remains emotionally grounded.
If nothing else, 'Enchanted' will likely be looked back upon as the coming out party for Amy Adams as an A-list star. Her boundless, bubbly charm is absolutely perfect for Giselle, and her chirpy upper register easily handles the sprighty tunes by ace songwriting duo Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz. Adams is also a smart enough actress to find just the right touch of post-modern awareness in Giselle's romantic predicament, giving the character's "cartoon into reality" transformation even more depth and gravity. That she even manages to bring out actual emotions in usually stoic co-star Patrick Dempsey (an actor who I've always found to have as much sizzle as a styrofoam cup) may be the movie's most impressive magic trick. To use a phrase already overused by critics when it comes to describing leading ladies, Adams in 'Enchanted' is truly luminous.
It's likely that audiences will care little about such aesthetic musings. Simply at the level of a live-action fantasy, 'Enchanted' works wonderfully. It's perfectly paced, expertly constructed, smartly written (with humor accessible to audiences of all ages), very well-acted and boasts superior production values. The animated segments don't feel cheap, while the sparkling costumes, set design and cinematography perfectly convey a fairytale come to life. Add to that some memorable tunes by Menken/Schwartz (three of which were Oscar-nominated), at least two classic Disney musical setpieces (the Giselle-in-Central Park number is worth the price of admission alone) and a break-out performance by Adams, and 'Enchanted' is easily the best Disney live-action family film the studio has produced in ages.
I originally saw 'Enchanted' during its hit theatrical run, and I wasn't particularly impressed. The image (especially the animated segments) just didn't boast the vibrant colors and brightness I expected. Given that less-than-stellar experience, I was doubly pleased with this Blu-ray, which I found to be superior to my theatrical viewing experience, and among the best transfers I've seen from the studio so far.
Right away, I knew I was in for a treat. The opening animated sequence looks wonderful, with vivid and appealing colors, excellent contrast, and terrific detail. The move to live-action doesn't disappoint, with an equally wonderful image. The palette retains its richness and cleanliness, and blacks are absolutely pure. The source is pristine, too, and the level of visible detail is very strong. Best of all is the apparent depth, which always feels three-dimensional and screams high-def. There are also no apparent artifacts present on this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode -- it's utterly smooth and slick.
Since it's my job to nitpick, I could lament that there are a few isolated shots that looked a bit too bright, but they are so minor it could easily be attributed to calibration issues or my HDTV monitor settings. So forget about it -- with such a lush, detailed, and sharp image, I'm happy to grant 'Enchanted' a rare five-star rating.
Although early tech specs for 'Enchanted' indicated an uncompressed PCM 5.1 Surround track, the disc actually contains a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround mix (48kHz/24-bit) -- which would make it Disney's first (outside of Pixar releases). Regardless of audio format, it's a very warm, very appealing soundtrack that's sure to please.
'Enchanted' is an extremely lively movie, with a mix of animation, whimsical effects, and of course its three Oscar-nominated songs. Dynamic range is excellent, with a lush feel to the highs that never turns brittle, and a warm, expansive midrange. Low bass is prominent and strong, but not overpowering, which is appropriate to the material. Surround use is likewise sustained if a bit subtle, but again that fits the movie, which shouldn't sound bombastic. The movie's few setpieces -- notably Amy Adams' wonderful number in Central Park, as well as the action-fueled climax involving a dragon -- are much forceful and immersive. Discrete effects are nicely done, and the score fills the rears nicely. I have no idea how an uncompressed PCM option on 'Enchanted' could have sounded any better, but 'Enchanted' in TrueHD certainly delivers.
'Enchanted' is hitting Blu-ray day-and-date with the standard DVD, and I'm surprised Disney hasn't produced a bit more in the way of bonus features for what turned out to be its sleeper hit of 2007. This is a likable enough package of goodies (all presented in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 video to boot), though it's not exactly comprehensive. (Subtitle options are provided for the video-based extras in English, French, and Spanish. However, I couldn't find any access to them on the disc's menus -- only by using the subtitle controls on my remote.)
'Enchanted' lives up to its title -- it's a fun, smart, and thoroughly entertaining romantic romp for the entire family. (Okay, it's also totally predictable and a bit saccharine, but that's what you want out of a Disney movie, isn't it?) This Blu-ray is lovely, too, with wonderful video and audio, and a few nice extras to boot. 'Enchanted' warrants enough replay value, both as a film and a Blu-ray, that it well warrants a purchase.