Miracle.Posted: November 24, 2007
Enchanted is more different from its preview than any movie I’ve ever seen. The preview makes this part-animated, mostly live-action Disney musical look like a deconstruction (read: trashing) of Disney musicals of the past. The preview makes you anticipate a movie soaked in the brine of irony; it looks like Disney devaluing its own legacy, turning on itself and eating its own leg in desperation.
The movie is a deconstruction of sorts, but what you’d never expect from the previews is that the effect is to elevate the Disney legacy–to praise it, not to bury it. The preview makes the movie look like its energy comes from the cold water of reality thrown in the face of fantasy, but it turns out that for our cynical times, Enchanted makes the case that fantasy is more important than ever. It reminds us that there is a reason humans have told stories that ended in happily ever after for as long as there have been stories. And it makes the case that The Musical, rather than being an outmoded contraption worthy only of ridicule and contempt, continues to be the best way to tell these stories. Who’d a thunk it?
Every element of the movie contributes to this success, but I’d like to single out two. As I’ve said, the movie succeeds because of its absence of cynicism (in opposition to the impression created by the previews); the movie’s sense of commitment to its story is epitomized by star Amy Adams and composer Alan Menken.
Amy Adams is brilliant casting, because she’s counterintuitive casting. This actress has been authentic in every supporting part she’s done (see Junebug, especially), but at 33, she might be considered a little “long in the tooth” for the part of an innocent fairy-tale princess. A more expected choice would be a Mandy Moore or other early twenty something pop icon. We can thank our fairy godmother that the studio chose Adams, for the success of the movie hangs on our belief in Gisele, and Amy Adams makes us believe.
Composer Alan Menken has created a pastiche score—combining echoes of music from the great animated Disney musicals of the past as well as his own from the Disney animated musicals of the nineties—while going beyond pastiche to create music of excellence on its own terms. The song “True Love’s Kiss”—which is the emotional linchpin of the movie—hearkens back to the music of Frank Churchill for Snow White and Bambi (words by Larry Morey). (Churchill’s career was cut short tragically by suicide when he was 40, on May 14, 1942.) In fact, the octave leap that is the central motif of “True Love’s Kiss” is highly redolent of the same in Bambi’s “Love is a Song,” which was the emotional linchpin of that movie.But here’s the thing. You don’t sense Menken saying, “I’m going to send up these old songs with clever musical quotations for the cognoscenti.” You sense him saying, “I want to tap into the primal unconscious the way Frank Churchill did. I want to salute him, and the best way to do that is to write music with the same power as his.” Everyone involved with Enchanted seems to have felt a similar obligation, and to have been impassioned by similar motives. Shot in New York, it comes in an envelope decorated to look like satire, but inside the envelope is a love letter.