‘Disenchanted’ Tries Hard To Recapture The Original’s Charm – Review
When Giselle (Amy Adams) climbed out of a sewer to get her first glimpse at New York City 15 years ago, she was about to experience the most magical adventure of her life. She bravely faced the mighty dangers of living in a big city and came to terms with how different it was from living in a place where animals can sing. Unfortunately, trying to adapt to suburban life in the present day isn’t her brightest story, with a disappointing entry which seems to misunderstand what made the original film so appealing.
The former resident of Andalasia moves to Monroeville with her whole family, including her husband Robert (Patrick Dempsey), her stepdaughter Morgan (Gabriella Baldacchino), and her newborn daughter Sophia. Morgan isn’t thrilled to leave her New York City life behind, creating tension between her and Giselle. After all, you don’t have to be from a magical cartoon kingdom to have no clue about how to deal with teenagers. It doesn’t take long for the magic to start causing trouble around town, putting this family in a race against a ticking clock.
This seems like a standard Disney Channel setup, where family members who are not seeing eye to eye must learn a valuable lesson through a musically inclined journey. But Disenchanted attempts to establish a fairy tale in the real world while looking at its phone, dragging characters from one scene to the next without finding its own magical spark. The entire time, it appears the cast is rehearsing for a film they’re just beginning to figure out.
A standard charming premise was also the start of the original film, but in that instance, what made the story soar was the characters confronting the story with a slightly realistic perspective, with the humour coming directly from a lawyer falling in love with an actual fairy tale princess. Since that alone sounds insane, it was easy to remain engaged in a musical adventure where a lady in a wedding dress sings alongside rats and cockroaches.
But the sequel feels very staged, with the performances, sets, and dialogue creating an atmosphere which makes you question if someone will look at the camera and directly ask the viewer if they remember the first film. The movie isn’t brave enough to hint at how these people would deal with this situation in a modern setting, perhaps trying too hard to emulate the style from around the time when the first film hit theatres. Giselle has lived in New York City for a decade; there is no reason for her to behave as a person who moved in two weeks ago and is three seconds away from asking why air fryers weren’t a thing in Andalasia.
Alan Menken returns after writing Enchanted’s musical hits, including the one featured at the moment when James Marsden’s Prince Edward gets trampled by a pack of cyclers in Central Park. The highlight of the musical numbers is a confrontation between Giselle and Malvina. Maya Rudolph delivers a good performance as the woman who wishes to control the social status of the neighborhood, although it is strange to watch a Disneyfied version of the actress’ trademark sass.
Menken and director Adam Shankman clearly make an effort to formulate mesmerizing musical numbers of a grand scale, but the movie’s lack of charisma casts a large shadow over every aspect of the production. If all of the musical numbers had strong character motivation behind them, they would be more effective. Sadly, most of them read as if a producer remarked it’s been ten minutes since the last tune, prompting the need for a new one.
Disenchanted never had to reach the heights of its predecessor; both films were released within two very different pop culture contexts. But Giselle’s newest tale never seems to stand on solid ground, resulting in a continuation which doesn’t feel in line with the themes or charisma that arrived in theatres back in 2007. Even with that sentiment, the sequel could still work if it sought to believe in its own heart, but instead, we’re left with a product solely made for brand recognition.
Shankman’s attempt to bring Giselle to the suburbs never achieves a steady pace, despite assembling a stellar cast and having Disney’s most legendary composer at their side. With a story that tries to navigate a bigger scale when it didn’t need to, faulty character development and underwhelming dialogue, this second trip to Andalasia leaves a lot to be desired.