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Review: Enchanted

As with so much of Disney’s female-centric fantasies, the energetic film eventually peddles the same old ass-backward messages.

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Enchanted
Photo: Walt Disney Pictures

My Disney Princess-obsessed three-year-old daughter will unquestionably love Enchanted. Nonetheless, it’s tough to overlook the fact that there’s something depressingly familiar and noxious about this glamorous fairy tale’s regressive sexual politics and flimsy, feigned female empowerment. In Kevin Lima’s part-cartoon, part-live action film, Princess Giselle, a typical 2D Disney heroine who hangs out with forest animals and idly awaits the arrival of her knight in shining armor, finds true love with dashing Prince Edward, only to then be thrown down a magic well and into real-world, 3D Manhattan by Edward’s evil stepmother Queen Narissa. The introductory animated sequence pokes very gentle fun at the studio’s genre conventions as well as the Shrek franchise, and such light ribbing continues when the insanely cheery princess arrives in NYC and—after mistaking a midget businessman for Grumpy—is taken in by divorce lawyer and single father Robert (Patrick Dempsey), who doesn’t believe in true love. Alas, Robert’s skepticism doesn’t turn out to be the launching pad for a corrective critique of Disney’s sexist fairy-tale canon, as the ensuing adventure plays out like a greatest hits collection from the studio’s past: A protagonist straight out of Cinderella, an evil dragon lady borrowed from Sleeping Beauty (Susan Sarandon) who likes to pose as the old hag from Snow White, and a trio of ethnic stereotypes courtesy of Edward’s (James Marsdan) duplicitous, disguise-wearing sidekick Nathaniel (Timothy Spall). Enchanted faithfully replicates the pageantry of its forbearers during a lavish Central Park musical number, and elicits its most robust chuckles from a sequence in which Giselle—following her domestic instincts—decides to clean Robert’s apartment and, enlisting help from the city’s animals, winds up doing the chore alongside pigeons, cockroaches, and rats. Yet as with so much of Disney’s female-centric fantasies, the energetic film eventually peddles the same old ass-backward messages, equating physical beauty with goodness (and ugliness with vileness), and positing that a woman’s greatest dream is that a hunk will materialize out of thin air and make her a contented homemaker and wife—corrosive ideas that aren’t upended by the faux-girl power, Giselle-saves-Robert finale.

Cast: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, Timothy Spall, Idina Menzel, Susan Sarandon Director: Kevin Lima Screenwriter: Bill Kelly Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures Running Time: 108 min Rating: PG Year: 2007 Buy: Video, Soundtrack

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