Disenchanted – Review

Cert – Recommended for ages 9+, Run-time – 1 hour 58 minutes, Director – Adam Shankman

After wishing that her new neighbourhood be more like a fairytale Giselle (Amy Adams) must reverse the spell before midnight strikes and she becomes the evil stepmother.

There’s been some form of sequel to 2007’s Enchanted in the works since not too long after the release of the original film. In a year where there has been plenty of praise and anticipation around a number of ‘legacy sequels’ this 15 years later release doesn’t tread into such territory and instead makes a general direct sequel without any belated fanfare. While we meet the characters around a decade older, with certain narrative events based around that, it’s all part of the standard sequel basis as Giselle (Amy Adams) is preparing for a new idealistic life in a quiet neighbourhood outside of New York City.

However, things don’t get off to a good start as husband Robert (Patrick Dempsey) struggles with commuter life and early starts, her relationship with now-teenage step-daughter Morgan (Gabriella Baldacchino) feels increasingly distant as she tries to also look after new baby Sofia. Therefore, when presented with a wand by King Edward (James Marsden) and Nancy (Idina Menzel), still living in her animated homeworld of Andalasia, Giselle wishes for her new town to be just like a fairytale. Cue a live-action depiction of her former life filled with plenty of music and dance numbers and as many traditional narrative arcs as you can imagine. It’s an introduction which breaks into the convention which has been present up until this point as the film solidifies that this is about everyone being in Giselle’s world instead of her being in theirs as was the case with the first film.

Yet, despite the familiar tones and surroundings Giselle is desperate to leave as she finds herself transforming into the vain role of the wicked stepmother. All she needs to do is reverse the spell using the same wand, which just also happens to be sought by Queen, and leader of most events and celebrations in the real world, Malvina (Maya Rudolph). Rudolph, as with many members of the cast, clearly recognises just how deep into a fairytale scenario Disenchanted is and very much plays it up. There’s a sense of theatricality to a number of the performances here, however while Rudolph plays up the role is never quite seems to land in the way that’s perhaps hoped for. Perhaps sticking out more so due to the more ensemble nature of the cast, with the film focusing on a number of different characters and how their day changes now they’re overcome with new personalities to fit the world they’re now a part of.

The film as a whole does feel a bit overlong with its busyness from various different perspectives, however there’s still enough to generally engage and amuse. Perhaps part of why the original worked so much was the consistency of a ‘y’know for kids’ tone. While this sequel should certainly work for younger viewers it doesn’t quite specifically target them throughout without pandering to adults who may be watching with kids or on their own. Yet, it perhaps detracts something slightly overall particularly when it comes to some of the themes and points that are on display, especially in the general vibe of the transformed town she initially enjoys until the consequences become apparent, if the spell isn’t reversed by midnight.

Perhaps the most confident, and enjoyable, sequences of the film come in the musical numbers. It’s no surprise when you remember that Alan Menken is behind them. Providing such moments with an energy which lifts sequences up and helps keep you in place in the developing narrative(s). The theatrical stylings are perfectly caught and summed up in such moments where they feels most and home largely because of what Menken infuses into them. This isn’t the same world where the singing princess is out of place and the songs need to grow around her, no, they burst in straight away here and in a number of instances it simply makes for an even bigger burst when they arrive to move things along.

As a whole there’s a generally likable, if very busy, nature to Disenchanted. It may feel slightly longer due to its leaning into cliché and convention, however the theatricality that lies throughout – particularly within Menken’s musical numbers – helps to keep you engaged within the world that has been created and expanded for this direct sequel which gets on with the job instead of lingering in any kind of nostalgia or catch up. Not without its faults, but there’s still enough to like and be engaged by with everything that the film gets in in just under two hours.

A bit long due to its busyness and focus on various characters, while Disenchanted may be made up of conventions there’s plenty of theatricality on display, particularly within the musical numbers where it’s most at home, to take away from that for a generally likable sequel.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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