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Was Bungion Boy ENCHANTED By An Early Screening?!

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. This is Disney’s big holiday family film, and I think I may be seeing it next week. Bungion Boy got an early peek... since he is, after all, the king of the early NYC screening at this point... and here’s what he had to say:

Hey Harry, Mori, etc. Bungion Boy here, back in New York. I’ve just returned from an extended vacation in Northern California where the only things to see were “Rush Hour 3” and “Halloween.” It’s good to be back… sort of. For tonight I saw the new Disney faerie tale film “Enchanted.” The film begins like so many classic Disney animated films have before. We see a storybook resting on a table in a castle. On the cover is the word “Enchanted.” The books pages magically fold open. We hear Julie Andrews’ voice narrating to us. For that magical moment I flashed back to my childhood and to films like “Pinocchio” and “Snow White.” I felt like a kid again. Then the movie started and I once again became a bitter, cynical New Yorker. In the unlikely case that you don’t know, “Enchanted” is a modern faerie tale about an animated girl named Giselle who finds herself in Manhattan. Sound familiar? Well at the top of the long list of films that this is similar to is “Elf,” one of my favorite family films from the new century. Replace “Christmas Magic” with “Faerie Tale Magic” and you have the exact same movie. The film opens with a ten minute animated sequence in which we are introduced to the girl and her world. Well, not really. What we get is a pretty generic opening that just shows us a guy, a girl, and a villain. There is a musical number with Giselle singing with lots of forest creatures, but it’s not sweet and sincere like as if Snow White were doing it. It’s played for laughs and meant to be satirical. This was the part of the movie that really should have felt like a classic Disney film of the 40’s. There was plenty of time to make fun of those things later in the film but they couldn’t wait. The 2D animation is nice to see on the big screen again and is pretty impressive, looking like early 90’s caliber Disney animation, but the magic isn’t there. We get a chipmunk that talks like Joe Pesci and a giant ogre that reminds us of Shrek. These aren’t really characters. These are mash ups of every Disney princess that feels like just as recycled as something like “Happily N’ever After.” We get a set up of the evil queen not wanting her prince step-son to get married so she sends Giselle to “a place where Happily Ever After doesn’t exist.” New York. Get it? Now in human form, Giselle is played by the wonderful Amy Adams, who is already princess-like. Anyone who saw her in “Junebug” knows that she’s hard to resist. She is sweet, funny, and adorable. Later in the film she gets a few opportunities to demonstrate these charms, but at first she’s kind of annoying, due in whole to the script making her do and say really stupid, annoying, expected things. Of course we get the long, extended sequence of her walking around the nightmare that is Times Square, getting shocked and surprised by some things and mistaking other things for something else. I was so certain that bastard Naked Cowboy was going to show up for a gag but no such luck. It isn’t long before Giselle meets Robert, a straight laced divorce lawyer played by Patrick Dempsey. Dempsey isn’t bad in this, though it might have just felt that way because he plays it straight and is given nothing to do but look pretty and roll his eyes. Robert has a young daughter, played by a young actress who I don’t think can read yet because every time she opened her mouth she sounded like she was repeating a line that had just been fed to her. The daughter realizes that something is different and magical about Giselle and decides she would make a wonderful mother. Robert doesn’t notice anything out of the ordinary, even when rats clean his bathroom and people break out into song in Central Park, so he just thinks she’s crazy. Wow. There’s no way these two could ever end up together. They’re so drastically different in every way! But remember? Giselle already has a true love in her animated world. He is the charmingly dim Prince Edward, played hilariously by James Marsden, who has followed Giselle to New York to find her. He also brought the chipmunk with him. What’s worse than an animated chipmunk that talks like Joe Pesci? A CGI chipmunk that can’t talk so it just squeaks and plays charades. That gets old pretty fast. Marsden on the other hand is really shaping up to be a funny character actor. Between “Hairspray” and this, he has been one of the nice surprises of the year. He had the only scene that made me laugh out loud, which came towards the end of the film after I had all but given up hope. Giselle is also being pursued by the evil queen’s henchman, played by Timothy Spall in one of the other worthy effort performances in the film. He’s constantly chasing Giselle, trying to feed her poison apples, and questioning his fidelity to the queen in the film, which results in one of the better site gags at the end. And what about that evil queen? Well she’s eventually played by Susan Sarandon but neither incarnation of her is in the film much at all. That’s one of the film’s real flaws is that it doesn’t have a credible villain. The queen pops up in the animated beginning and once or twice more for brief moments, but she never seems like a real threat or even part of the story. Until the end, in which she turns human and then into a talking dragon, she only has about a combined five minutes of screen time. More of a cameo than a character. So why didn’t this work? It’s got an attractive and/or talented cast and a sweet, family friendly premise. There. That’s the problem. No. Not the “family friendly” part for once. The premise. It’s a great premise but that’s all it is. There isn’t much of a story getting told. It seemed like the screenplay was written by a committee writing individual scenes and piecing them together later like a puzzle. At times I couldn’t tell if the screenplay was just sloppy or if there had been a lot of scenes already cut out of the film. Characters are always popping up all over Manhattan with no explanation of how or why they’re there. How do you account for a scene when Timothy Spall is in Times Square one minute and then the next he’s in the kitchen at Katz’s Deli talking to a magic image of the queen in a pot of soup? Now it’s not the geography. I know all he has to do is walk to 6th Avenue and take the F train to Houston and 2nd Avenue to get there, but where was the scene in which the queen told him to report to her. Or the scene in which the queen explains that she can communicate with the other world using liquid like soup and martinis and that delis are especially good places to do this. This sounds like I’m nit-picking but it’s little things like that that made me think that the film was making up all the rules and stories as they went along. The same thing happens in one amusing sequence in which Giselle enlists the help of rats, pigeons, and roaches to clean the apartment. For a while in the film Giselle has been seeing many things in Manhattan and either not knowing what they are or thinking they are something else, like dragons and monsters. Yet as she sings her cute cleaning song, (one of four written by Disney veterans Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz) she starts calling things like vacuums and toilets by name. Again, a little thing but it’s the little things that make or break movies like this. I know I’m being a little hard on “Enchanted” and giving it more guff than it deserves. Frankly this isn’t a terrible film, and it’s certainly a lot more harmless than some of the family films out there these days like “Are We Done Yet?” and “Daddy Day Camp.” This just saddened me because it could have been so much more. The things that start to work are just pushed off into the background so they can make room for the conventions we’re used to and are expecting. Why did we need Patrick Dempsey’s character? Was it so essential that she fall in love with him? I was a lot more interested in seeing Giselle interact with Prince Edward. The movie would have been a lot more original and funny if the story were about a girl and a prince from another world trying to find each other in Manhattan so they could go back to the Faerie Tale world together. But with Edward just there for comic relief and Marsden not being the star of a hit tv show, we just get a lot of meet-cutes and misunderstandings with Dempsey. Seen that before. What else have you got? I know this movie wasn’t made with someone like me in mind, but neither was “Elf.” This film will be a huge hit this November and at least it will make a lot of young girls very, very happy and there’s no harm in that. My only fear is that this film will be so huge that it will spawn an unnecessary sequel, which this film doesn’t leave room for at all. This is a cute holiday distraction for kids, but doesn’t deserve to be anything more than that. Just like how Ben Stiller doesn’t deserve to see what kind of crazy adventures his museum exhibits will have on another exciting night. -Bungion Boy
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