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Review

Harry is ENCHANTED and turned into a preening 8 year old girl in a tiara!

Have you ever felt completely ENCHANTED by a movie? I have, many times and tonight at the screening of ENCHANTED, its spell wrapped me up from beginning to end and made me so blissfully happy and aglow. It’s a daring film to make – something that tries to marry the world of childhood wonder to the cynically bitter world of reality. But the filmmakers and producing team behind Disney’s ENCHANTED didn’t walk that line, they danced it, twirled around it, picked it up and sewed a perfect pattern of a movie that left me humming, singing and goofy in love. The film begins with an animated pop-up book fairy tale titled ENCHANTED… actually… it begins with the Walt Disney logo… that gorgeous, magical logo that they debuted with them Pirates. Remember the one? Well it begins with that, then zooms into the top window of the top tower of the Disneyland castle, where we find a book that Pop-Ups as it opens… Something modern and magical. Many times we’ve seen these books open before fairy tales from Disney, but here… Here the book pops open and begins to tell our tale as Julie Andrews narrates. Then – at one magical zoom into the Pop-up page we find our would-be princess of our tale. She’s constructing the prince of her dreams with the aide of the helpful forest animals. This is all animated in gorgeous, lush, beautiful classic 2D as only Disney does it animation. I have to say, I had no idea how much I missed their animation till the opening of this film…. And the writing, voice acting and the animation is so inspired and full of love that you can tell it was being made by animators that were pouring their all into it… demanding and screaming, “DAMMIT WE DESERVE TO EXIST, WE DEMAND IT!” and so many moments brought me and the audience to claps, cheers and laughs. All of this to Alan Menken’s genius music and song. Before the film played we had a brief costume contest made up of 4 Princesses and 1 Captain Hook that demanded he was a Pirate Zombie… (yes, that was my nephew) – and after that I had prizes left over – so I held an impromptu Disney Singing contest – and luckily had enough for them all. Two girls sang songs from Hannah Montana and HIGH SCHOOL THE MUSICAL -- which, the old fart in me demands and says, “THAT’S NOT DISNEY MUSIC,” but my heart knows different. However, the rest sang mostly songs created by Alan Menken… Aladdin, Little Mermaid and Pocahontas… I even sang a bit of Aladdin. And it didn’t result in ear damage. But there’s something magical about Menken and this is his best work since the passing of his partner Howard Ashman, may he rest in peace. Now – I’m not sure if you’re the ENCHANTED type – Do you love love? Eat Turkey on Thanksgiving? Kiss under Mistletoe? Do you sing happy songs? Do you wish for less complicated times? Do you love watching Disney Animated Films? Ever find yourself singing, “I’m wishing… for the one I love…. To find me… Someday.”? Does Disneyland make you giddy or miserable? Ya know… I don’t know about that last one. You see, this summer, my wife and I went to Disneyland with my best man Roro and Tom Joad. Tom Joad was loving it, but Roro… about 3 hours in was looking for booze. He wasn’t in love with Disneyland – distracted by the cost for everything… But ya know what? Even RoRo McGrinch was ENCHANTED. SO maybe you don’t have to be the type. In fact – maybe, just maybe if you’re not the type, ENCHANTED might work even more. How could that be? Well – it starts with Amy Adams’ Giselle. I could swear I’ve never seen this woman before. Oh sure, I’ve seen every film she’s been in – and I’ve actually liked most of them… but her Giselle is a screen creation of such awesome wonder and joy… It’s like she’s on the best most wonderful drug known to man… one that doesn’t only give you the delusion that she’s a princess… but that she has AWESOME and INCREDIBLE Princess Powers. When she opens a window and “Aw Ha Awww Ha Awwwws” – and it’s like this snappy wake up call for critters of the world to follow her every wish. Like a Siren’s call to sailors to crash against the crags, but of pure innocence and love that the animals of the world lose their unto centuries of distrust for mankind and suddenly work hand in claw or paw with her. Or the absolute infectious power of her singing to make those around her join in… or just the radiant love she gives off that can heal all wounds. Giselle is always constantly in her special place, her wonderful world where you pine for love, believe in heroes and trust openly and earnestly. A friend told me after seeing this the other day, that they just wanted to take her home and bottle her.. so they could spray her from time to time to make the world a better place – and that’s exactly what she is… a ray of sunshine, the scent of cookies cooking and all other things that make you happy. What a blissfully perfect performance. THEN – there’s James Marsden who could not possibly be better as Prince Edward. Marsden has always landed the strong supportive characters that were never particularly designed to stand out. The writers on X-MEN through X3 never did nail what was great about that character, so Marsden never had the role that ultimately he had. This was mainly due to the strengthening of the Wolverine character. Then in his role in SUPERMAN RETURNS – he was very strong, but as a character that nobody wanted to have screen time, but he was really good. Here though… Marsden delivers perhaps the best comedic supporting character in film this year. His Prince Edward has been created to be HERO, SINGER and LOVE POWERED ANXIOUS TO BE MARRIED MAN. And he is absolutely killer. His face still seems animated, even as he enters the real world – mugging more than I dare say Bruce Campbell. It’s genuinely amazing to watch. I also absolutely love Timothy Spall as the Queen’s henchman who has been sent to bring back the Prince and/or kill Giselle. There has always been something about Spall that bugged me, that I never could put my finger on… However, after watching ENCHANTED – it became quite clear. Spall is not a real human being… he’s an animated henchman – a designed character actor at their height. As good as he is here in ENCHANTED, just wait till you see his performance in SWEENEY TODD – as the Judge’s henchman, he’s absolutely sublime. Then… perhaps the best actor in the whole film… Pip the Chipmunk… but not in Andalasia, but in New York. Director Kevin Lima provides the Chipmunk voice and he’s genius. That Chipmunk has a Gollum-esque routine he performs before a clueless Prince Edward that brought the house down… and all the time that I was watching the character – I was marveling at how I didn’t care for a second about it being CG, because there was genuine greatness at hand animating that character. I also love the chipmunk voice being both gibberish and yet perfectly understandable - which is both a complement to Director Lima’s voice work… as well as the brilliant animation being done for his character. I can only assume this is due to Tippett Studio’s focus on Character Animation or was it Weta Digital? Both companies worked on this – and across the board their work really shines – this isn’t just another film with Animal Effects… these animals are CHARACTERS first – and it really really shows. Now I haven’t really mentioned any of the REAL WORLD actors yet, and it isn’t because they’re not good, they are. Patrick Dempsey is dead on as the stick in the mud practical pappa that slowly warms to the possibly insane, yet oddly magical, adorable, radiant goddess that is Amy Adams in this film. Ultimately, he’s quite good, but his character’s daughter… Rachel Covey is the gateway character that every little girl in the audience is going to project themselves into being… and she’s golden. In the heart of every lady is a girl that dreamt of being a princess or at the very least of princesses. She instantly recognizes Giselle as who she is – and she sells our love and affection for Giselle as much as anything that Amy Adams does. The scene in Central Park… wow. The song number there.. “That’s How You Know” was my least favorite of the FILM songs on the Soundtrack – it just felt out of place with the two before it, but in context with the film – it is absolutely magical – and I just listened to it on CD and damn if I didn’t love it this time. I can just see everything that sources to the song and it’s fantastic. My favorite song is the “Happy Working Song” which is just so incredibly sweet and magic, yet subversively hilarious. When I listened to the soundtrack about 3 days ago – I noted that this would probably be the high-water mark of the film. That perfect sequence and damn if it didn’t deliver on every hope I had just listening to Amy Adams’ singing and Alan Menken’s lyrics and music. Alan really deserves so much of this success - his songs and then the underscoring with that magical Menken sound... frigging cold chills, the good kind! Upon the end of the film – as folks were leaving – they actually seemed to be GLOWING about the film. I’m utterly thrilled that this worked perfectly. I hope it’s a huge success for Disney… but at the same time – I hope that Disney doesn’t ruin what I truly feel is a great singular film – with needless sequels that I’ve heard is what’s planned. Instead, I’d do everything I could to end the Writer’s Strike – and get this team on making a Live Action LITTLE MERMAID with Amy Adams as Ariel – as fast as humanly possible with this directing team… and with Marsden as Prince Eric. IMMEDIATELY! There is an incredible market for Disney to do Live Action… HUGE BUDGET… Timeless Non-Ironic Tellings of the Princess tales. Going CG isn’t the route… bringing the classic Fairy Tales to life with the same sense of wonder and joy that they had as animated tales would be wonderful… you can see it work here, and it isn’t working because they left Fantasy land and came to New York… the work because the actors are earnestly invested in the characters and it is absolutely magic. Pure and simple. This movie deserves every success! If you feel a bit down about anything in life, go see this. If you have a family, take them. Going on a date? Dude.. I’m telling you, this is where to go! Absolutely Magic!

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