In 2007, Kevin Lima’s Enchanted was released, a combined live-action/animated princess musical. That in itself should be everything you need to know about this film to watch it.
The movie begins in animated Andalasia, where evil Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon) schemes to protect her right to the throne by ensuring her stepson, Prince Edward, does not get married. While hunting for trolls in the forest, Edward (James Marsden), hears Giselle’s (Amy Adams) sweet voice singing from her tree house. The two instantly fall in love; the wedding is planned. Stubborn and enslaved by greed, the evil queen exiles Giselle through a magical portal to live-action Times Square. Homeless and scared, she sets out to find her true love.
The genius of Enchanted is its witty, self-deprecating style meshed with its contemporary homage to the genre of Fairy Tale. This genius can be admired best through its songs. There are three in particular which stand out.
While still in Andalasia, Giselle sings “True Love’s Kiss”. She begins the ballad while in her tree house, surrounded by adorable forest animals like bunnies, blue birds, a raccoon, a tortoise, and deer. She longingly adores a mannequin which she has made herself, male and anonymous. It has sapphires for eyes and flowers for ears: a romantic, perfect, princely vision. But no lips. She calls for more forest animals to seek out the perfect set of lips. She tries a pea pod, a comb, a crab, and a wormy apple, but none of them are perfect. This animated vision is not her true love. Does she need a male voice in her life? Already in this song, a seed is planted which rejects traditional archetype agendas: a magical, princely kiss is not all Giselle has to live for.
Another song that captures the wit of Enchanted is the “Happy Working Song.” By thrusting a Disney princess into the “real” world, the movie puts the morals and ethics of the infamous role to the test. Finding herself in Robert’s (Patrick Dempsey) dirty New York apartment, she summons the vermin of New York to help her clean it. The song satirically mirrors “True Love’s Kiss”; animals infest the apartment to help Giselle clean it. Cockroaches scurry from the bathtub drain and wipe away the mildew, pigeons swipe crumbs from the table with their feathers, rats scrub the toilet with toothbrushes, flies ring out a dirty rag. The juxtaposition of “filthy” animals helping a princess clean an apartment creates a sense of real-world humility and empathy that is often impossible to render in traditional fairy tales.
But it is the performance of “That’s How You Know” which truly reinvents the fairy tale genre. In Central Park, Giselle breaks out into song a cappella (a classic princess move) and is accompanied by an impromptu and diverse ensemble of Reggae street performers, a mariachi band, breakdancers, blue-collar workers, and cyclists (who stampede over Prince Edward). Giselle parades around in a dress made out of curtains, revealing a resourcefulness which embraces NY life. All the while, Dempsey, in his corporate suit and cardboard-looking face, trails behind her, proclaiming “I don’t dance. And I really don’t sing.” The mundanity of Robert’s character subverts the princely trope, and as Giselle sings from Rapunzel’s tower on the set of a play, the movie meta-theatrically rejects traditional fairy tale expectations of love at first sight. The ensemble comes together to join Giselle in her celebration of real love, not true love.
Of course, Giselle finds her happy ever after in New York - not with Edward despite his desperate search to find her, but with Robert, the movie’s title becoming less about fairy tales and more about the every-day lives we lead. This November, the sequel, titled Disenchanted, will be released. Adams, Dempsey, and Marsden will return to the live action/animated universe.
The movie is set fifteen years after Giselle’s happy ever after with Robert. After moving to suburbia and feeling threatened by the community’s overseer, Giselle wishes their lives were a perfect fairy tale. The spell backfires, and the family gets sent to Andalasia. For all the suburbians out there who felt left out by Enchanted, don’t fear! Your lives are enchanting, too.