In the delightful musical "Enchanted" (Disney), the studio that built its reputation on animated fairy tales gently and cleverly spoofs its own canon by injecting the magical principles of the cartoon realm into the live-action world.
Self-reference in family filmmaking is taken to a winsome new level, and the film is careful never to obscure the traditional values and perennial charms of irony-free fairy tales, such as "Snow White," "Cinderella" and "Sleeping Beauty."
The story follows maiden Giselle (the sparkling Amy Adams) from her old-fashioned animated milieu, where she and suitor Prince Edward (James Marsden) are singing an intentionally gooey duet, "True Love's Kiss," into contemporary Manhattan where she falls in love with divorce lawyer Robert (Patrick Dempsey of "Grey's Anatomy").
Evil Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon), liable to lose her throne if Edward marries, instigates this crossover by shoving Giselle down a wishing well. The pretty redhead emerges into the "real world" via a Times Square manhole cover and is rescued from the streets by single dad Robert and his 6-year-old daughter, Morgan (Rachel Covey). Bombastically chivalrous Edward soon follows into the real world, as does Narissa's lackey, Nathaniel (Timothy Spall), armed with poison apples to ensure Giselle stays out of the picture.
Although Robert is on the verge of proposing to his girlfriend, Nancy (Idina Menzel), Giselle's rosy outlook slowly conquers him, though at first he tries to temper her naive dream of ideal romance. Likewise, it takes a little time for the movie's spell to overtake the viewer, but the film's charms eventually get the upper hand of one's defenses.
Director Kevin Lima and his team execute everything with affection and wit. The visual effects are good, the fish-out-of-water humor isn't overdone, and there's a big, smiley production number in Central Park that manages to evoke both golden-age musicals and theme-park parades. Original songs by Disney stalwarts Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz fit the bill.
Someday, this movie's greatest claim to fame might be as the vehicle that launched Amy Adams' star. Because Disney set the standard for anthropomorphizing animals, it's fitting that a hilarious chipmunk named Pip is the only character that threatens to upstage her. And unless you're a germophobe, the scene in which Giselle enlists local wildlife -- pigeons, rats, flies and roaches -- to clean Robert's apartment is an instant classic.
For those who crave a little action, there's even a dragon during the climactic costume ball. Having the creature ascend a skyscraper a la King Kong also provides the opportunity for a gender role reversal, with a male character needing the rescue.
That's as subversive as the movie gets. A happily-ever-after ending is guaranteed, and Giselle's giddy magic even touches a couple in the midst of divorce negotiations.
The film contains a few scary images, some sexual innuendo and a brief instance of scatological humor. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
These movies have been evaluated for artistic merit and moral suitability by the media reviewing division of Catholic News Service. The reviews include the CNS rating, the Motion Picture Association of America rating, and a brief synopsis of the movie.
The classifications are as follows:
A-I -- general patronage;
A-II -- adults and adolescents;
A-III -- adults;
L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. L replaces the previous classification, A-IV.
O -- morally offensive.
Note: Some movies previously were designated A-IV. Older films with this classification should be regarded as classified L.