Movie Review: Can Disenchanted Spark New Magic?

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‘Once Upon a Time’ will never be the same after the release of Enchanted and considering this month marks the 15th anniversary of the film’s theatrical debut, it’s safe to say it has become one of the most beloved Disney stories of all time.

It all stems off the clever crafting of Walt Disney’s classic animation style mixed in with modern and real world struggles, calling to question if dreams can really come true, if true love’s kiss is the most powerful magic of all, and if a simple song could save the day. This bold creative choice pushed the envelope and took a big risk, igniting a magical spark that all these years later, has ignited into a fervorous flame that is yet to be extinguished.

Just as Enchanted brought fairy tales to the modern age in 2007, the era of streaming is once again pushing the medium to the next generation, bringing Giselle and the world of Andalasia from the big screen onto screens of all sizes across all realms over the land.

With the constant demand for new content, 2022 marks the era of legacy sequels, with Disney being no stranger to revisiting hit content; an easy example being the recent release of another streaming exclusive, Hocus Pocus 2. Because of this, the landscape has changed since 2007, and with it, a new layer of hopes and expectations. The pressure is on. Can Disenchanted wield the same magical charm that made Enchanted a timeless classic, or is it destined to be just another option to skip passed in an ever growing library of online streaming content?

As it may have been destined to be, the film is a beautiful wish come true! Disenchanted is as enchanting as the original, filled with magic and excitement, giving fans the follow up they deserve with an endless amount of charm, a delightful symphony of new songs, and performances that will be sure to cast a spell on you!

Being a huge fan of the original film, I couldn’t be happier diving back into this rich and fantastical world and was graciously rewarded for doing so. Many classic elements return, such as the use of traditional, hand-drawn animation, which is a marvel all its own considering the medium is a dying art in the industry and one that deserves to endure beyond the transition to digital animation techniques. The film also plays up the fun with Easter eggs and on the nose fairy tale tropes, providing an easy to follow and entertaining story that ventures into unexplored territory, while still maintaining the essence of what made the concept of Enchanted so memorable.

Though, just like the original tale, it all comes down to the power of Amy Adams to seal the deal and make this a worthwhile return. Adams returns to her Andalasian roots as if no time has passed, once again making us all believe in happy endings and being able to sing our hearts out in beautiful ballad. With every single moment of screen time, she is the Giselle we know and love…well, almost!

Adams adds to that unique magic that shimmers so brightly in Giselle, unlocking something deliciously wicked in return and melds the innocent with the daringly dark in a perfect concoction that breaks Disenchanted away from the original tale into something else entirely. It all happens ten years after the events of Giselle’s “Happily Ever After”, and as it turns out, things aren’t as perfect as they may seem. Giselle must come to terms with the real world moving on, with the feeling of “Ever After” fading away despite her best attempts to keep the spark alive.

Her beautiful voice, unwavering optimism, and Hallmark-esque attitude isn’t enough to overcome the challenges that come with modern adulthood, including changing dynamics with her family, and most importantly, her relationship with her now grown up daughter, Morgan.  In trying to mend those connections, Giselle has the family move to the perfect little town of Monroeville, which only causes a larger rift with Morgan and ultimately, leads to things spiraling out of control after Giselle attempts to use the magic of Andalasia to fix all her problems. With her wish, she comes to find very villainous consequences, cursing her and turning her into the polar opposite of herself: A Wicked Stepmother.

As fairy tale fans are all too familiar, the most powerful lesson when wielding magic is simple: queue Rumpelstiltskin voice and remember- “All magic comes with a price!”. This is where Disenchanted transforms, creating a splintered, cursed, and very conflicted Giselle. This calls on an opportunity for Adams to deliver something fresh to her iconic role, which is absolutely necessary for this story to work all these years later.

What’s even better is this gives fans such a wide array of emotions, personalities, and nuisances that blend together perfectly, creating a performance that is nothing short of triumphant. Adams levels up, and helps usher in the real core of what makes this film so special: Giving the cast a chance to evolve and grow into something more.

Disenchanted does this in every sense of the word, bringing incredibly entertaining new journeys for some of our favorite characters. Patrick Dempsey gets a chance to wield a sword and storm into the very arms of adventure through song and dance (Yes, Patrick Dempsey sings!) and slays with charm and laughter.

If anyone is keeping score, Dempsey may even rival the hilarious musings of his royal counterpart, James Marsden, who returns as Edward. Now King of Andalasia, Marsden slips right back into his royal form with ease, bringing in a much needed charisma that never ceases. The only downside that comes along for the ride in this film is that Marsden doesn’t get as much screen time.

Yet, once you have an opportunity to see what direction the story goes, you will see that it may be a sacrifice well worth it. Idina Menzel being a perfect example, blossoming beyond the confines of her original role and delivering a powerhouse diva in Nancy that fans have waited years to see. Her new song, “Love Power”, is a dream come true in itself and really does justice to just how special Menzel is.

Alan Menken, who had previously revealed he had tried multiple times to get Menzel a song in the original, delivered gloriously, leaving that ever so familiar magic touch that is felt throughout the entire soundtrack. Menken also crafts a whole new selection of songs, including some extremely entertaining sides for the film’s new cast.

In her Disney debut, Gabriella Baldacchino takes over the reigns as Morgan from Enchanted’s Rachel Covey. Baldacchino’s introduction is a perfect pairing for Adams, delivering a loving chemistry that takes center stage and brings the film to new heights in a breakthrough performance that hopefully opens new doors for the young actress. The true essence of this film comes from her relationship with Adams and its one that fans will surely resonate with.

Though, this may not be the only relationship viewers will want to keep their eyes on, as Disenchanted introduces a new baddie into the mix with Maya Rudolph. Playing the part of Malvina, Rudolph bursts into the scene with a quick wit and gumption for trouble. Helped by her two minions, Rosaleen (Yvette Nicole Brown) and Ruby (Jayma Mays), Malvina has a firm grip on the picture perfect town of Monroeville, calling all the shots and standing to be the pillar of perfection.

In doing so, she acts as the perfect parallel for Giselle, focusing all her might and energy on living up to her own exaggerated view of herself, all the while seeing Giselle as a threat. Adams and Rudolph play on that marvelously, and with it, cast a spell all their own with a musical number that is fiery, fun, and extremely catchy.

It all builds up into an incredible ride, filled with all the right ingredients to satisfy both a taste for the original flair while unraveling a beautiful new series of layers for all its characters. Disenchanted ultimately continues the legacy proudly, giving fans a love letter that despite deserving that big screen experience, is very much worth holding dear for years to come.

Disenchanted is now streaming on exclusively on Disney+