Three things have happened in the 15 years since Enchanted became a runaway box office hit and catapulted Amy Adams to stardom. The theatrical marketplace has factionalised to the point that it has become incompatible with similar mid-budget movies, Adams has earned five further Academy Award nominations, and not you but your children have suddenly become the target audience for its sequel.
Which makes sense, because unlike Enchanted, Disenchanted isn’t so much a film that deconstructs fairytales as an organic continuation of what happens ‘after happily ever after’. More than anything else, however, it’s a film about parenting, which is either the cutest bit of self-awareness that you could’ve expected of it, or a deeply sinister attempt by Disney to attract not only the original’s fans back to the magical kingdom of Andalasia, but to also lure much younger audiences.
Having settled into a life of domesticity with her husband Robert (Patrick Dempsey) after the adventurous events of the first film, the princess-like Giselle (Adams) is struck by a mid-life crisis. Her relationship with her stepdaughter Morgan is crumbling by the day, and she seems to have lost her ability to find the magic in every mundane moment. As a mitigation tactic, the family decides to move out of New York City and settle in the suburbs.
There, Giselle runs into a snooty clique of local socialites summoned straight out of Big Little Lies, while Morgan struggles to fit in at school, and Robert learns how commuters live. The move doesn’t seem to have changed anything. In fact, it appears to have made things worse. Desperate to avoid the doldrums, Giselle waves a magic wand and wishes for a fairytale life. The spell works; she and her family are transported to a majestic new land, but things might not be as magical as they immediately appear.
Released on Disney+, Disenchanted isn’t nearly as enjoyable as the first film, which had a sense of self-awareness before Marvel movies ruined that forever. Rather surprisingly, considering especially the era that it has been released in, this one doesn’t take that route. Instead, it flirts with some rather grown-up themes that the millennial section of its audience might actually relate with, but it always stops short of engaging with them. It prefers, instead, to lean into the sort of colourful tone that seems to be more attractive to children. We’ve seen enough Pixar movies by now to know that emotional heft and a joyous spirit aren’t mutually exclusive.
At two hours, Disenchanted is definitely too long to sustain the interest of adults, let alone children who’d rather dance to Idina Menzel’s songs on Reels than enjoy them here. Even though Adams is given an entire LP’s worth of new songs to sink her teeth into — and she’s very good at it — Menzel runs away with the show-stopping number “Love Power.” It’s such an earworm that the movie brings her back to belt it out over the end credits as well.
Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz’s music aside, Disenchanted, as a film, leaves a lot to be desired. It has that same flat visual texture that so many of these streaming movies do these days, which is sort of self-defeating for something that should feel like it’s popping out of the screen. The first film made such wonderful use of live-action and animation as it lovingly parodied Disney movie tropes. Disenchanted, on the other hand, is a more straightforward fantasy film, but with ‘a wicked twist’ that I won’t reveal here (even though the trailer shows no similar courtesy).
Director – Adam Shankman
Cast – Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, Gabriella Baldacchino, Maya Rudolph, James Marsden, Idina Menzel, Griffin Newman
Rating – 2/5.5