Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Magic of "Enchanted"

Giselle: I remember this one time, when the poor wolf was being chased around by Little Red Riding Hood around his grandmother's house, and she had an axe... oh, and if Pip hadn't been walking by to help I don't know what would've happened!
Morgan Philip: I don't really remember that version.
Giselle: Well, that's because Red tells it a little differently.

After watching Enchanted, I did the dishes, and I sang, happily, to the tune of water and clanging metal. I haven't done chores with a cheerful state of mind since Christmas, and that was only once. I also thought seriously about throwing a Princess + Handsome Prince birthday party. Plus, I wanted to make out with Patrick Dempsey (even more than usual) and, especially, to re-watch Junebug, the splendid 2005 family drama in which Amy Adams plays a character very similar to the one she plays in Enchanted: an everlasting, rosy young girl who believes in a silver lining.

It is true that Amy Adams tends to be likable. She's a redhead with sparkly eyes, and her smile is like a light bulb. She's that bubbly girl that most other girls hated in high school. The one that intimidated all the boys and annoyed all of the teachers. In high school, it's sort of a bad rap, but in Hollywood, it's a rare gem. And I don't mean that there aren't other likable actresses. Sandra Bullock is, of course, Miss Congeniality on and off the screen, with the occasional less-likable (but still somehow a little likable) turn, as the one she did in Murder by Numbers. Meryl Streep, Prada-wearing devil that she is, can also be quite likable, and so can Julia Roberts (opposing LEAST likable actresses Natalie Portman, Glenn Close, and Scarlet Johanssen). But Amy Adams is REALLY likable. Even her name never dreams of imposing. Usually, people who are that likable make me uncomfortable, but she does not. She makes me want to stand up straighter, to smile more, to help an old lady with her groceries, to laugh until my gut hurts, and even to do housework. And if you know me, you know that's a big WTF. Amy Adams simply brims with, not just likability, but this inescapable bouyancy. She seemingly floats through the air, and it's this very thing that has made her one of my favorite modern actresses, along with Keira Knightley, Laura Linney, and Juliet Binoche.

It's also what really pulled me into Enchanted. To think, we haven't seen a decent Disney Princess movie since Aladdin, and now, almost a decade into the 21st century, amidst the magic of CGI and the pure genius of PIXAR, we're handed Enchanted, a keen adaption of all Disney Princess movies, about a fair maiden who, like so many Disney Princesses, summons animals with a song, enjoys grunt work, and makes dresses out of curtains. At some moments, it seems to skim the surface of parody. James Marsden's character, for example, is a blazingly handsome, overly narcissistic version of Prince Charming, who runs around New York with perfect confidence, weilding his sword at will. Also, the appearance of both a glass slipper and the old hag, as well as the "death by poisoned apple" plot, give Enchanted that comical edge. It is still its own fairy tale, however, as the real Prince Charming is a divorce lawyer from Manhattan who, while incredibly gorgeous, seems not to believe in true love. He also has a daughter, which is new and unusual for a Disney type, and while he may have a girlfriend, she is, by no means, evil. The two are simply wrong for each other, as she longs for fantastical romance while he no longer believes it exists. The ending, then, while predictable, is only natural and wholly satisfying. In an era where happy endings are often traded for more practical, ambiguous fade-outs, Enchanted's ending really refreshed me. Even Giselle, while a seemingly perfect Disney Princess archetype, does something that Disney Princesses have rarely done in the past: she changes. She develops new feelings and a new code. She trades endless, ignorant bliss for a future of the unknown. She falls in love with Robert (Dempsey's character) not because he is the first man she lays eyes on, but because he shows her kindness and respect. On the other hand, Robert falls in love with Giselle, not because she can offer him stability or reason, but because she offers hope. It's a fairy tale with emotional depth as well as good, evil, and spontaneous song.

In other words: Enchanted is simply fantastic. Yesterday, I was feeling under the weather, so I stayed home and watched three movies: Into the Wild, Murder by Numbers, and Enchantment. I must say that, while Into the Wild was a spectacular show with lots of pretty scenery and my fave Emile Hirsch, it was a little schmultzy for me. Its soundtrack was just WACK at times, and I found some of the scene work, as well as the chapter headings and the use of the journal entries, to be so early eighties. Like a return to The Outsiders with all the generic fonts and overly-wise turns of phrase. And yes, I'm aware that Sean Penn is, in general, overbearing in his craft. When he does anything, he saturates it with emotion. Sometimes it works. But a lot of Into the Wild didn't work for me. It was trying to be too important when I thought it should simply tell its story...sans all the frills and letting Emile just do his thing.

Then, I watched Murder by Numbers, which surprised me, because for whatever reason I've always wanted to see it, but I never expected it to be good. It was, however, very good. Ryan Gosling is superbly evil, vulnerable, and charming, all at the same time. Sandra Bullock is a praying mantis type who feeds on her men for sustenance, but only to fulfill her own insecurity. It's a visually barren, socially psychotic film. I don't really understand why they called it Murder by Numbers. Because of its title, I was expecting a Bone Collector type thriller with more clues and less depth. At first, I was a little disappointed at the lack of mystery, but then, when I learned that the mystery lies within the characters rather than the crime scenes, I was completely consumed.

Sorry for that little detour. As you can tell, I love reviewing movies. Anyway. The last movie I watched yesterday (before devoting myself entirely to both this article and Super Paper Mario, which I'm so close to beating it's not even funny) was Enchanted. And I've already talked about the movie a bunch, but here's a mini-review, just to keep things consistent with the previous two paragraphs. I love love loved this movie. It squeezed me and loved me back. I thought that the elements of the fairy tale were handled not only faithfully but with a definite modern twist. The songs were delightful, and I thought that the film, as a whole, was very conducive to adult audiences while maintaining a bright and wholesome core. It was innovative. And perfectly cast. Amy Adams and Patrick Dempsey have a whimsical chemistry, reminiscent of Kathryn Hepburn and Cary Grant in Bringing Up Baby. And no, I'm not exagerrating.

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