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Disenchanted

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What it’s about:

Fifteen years after the original Enchanted, Giselle has settled in to her ever after with her Prince Charming, Robert, a New York City lawyer, and her stepdaughter, Morgan. After having a baby, Giselle and Robert decide to leave the kingdom of New York for suburbia. But upon arriving in Monroeville, Giselle realizes it isn’t the fairytale life she was hoping for, and wishes for her world to be flipped into one. Musical numbers, evil queens, and sinister stepmothers ensue.

Names you might know:

Oscar nominee Amy Adams returns as the always optimistic Giselle. Grey’s Anatomy hunk Patrick Dempsey is back as her husband. Idina Menzel and James Marsden play their fairy tale friends from Andalasia. Maya Rudolph plays big baddie Malvina, and Yvette Nicole Brown and Jayma Mays have a blast playing her lackeys.

Why it’s worth your time:

Enchanted was a brilliant and underappreciated satire, deconstructing Disney’s own tropes while simultaneously representing a return to form, with lovely hand-drawn animation (albeit just for 10 minutes), adorable woodland animals, and catchy songs. But the movie surprised with its clever twist, one that upended Disney’s own classic fairy tale formula.

The heart and the soul of the film was Giselle, played by an effervescent Adams, who starts out as the typical Disney heroine — dreaming of a prince who will whisk her away into a land of happily ever after. She ends up dropped into the very real world of New York City, where instead she meets a cynical, divorced lawyer, Robert (Patrick Dempsey), and his young daughter, Morgan.

While Disenchanted doesn’t reach the heights of its predecessor, it’s still a fun romp that will entertain all ages (6 and up). For the grownups, the film takes aim at suburban life, mercilessly, to a point where if this film was on another streaming service, it would be downright dark. Robert is now a commuter who is told that he will ride the same train “forever and ever” until he dies. Morgan is a surly teenager who has to explain sarcasm to Giselle, one of the best running gags. Giselle herself struggles to fit in with the PTA crowd, run by snooty Malvina (Rudolph).

When Nancy and Edward arrive with an Andalasian wishing wand, Giselle decides turning Monroeville into Andalasia would give her the fantasy life she had always dreamed of. Some of the best bits in Monroalasia include Robert trying to be a brave knight (he sings this time!) and Rudolph transforming into Queen Malvina. There’s another unexpected twist, one in which our sunny and sweet protagonist begins to morph into something else, and its yet another classic Disney archetype.

Adams and Rudolph compete for who can really chew the scenery, which culminates in the best number of the film: “Badder.” A genuine banger, “Badder” is this year’s “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.”  The other great number is “Fairy Tale Life (After the Spell),” which delivers the opulent, over-the-top number that caps every Disney musical. Gabriella Baldacchino, who plays Morgan, shows off her impressive voice, and the dancing, costumes, and swagger of Robert make this one of the film’s most stunning moments, one that’s reminiscent of the original.

Realizing it was a crime that Idina Menzel didn’t get to sing in the original, director Adam Shankman ensures that she gets her chance to shine here, too. She belts out the show-stopping number with all of the power of her songs in the Frozen franchise. She earns a bigger role in this film as well, which benefits the story, as Menzel is also an amazing actor.

Disenchanted isn’t perfect. There are some plot holes and the character development could have been stronger, and the satirical notes aren’t as surprising as they were in the original. But as the film teaches us, an imperfect life can be just as enchanting as one in the fairy tales.

The takeaway:

A joyful musical with a layer of parody that’s ideal watching for the whole family. And just in time for the holidays.

Watch it with:

Your family. Disenchanted will remind you to cherish your memories of them, even when they’re acting more like ogres than princesses.

Worth noting:

There are multiple homages to Disney fairy tales throughout the film. Morgan poses in a scene reminiscent of Ariel’s; three fairies dress in pink, blue, and green like the three fairies in Sleeping Beauty; the queen’s hench ladies dress similarly to Drizella and Anastasia, the two ugly stepsisters from Cinderella. And that’s just a few of them!

Where to stream it:  Disney+

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