Borrowing from several animated Disney classics, not to mention films such as “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and “Kate & Leopold,” “Enchanted” presents a premise where cartoon characters are transported to the harsh confinements of actual reality.
Giselle (Amy Adams) — a chirpy mixture of Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty — has a perfect life in her animated, music-filled world. That is, until she is banished from it by an evil stepmother (Susan Sarandon) in order to prevent Giselle from marrying her son, Prince Edward (James Marsden). Now alone in New York City, Giselle must await her prince’s rescue while charming her way into the life of a divorce attorney (Patrick Dempsey).
Whether or not you buy the movie’s unique surroundings lies on the shoulders of the cast and its star Adams, who earned an Oscar nomination two years ago for the little-seen indie flick “Junebug.” Her performance straddles an over-the-top vigor — precisely what the role calls for — which is buoyant.
Whether encountering strangers or singing to animals, she emits a youthful innocence and exuberance in all that she does. Even when her good spirits are dampened during the story’s more serious latter half, it only serves as an opportunity for her humanity to shine through.
Meanwhile, Marsden (“Hairspray,” Cyclops from “X-Men”) hams it up as the oblivious Prince Charming. Spending most of the time clueless as to what is transpiring, he emotes a likeable earnestness, and it’s hard not to laugh along with his misfortunes. Following similar lines, veteran British actor Timothy Spall generates several laughs as a bumbling henchman and easily overshadows his boss Sarandon, who never quite registers an impact as the evil queen.
On the other side, Dempsey (“Grey’s Anatomy”) serves as the story’s practical realist, choosing to see things in their down-to-earth condition. This outlook and his McDreamy charm make for a nice counterpoint to the silly behavior of those around him. The part is certainly no stretch for Dempsey or his Hugh Jackman comparisons, but he plays it well and seems to be having fun.
While the story tinkers with some inherent conventions in clever ways, it never fully mines their comedic gold. This could be a result of its Disney backing, whose hallowed cartoons it relies heavily upon, or the constrictions produced from aiming squarely at a young audience.
Whatever the case may be, director Kevin Lima (“Tarzan,” “102 Dalmatians”) sticks to simple laughs framed within a cutesy atmosphere. An increase in wit and tongue-in-cheek ingredients — areas where the first “Shrek” film excelled — would have been helpful in providing a greater depth.
Good family films are a rarity these days, and “Enchanted” proves to be a decent addition to the genre. While there’s no denying its appeal towards children — who are likely to appreciate it the most — the inspired acting is something anyone can enjoy.