ENCHANTED

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 Overall Impression — A confused movie that delivers more sizzle than steak.

 THE FOUR QUESTIONS

Who’s the main character? — Giselle.

What’s she trying to accomplish? —  Sort of return to Andalusia (her fairy tale realm) but she doesn’t actively try to do that much after a few first efforts.  Her main drive is to wait for her prince to save her.  This is the first problem the film encounters,  though it’s glossed over with plenty of goofy charm.  Her final drive is to find her “true love’s kiss.”

Who’s trying to stop her? — Another problem or two; the evil queen/wicked stepmother (the prince’s not hers) wants to stop him from marrying Giselle, hence the toss down the well. After Giselle gets to New York, she falls in love with a New Yorker named Robert, which the evil queen sees through various liquids (don’t ask.) Seeing that Giselle is losing interest in her stepson, you would think that this would be enough for the queen, but NOOOOOOOO! She decides that Giselle needs to be killed as well. The bulk of the queen’s opposition to Giselle’s plan, such as it is, is to send an evil henchman after Giselle to poison her.

What happens if she fails? — Well, the drive to either get back to Andalusia or wait for the Prince to come (or even fall in love with Robert) gets usurped by the attempts on Giselle’s life. Only, Giselle doesn’t know she’s a target. So the audience knows that she might die, however she doesn’t, so as she’s not trying to do anything active, she’s got nothing to fail at while simultaneously being in mortal peril.  

Now, one could flip all of this around and make Robert the main character I suppose.   He’s trying to figure out what to do with Giselle, then he starts falling in love with her, and if he fails she ends up with the insufferably self-absorbed prince.  Or dead, only Robert doesn’t know that Giselle is being targeted either.    And seeing as the final battle is Giselle versus the Queen over Robert (Good Guy vs Bad Guy over Stakes) we’re back to Giselle being the main character.  

I told you it was a confused movie.

THE FOUR ARCHETYPES

Orphan — Giselle is literally an orphan, who gets thrown down a well and pops out in New York where she knows nothing and no one.

Wanderer — Giselle tries to figure out where she is and what’s happened to her. She eventually ends up being taken in by Robert and his daughter. Now he tries to figure out who she is and what’s happened to her. Eventually he believes that she’s a real fairy tale princess (I think, but maybe I imagined this moment). 

Warrior — Next problem; Giselle doesn’t really fight to achieve a goal. There are people fighting on her behalf, but not our main character.

Martyr — Giselle gives up her prince in favor of Robert, and then is willing to fight the evil queen (who’s come to New York to poison Giselle personally) in order to save Robert. 

 AND, IN THE END…

This is a movie which is so innocuous that beating up on its structural indiscretions is like kicking a puppy. The fact that the story is a mess hasn’t stopped it from being #1 at the box office two weeks running as of the time of this writing. It does enough things right that one is almost able to forgive it for all the things it does wrong. Almost. But success is the best revenge, and ENCHANTED is thumbing its nose at good storytelling all the way to the bank.

I think the high concept of the movie is the real hero here, so let this be a lesson for all of us. A good concept is worth its weight in glass slippers. 

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One Response to “ENCHANTED”

  1. David Goulet December 5, 2007 at 12:37 pm #

    Agreed! Had this film been about the relationship between Giselle and Morgan, and ‘what is a princess’, it could have been beautifully subversive. But this is Disney, so that had as much chance as happening as a sequel to Song of the South.

    The shopping scene was such a miscue, it turned me off the rest of the film. And to have the chipmunk be the undoing of the wicked Queen? That has to be most ridiculous set-up/pay off I’ve ever seen in a climax.

    There is a difference between cleverness and wisdom. This film is the former, not the latter.

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