Enchanted in a Cynical World

I’ve wanted to see the generally well regarded film Enchanted basically since it came out in 2007. It has had decent but not great reviews. I wondered why. Was it really a great film that critics could not appreciate? Was it a good film, justly rated? Or was it a mediocre film brought higher by people looking for any anti-cynicism?

The movie has finally reached Encore, one of the seemingly billions of digital cable channels that I get. Per usual, TiVo assisted me by recording a showing while I prepare exams for my students. As part of my post-grading funk reduction, I watched it last night. Overall, I agree with the reviews, as Enchanted is a good, not great, movie. Parts, like That’s How You Know, are great. The whole movie could be great. The fact that it fails is, I think, a reflection on our current culture.

I don’t want to be overly harsh here, because this movie gets a lot of things right. It begins at the beginning, with glorious 2D hand drawn animation. Sure, Pixar makes wonderful films; WALL-E might have been the best feature shown in theatres last year. They’re great at computer animation, which is different. Computer animation is the realm of imaginary fantasy. It’s not appropriate for fairy tales, which come from storybooks. Traditional animation was needed here, and I’m glad that Disney reversed its crazy decision to abandon cells for this film.

Another nice touch is the use of last names. Animated characters, like Giselle, don’t have any. The father and daughter, who interact heavily, do get a surname, but it’s Philip, another first name. Only the fully real character of Nancy Tremaine has a typical second name, but that is the family name of Cinderella’s stepmother. It retains a fantasy connection, as does much of the movie. For instance, the pigeons bring Giselle her towel after the magical shower.

Then, there’s Giselle. She carries the movie. Yes, Amy Adams is very pretty, but there are lots of pretty actresses. Ms. Adams does well because she understands the princess role. She needs to be naive, but not stupid. Inexperienced and trusting are the right way to play the character. She understands trouble, like the troll, and evil; she’s seen them, and had to escape. But for her, goodness is the natural state of affairs, so these are anomalies; she’s the anti-Leviathan. Any note of cynicism from her would poison the movie, worse than a poisoned apple. I’m glad that Giselle has none of that.

On the other hand, the writers want to make sure we know that the real world is Hobbesian. Apparently, the original draft of this movie had Giselle landing at a bachelor party. While the writers came to their senses, eventually, there are still unneeded crass moments. One is when leading man Robert’s current girlfriend of five years enters one morning. Thanks to slapstick, towel wearing Giselle has fallen onto Robert. As part of her reaction, the girlfriend rants “how I never stay the night, because Morgan is here and you have to maintain some boundries … ” Does she have to say that? Imply more than kissing? No. Sight would have been sufficient. By doing so, the writers felt a need to be cynical. There are a few other needless cynical words.

The biggest statement about the modern era is made through Giselle’s dresses. As Giselle progresses throughout the film, her dresses change. The first is the wedding dress, which is monstrous. As she goes through, supposedly apparel makes her more realistic. So, in the key scene, the Kings and Queens Ball, what does she wear? A gorgeous queen dress? No. A formfitting purple halter gown.

It’s not the worst dress in the movie – the wedding dress is viciously over the top – but there are five better ones. In particular, the second dress, the blue curtain dress, is much prettier than the purple ball dress. Online voters agree. Also, why would she purchase that dress? It’s out of place at a classic ball. Having Morgan, the daughter, help her in the emergency is completely appropriate. It’s sweet. Then, for some reason they buy and buy and buy. The emphasis on shopping, bags, hair, and makeup is not necessary. Was Giselle not gorgeous before “the real world fashion” took hold? (She was; caring for others is beautiful.) This scene serves just to funnel us from Andalasia to Sex and the City.

The ending, well, has some holes. Like moments before, it feels like it was written by people who don’t understand joy. They are trapped in the cynical, sly modern age of Carrie and Samantha. They’re afraid to pull the trigger, to be fully committed to the transformative power of love. That’s a shame. I’m don’t agree with the quote about true love’s kiss – “it’s the most powerful thing in the world”. (Right now, one could argue for H1N1 influenza.) Still, it has more power than is shown here. It seems our society has lost that power. As I finished this movie, I wondered if Snow White could have been made today. Given that the feature awarded Best Picture of 2008, Slumdog Millionaire, began with a scene where a young boy falls into fecal matter, and some in the audience laughed, I worry about that.

Maybe those that are married know about the power. Or maybe, more likely, divorce rates indicate that it’s lost. We need more Giselles in the world. Where is that portal to Andalacia, anyway?

About Adam

My quest is a world where calling someone "virtuous like a fairy tale hero" is routine, not fantastic or ironic. My vocation is the teaching and learning of statistics. My dream is a long happy life with a wonderful wife and kids. Who knows if any will become true? More information is at my homepage on the twelvefruits network: http://adam.twelvefruits.com
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