After years of watching the monstrously successful "Shrek" franchise parody everything beloved about those classic animated Disney movies, Disney is showing a sense of humor and making fun of itself.
"Enchanted" has a song in its heart and a tongue in its cheek, both in animated and live-action forms, with an infectious energy that helps overcome the script's contrivances.
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Wide-eyed, would-be princess Giselle (the irresistible Amy Adams) is banished by the wicked Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon) from her idyllic cartoon playland to the harsh reality of Times Square before she can marry her one true love, Prince Edward (James Marsden). (Though truly, Times Square was Disneyfied a long time ago, so in theory it shouldn't have been that much of a shock.)
Back in the magical land of Andalasia, Giselle could just call out the window of her cozy home, sing a lilting song and all the friendly forest creatures would come scurrying to her side to help with whatever chore she needed -- clean the house, sew a dress or just hang out and look furry and cute. Her best friend of all is a chipmunk named Pip (who completely steals the show once "Enchanted" goes live-action).
Giselle is an amalgamation of every Disney princess you've ever known: Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, with a little bit of Ariel and Belle thrown in for good measure. And Adams is absolutely adorable in the role. She gets the innate humor within the character's innocence, yet remains respectfully faithful to it.
She may have gained minor attention for her Oscar-nominated supporting role in "Junebug," but "Enchanted" ought to make her a star. (And that's really her singing, too.)
But because Giselle is so beautiful and perfect, Prince Edward's stepmother, the queen, views her as a major threat (and Sarandon is deliciously evil in the part). So it doesn't take long after Edward gallops up on his white horse and promptly asks Giselle to marry him for Narissa to send her down a well which leads to - where else? New York City.
Cold, wet and confused, Giselle nonetheless finds a home through the sheer power of her sweetness and optimism with sensible divorce lawyer Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and his adoring 6-year-old daughter, Morgan (Rachel Covey). Turns out, her charms work on hardened Manhattanites, too; a lavish production number in Central Park, featuring mariachis, balloons, rollerbladers and construction workers, is over-the-top but knowingly so, and fun.
But then the city charms Giselle right back, and she finds herself torn between both worlds and both men, even after Edward arrives to search for her with the queen's lackey (Timothy Spall) in tow. Marsden also seems to be having a blast playing with his pretty-boy looks, and as he showed this summer as Corny Collins in "Hairspray," he's solid in the musical-theater department, too.
Little girls and tweens will love this movie, especially those who are into the whole princess thing, and adults will laugh heartily and often at the way director Kevin Lima ("102 Dalmatians") and writer Bill Kelly tweak familiar fairy-tale details.
Certainly this is not a new phenomenon. Look at the send-ups like "Hoodwinked" and "Happily N'Ever After" that came along and tried to cash in on "Shrek's" success. But "Enchanted" does it with obvious affection, impeccable craftsmanship and zero snark.
Songs from multiple Oscar winners Alan Menken ("The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin") and Stephen Schwartz ("Pocahontas," "The Prince of Egypt") and splashy, polished dance numbers complete the package.
So maybe it's not a whole new world, but it's one you already know and love quite well.
"Enchanted," a Walt Disney Pictures release, is rated PG for some scary images and mild innuendo. Running time: 107 minutes. Three stars out of four.
By Christy Lemire