Where I Watched it: Disney Plus
English Audio Description?: Yes
i don’t know how you feel about Disenchanted, or even its theatrically released predecessor Enchanted, but I have several thoughts. Like, a lot. I know it’s going to seem like I hated this film, but you’ll see at the end where this landed.
First, we have to discuss the investment of making a film direct to streaming. It’s becoming more and more clear that Disney’s direct-to-Plus films are not living up to their potentials. Pinocchio was very disappointing and challenged nothing, nor did it bring anything new. They avoided theatrical entirely there, and because of that, I think they abandoned quality, which on a Zemeckis/Hanks film is an odd choice. Hocus Pocus 2, despite what you may believe, is not as good as the first one, and could have been and should have been better. Now, Disenchanted reminds me that Disney plus movies don’t need to be good, they need to be high profile to get those subscribers to stay. Like, if we just hold on long enough, one day something will be good.
That’s not to say there’s nothing to like in Disenchanted, but rather it’s a deeply flawed movie that anyone with just a shred of talent should have asked some questions early on as to whether or not this was the best story for Giselle, the most interesting, or a dynamic way to move the character of Giselle since the last time we saw her. That never happened.
In this sequel, the film’s overarching catalyst theme is that Giselle (Adams) is unhappy with the magic in New York, and longs for some of her old magic. She too, like the viewer yearns for nostalgia. The movie sells us on the idea that this movie is about moving from city life to suburbia, which upends the life of Morgan (who has grown up a lot, and is now played by a new actress), as well as forcing Giselle’s husband (Patrick Dempsey in a thankless role) to commute.
But, all is still not greener, and it turns out what she really wanted and needed was to be able to migrate fairy tale elements into our world. Much like the first film was a fish out of water story, which worked as Giselle bumbled adorably around New York, this film hopes by importing more charm from her animated home world, that Disenchanted will find its magical footing.
In fact, it’s the least interesting way to move this series forward. Giselle has been living in our world for years now, long enough for her step daughter to grow up quite a bit. And, she’s got a baby of her own, which you would think would be a much bigger deal. The movie instead gives you a huge exposition dump at the beginning, flashing through all the good stuff, and giving our animated chipmunk buddy some needed screentime to establish him for later in the film.
The fact is, Giselle never needed to move. And I don’t mean that in a realization she needs to come to at the end, like the theme of the movie is home is where the heart is or some bullshit. I mean, since the suburban life is thrown out the door pretty quick, in place of interjecting our world with magic, one wonders why she couldn’t just do that in New York City? Why did she need to upend everyone and move to suburbia? Just because? Because the writers were bored? Was it budgetary? Those are the wrong reasons.
A writer for this film who even cared just a smidge about Giselle or Amy Adams, would have taken the time to show us how much Giselle has changed and had to adapt over the yers. A funnier version of the film would be to see Giselle trying to navigate a PTA meeting, or a credit card purchase at a department store, or even a job. What has she actually been doing this whole time? Does she go do yoga? Does she frequent Starbucks? Does she wander Central Park talking to animals? The fact is, if you take any real person and put them in a situation where they are 100% out of their element, they will have to adapt to survive. If you moved me to Tokyo tomorrow, where I speak no Japanese, nor do I understand their culture, ten years later you’d find out that I can at least speak some important phrases, and I can navigate the city somewhat. i might still seem like a bit of a stranger in a strange land, but at least I would have changed.
Disenchanted isn’t interested in whether or not Giselle has changed, which is oddly disrespectful to the talent that Amy Adams is. She’s great as Giselle, but a nuanced version of Giselle, who is like 80% her old self, but 20% this new person who has learned how to do all these real world things, even if she’s not very good at them, would ahve been more entertaining and more appropriate for the continuation of a franchise. Unlike the Sanderson Sisters that are incapable of change, because they vanish for 30 years, Giselle has been living here since 2007. Fifteen years. Can you think of all the things that have happened in the last fifteen years that could have been fodder for Giselle?
So, no, I’m not a big fan of whatever the hell this is. I’m not a fan, because we got something that is beneath the talents of everyone involved. That’s not to say that the cast isn’t great, because they are. Every single cast member in this film is delightful in their various roles. Even Dempsey, who has to be somewhat absent for parts of the film, or off on his own adventure of sorts, makes the most out of the absurdity he’s been given. Maya Rudolph, along with Yvette Nicole Brown and Jayma Mays, could have just as easily worked in the Big Apple as they could have in suburbia. Hell, you could have still moved them in NYC. If Dempsey had lost his job, as a result of the economic climate, and maybe they weren’t as financially sound, they might have needed to move to another part of town where Morgan would ahve to switch schools, and Rudolph could have still played a real estate agent. There was no actual need for them to move, since the real problem becomes the lack of magic in Giselle’s world.
The songs were all nice, but I don’t remember one in specific. Nothing stood out to me, but I liked all of them on the first listen. So, while there may not be a breakout hit right away, like a Let it Go, the music is charming enough. The actors all showed up ready to make a movie they deserved to make, and it should have been a good one. Instead, they made this. Out of generosity to that cast, and the brilliance of Amy Adams in this role (even if this role requires no character growth from her from the first to second film), I’m giving this film the smallest of thumbs up.
There is a glimmer of magic here, but we really need to reconsider all of these straight to Disney Plus films, because Disney is obviously not concerned at all with their quality, as they do not need to give the film a P&A budget. If the stakes were real, you’d have gotten a much better film. I had a thirty minute conversation with someone about the movie that could have been and should have been, and she went from liking Disenchanted, to being, well, disenchanted by what she actually got, versus what everyone deserved.
Studios sell you nostalgia, and the more and more of it that saturates the marketplace, the more it will make it less special as nostalgia drops happen. Pretty soon, just being nostalgic won’t be bough anymore. One day, we will demand our nostalgic legacy sequels actually be worth the wait.
I somehow missed the narrator drop in the credits, even though I listened to all the songs. I don’t know if I blacked out for three seconds at the wrong time, but the written narration is fine, and my only shock came from this not being Laura Post.
Final Grade: C+