Enchanted (2007)

I feel like I can’t move out of Disney Animation without reviewing this movie first. Half animated, half live action, I could have stuck it with when I review classics like Mary Poppins and Pete’s Dragon, but it just won’t fit as well there. So I’m putting it here.

When I saw the first trailer for this movie, my first thought was “Oh God that looks AWFUL.” It looked like a horrible mix of rehashed Disney movie and RomCom with way too much strangeness. I figured there’d be horrible songs and it would be campy as hell. So needless to say I didn’t go see it. Instead, I let it pass in the theaters, then I kept hearing people talk about it and how funny and great it was. Three (I think?) of the songs were up for an academy award. And that got me to thinking “hmm, maybe this movie isn’t as weird/campy as I thought? I’ll give it a watch.”

And I. Loved. It.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear about this movie. It IS campy. It IS weird. It IS a weird mix of Disney movie and RomCom. And somehow… it works at being incredibly charming.

Our movie starts in Animation, in the fictional land of Andalasia. A beautiful Maiden named Giselle dreams of finding her true love, and will know so based on their first kiss. Meanwhile, Prince Edward is hunting trolls and hears Giselle singing and must go find her. He rescues her from a troll, they sing together and are ready to be married. But just before the wedding, Prince Edward’s stepmother, Queen Narissa, pushes Giselle down a well that transports her to Life-action land and NYC.

Trying to figure out where she is and cope and get back to Edward, Giselle and her Naivety are taken pity on by Robert and his daughter (ok at this point mostly his daughter) Morgan. They take her back to their condo and Robert allows her to stay the night.

Meanwhile, Giselle’s chipmunk friend Pip tells Edward what happened, and he heads to Real-world land to find Giselle, along with Queen Narissa’s Henchman Nathaniel, who is tasked with making sure he doesn’t find her.

Hijinks ensue as both parties deal with being in the real world, and slowly Giselle and Robert bond. Giselle and Edward are eventually reunited, but at this point she has changed immensely from having learned about the real world, but still agrees to go back to Andalasia after going on “A date.”

(L-R) AMY ADAMS, JAMES MARSDEN

Aka: let’s do everything touristy in New York!

This date culminates with a dance, in which Queen Narissa, after losing faith in Nathaniel, shows herself in the real world and poisons Giselle. After attempting to bring her back to life and failing, Edward realizes her true love is Robert. He kisses her and brings her back to life. Upset, Queen Narissa turns into a dragon,and fights not Edward but Giselle at the top of the building. She wins, the dragon plummets to the ground, Giselle stays with Robert, Roberts Fiance goes to Andalasia with Edward, and no one in NYC seems to pay any attention

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This movie could have so easily been awful. It has a lot of Homages to classic Disney movies, it has a lot of strangeness, and it pretty much makes fun of the Disney way of thinking about love. But. It. Works.

Here’s why:

Disney took itself seriously, as did every single actor and actress that worked on this movie. You can tell that although they are making fun of Disney EVERYTHING (songs, falling in love at first sight, true loves kiss, etc) they also LOVE these things.

And that, my friends, is why this works as a perfect parody. It’s the same reason Mel Brooks Parodies are good, and all those “not another [insert type of movie here]” movies are horrible. Mel loves his source material. To truly do a good parody, you need to also love the thing you are making fun of. Everything has something “wrong” with it if you look close enough. parodies are meant to poke fun of these things. But with love.

Another reason this movie works is the actors. Amy Adams in the multiple years after this movie has come out has established herself as an A-list actor, appearing in a huge range of films and having an oscar nomination out of it. But back in 2007, I knew her as “that girl that had that small part in Catch me if you Can.”

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Yeah… that’s really her.

Amy Adams OWNS Giselle. She is essentially playing a Disney princess who gets disillusioned by real life. But instead of being depressed about everything that isn’t the way she thinks it should be, she instead takes the differences of the real world and tries to impress upon Robert that you can act crazy and romantic and it will work. That women like that (clue to guys: they really do!!). She injects a little bit of Disney simple life into the real world in the same way that he injects some real world onto her. As the movie progresses she becomes much more realistic but still holds onto that bubbly personality that believes in true love and happy endings and that singing will make you happy. She has this child-like Naivety that I think we all wish we had.**

I would also like to give a shout out to the costume and hair people who did an amazing job helping Giselle make this transition from “cartoon” to “more realistic.” I mean, they took her from this:

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To this:

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Kudos. This helps mirror her inner changes 🙂

On the flip side we have Robert. He is an “actual” adult. He has a job, responsibilities, is working on keeping a relationship afloat, and has been left by his wife and forced to become a single parent to his daughter, who he is trying to teach can be anything and can be confident and powerful.

You could argue that Robert teaching his daughter to be confident and that she can be anything is almost negated by the fact that a “princess” shows up and plays into all of her fantasies, but I think that’s almost the point of this movie. Confidence comes in a lot of different ways. You just have to be confident in yourself and what you believe. And Giselle is. She doesn’t care she’s walking around New York City in a dress made from curtains. She isn’t embarrassed to start singing in the middle of central park. She doesn’t care what anyone thinks because she is confident.

On the other hand, Robert acts how many of us would act given the circumstance. He doesn’t want to help her. He wants her to only stay a night then leave. You can almost sense that he thinks this woman is on drugs (he does tell his daughter Morgan to sleep in his room that night). He is a down to earth, serious adult.

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How most of us would react if someone randomly starting singing in the middle of Central Park

In the same way that he changes her and makes her become more realistic (all while maintaining really who she is deep down), she changes him to see some of the “magic” and “fun” that can be had, even as an adult. This is the best message in this movie. Adults, sometimes it’s ok to be silly, sing at the top of your lungs, and believe in fairy tales and true love. It’s ok to let your kids be kids and love Princesses. There will be plenty of time to teach them about empowered women, but what exactly is “empowerment”? Like I said before, as long as someone is confident, I don’t see the difference.

Our side characters are a bit hit or miss for me honestly. James Marsden plays Edward, and you can tell he is having a blast with this role. He’s crazy and over the top. He’s really stuck in Andalasia and unlike Giselle has no want or ability to change. But man is he fun to watch. Same goes for our little animal sidekick (who doesn’t talk during the majority of the movie but is fun to watch all the same)

The same goes for Nancy, Robert’s Fiance (Idina Menzel). First of all, I love Idina, but she plays this part kinda wooden. Maybe that’s the point. But she’s a woman who wants all this fairy tale stuff and isn’t getting it with Robert. by the end of the movie she’s better suited for life in Andalasia, and that’s where she goes, to live out her fantasy and live Happily ever after.

Our villains Narissa and Nathaniel are complete Disney Tropes, but again, you can tell that  Susan Sarandon and Timothy Spall (who is typecast here as he always seems to be) are having a blast in their rolls. I was a bit disappointed that they couldn’t think of a villain more original than a wicked witch/Maleficent hybrid, but eh. I will say, however, that I kinda loved it that they gave Nathaniel a bit of motivation for always doing Narissa’s bidding. I also loved that he realized as the movie went on that he was being used and the relationship wasn’t exactly “healthy.” It’s an interesting way to go in delving into the motivation behind why bad henchmen follow the bad guy, and although I could take or leave Nathaniel’s character, I enjoyed that aspect of it.

The songs in this movie are almost, again, “typical” Disney songs, but they are enjoyable. I like to think that this movie, not The Princess and the Frog, was actually the one to herald back the era of Disney musicals that I missed oh so much. The songs do what they’re supposed to do, and are a bit forgettable to be honest. Although I have a personal affinity towards “so close” (the “single” – totally not a disney song…) and “That’s how you know.” That song is just so freaking adorable, and we’d all act completely like Robert in that song…

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The “I’m doing it because you’re making me” look

All in all, Enchanted (2007) is an enjoyable Parody that exists on its own as a relatively enjoyable, albeit campy movie. If you try to think too much while you’re watching it, it won’t be enjoyable. So just get yourself to believe in fairy tales for an hour and a half, and you won’t be disappointed.

I give Enchanted (2007) a 3.7 out of 5

**I totally have a friend like Giselle. I love her to death because through everything she hasn’t given up on anything. She reminds me to stay happy no matter what. We all need a friend like that and I think this is most of the reason I love this movie…

Up Next: Zootopia (2016) BC I can.

 

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Meet the Robinsons (2007)

I would attempt to name them all L to R, but I can't...

I would attempt to name them all L to R, but I can’t…

 

I want to start this review by talking about John Lasseter:

Animation GOD!!

Animation GOD!!

If you don’t know who that man is, you can’t call yourself a Disney/Pixar fan. You just can’t. As far as I’m concerned, this man is the animation GOD.

Why is he God? First of all, he’s pretty much responsible for directing Pixar’s first three movies, and now he acts as executive producer on literally EVERY SINGLE MOVIE DISNEY PUTS OUT (Disney animation as well as Pixar, with the exception being Cars 2).

In 2006 when Disney bought Pixar, Lasseter was named Chief creative officer. Suddenly, this guy was put in charge of not only Pixar, but Disney Animation as well.

BEST. CHOICE. EVER

I’m not saying that Disney animation had been in a lull. Ok, maybe the fact I’m not reviewing Chicken Little and Home on the Range means something (those are generally agreed upon as being the WORST Disney movies ever…), but I’ll be the first to admit the the age before Disney’s so called “revival” isn’t as bad as many people think.

Now why am I talking about Lasseter on a movie before the Disney Revival? Because this is the first movie he oversaw as part of his new assignment. And while this movie is super messy, it has things about it that you can just “tell” are him. Starting with this movie, Disney movies (to me at least) begin to feel a bit more “Pixar-ish.” The sad part is I can’t even explain what I mean….

(meanwhile, Pixar would be starting to go “downhill”… according to everyone but me. But we’ll get to that later…)

So! Meet the Robinsons. This crazy little movie is kind of in a league of its own. It’s not really like Hercules and Emperor’s new Groove, but I suppose I have to put it there…? It’s sort of by itself. Let’s dive in and see what I think of this one. I’m going to be brief with the synopsis, because I could explain it all day and you might still not understand it….

This movie centers around an orphan named Lewis. Lewis is a “special” kid – he’s insanely smart, loves inventing things (and often fails), and doesn’t understand why no one wants to adopt him. After believing no one will ever want him but his own birth mother (who dropped him off when he was a baby), he invents a machine for the science fair at school called the “memory scanner,” which scans your brain for a desired memory and displays it in picture form on a screen.

But things don’t go so well for Lewis at the science fair after he runs into a kid named Wilbur who says he’s a time cop from the future and is after a man in a bowler hat who stole a time machine. Lewis of course thinks he’s crazy, but we see the bowler hat guy and his hat, who he calls Doris (it’s actually DOR-15, and she’a robot) sabotage Lewis’s memory scanner. It blows up, causing Lewis to leave in a frustrated state.

Back at the orphanage, he meets Wilbur again, who has followed him. Wilbur tells him he has to go back and fix the memory scanner or the time stream will be ruined. Lewis thinks he’s crazy until he shows him his own time machine and takes him to the future, hoping that will make him realize he has to go back to the science fair.

But Lewis has other ideas. Now that there’s a time machine, he says the memory scanner is pointless. He can just use the time machine to go back and find his real mom. He messes around with the time machine and it breaks. Wilbur freaks out, saying his parents are going to kill him because he wasn’t supposed to take it. He’s not really a time cop but instead a kid who’s trying to make up for a mistake he’s done.

He and Lewis manage to get the time machine back to Wilbur’s house, where Wilbur makes lewis a deal: if he can fix it, Wilbur will take him back to see his mom. Lewis attempts with no avail. Wilbur heads off into his house and orders Lewis to stay there. Of course this doesn’t work, and Lewis manages to meet all of Wilbur’s family.

His mother Franny is super welcoming and has him stay for dinner, where Lewis is part of a sort of insane… thing. He attempts to fix an invention of theirs and fails (again). Ready to apologize and run out, he’s surprised when they all clap and tell him that failure is good.

Meanwhile, the bowler hat guy is back in the past trying to pass off the memory scanner as his own to change the future. When it doesn’t work, he and Doris work to kidnap Lewis to get him to fix the memory scanner so he can help them. There are a few mishaps at seizing the boy.

Some stuff happens, Lewis is asked to join the Robinson family (but can’t – according to Wilbur), the future manages to change (for the worse) and only Lewis can fix it.

I don’t want to give away a lot of the last part of the movie, because I think it has a lot of good twists and plot points. You don’t really see it coming, and I enjoyed watching it the first time because of this. I want to keep this review spoiler free.

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In a lot of ways, this movie is just one giant ridiculous mess. You spend half of the movie wondering if any of this craziness even has a point. I think that’s why a lot of people just write this movie off. Strictly put, I don’t think a lot of people “get” this movie.

Yes it is crazy. Yes it is ridiculous. There’s a good solid 20 minutes that just leave you scratching your head going “what?” There’s a giant squid as a butler. There are singing frogs. There’s a man who delivers pizza via space ship. There’s a meatball canon, and a guy who thinks his puppet wife is real (and somehow they managed to have kids…?).

Just… do yourself a favor when you watch this movie. Don’t get caught up in trying to rationalize all the weird. Just enjoy the ride. Because in the end, this is what all the weirdness boils down to:

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Right there. That last line. “They’re family.” The Robinsons are crazy and weird, but they are a family unit. A completely cohesive family unit. Nevermind that the movie literally has to take a break from the plot to explain how everyone is related to each other (culminating in that scene above), and never mind I still don’t really know if even I understand how everyone is related. Wilbur is the most normal of all of them, and he’s even a little bit bonkers and wacky. But no matter what, they’re still a family. They stick together no matter what. Even if a giant dinosaur is coming after them. They are a huge, crazy, insane family.

That’s right. This is another Disney movie that somehow manages to convey the importance of family. It’s imbedded in this movie so centrally because it’s the main want of our main character.

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I adore Lewis. I think he is a great, well developed protagonist. Ok yes he’s a typical trope of a nerdy smart kid, and he really looks the part. But let’s not think about his looks for a second. Let’s really dive into the psychy of this kid.

Lewis was dropped at an orphanage when he was a kid. He’s had a ton of adoption interviews, all of which have ended in heartache or disaster. This fact alone is what shapes this kid’s personality and character. He’s desperate for a family, so much so that he’s willing to invent a memory scanner to see the only person who at one time or another actually cared about him! He almost gives up on the past when Wilbur’s mom offers for him to be a Robinson, something that could have screwed with the space-time continuum. He’s a smart kid – he should have known that! But his desire to be loved, accepted, and part of a family overrode all rational thinking.

Another thing I think is interesting about Lewis is that BECAUSE all of his adoption interviews have failed, he believes that failure is the worst possible thing in the world. He’s used to his inventions failing and people getting mad at him. Only when he goes to the future and meets the Robinsons and “fails” does he realize that there can be another way to look at it. “From failing, you learn.”

This is an incredibly unique lesson for Disney to teach in a movie. It’s one I don’t think they’ve ever taught before, and believe it or not, it’s well done. Because we’ve all been that kid who gets pissed because we just can’t get it right. we’ve all apologized when something we did screwed up and hurt someone, physically or emotionally. It’s good for everyone to just remember that failing is just a part of life. Without failing, you don’t learn what’s wrong, and you don’t learn what to try next. By failing you can even create something you never set out to create.

The other message in this movie again is another unique one for Disney to explore, and it’s done actually pretty well and surprisingly subtly (for kids at least). It’s best illustrated again with the help of Tumblr:

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Now I know it’s just a silly mashup of Disney contradicting themselves, but it’s really not. That there is the man in the bowler hat, or (one of) our villains. He’s in the past telling Lewis’ roommate Goob how best to live his life. See, this is what the man in the bowler hat has done his whole life. He’s let his hatred fester and rot him deep down, and in the end it gets him nothing. He dwelled on a few random incidences that happened in the past, and it destroyed him. Only at the end of the movie when he let’s go and decides NOT to dwell on the past is he able to move past it.

DOR-15 is the same way. She was created to be a helping hand, but when Mr. Robinson decided it didn’t work and she was getting out of control, he shut her down. She (the hat) is taking this and running with it (although to be fair she’s just super evil… the man in the bowler hat is a better example of this lesson…)

Heck, they even illustrate this point with Lewis. He’s so set on finding his family in the past by visiting his mom that he refuses to think of what “could be.” He’s not willing to wait to see his life develop and get good. Instead, he pours himself into this invention to find something in the past that he probably can’t change. Dwelling on the past only ends in heartache and destroys your personality to open itself up to the possibilities.

It’s like Wilbur’s dad’s motto: Keep Moving Forward.

With all the amazing good things about this movie, I will say that it isn’t perfect by a long shot. It’s a mess. You can almost tell that someone came in a tweaked this movie to try and make it flow a bit more. LASSESTER! 60% of this movie was changed when he came in. You can tell, but it’s not without its flaws.

It’s hard to understand sometimes. It’s hard to follow others. Sometimes you don’t understand the purposes of our characters, and other than Lewis, Wilbur, the man in the Bowler Hat, DOR-15, and maybe Frannie and Bud (Wilbur’s mom and grandfather), you don’t know the other characters more than just as caricatures.

But at the same time… that’s ok. Because this movie IS itself a caricature. It’s a wacky crazy ridiculous movie that a lot of people will brush off because to them, it doesn’t make sense. I’m not saying it does. I’m not saying there aren’t ridiculous plot holes (because there are). I’m not saying they did time travel perfectly (because they didn’t…) but what I AM saying is that this movie TRIES. It tries to give us something we’ve never seen before. It tries to give us lessons we’ve never heard from Disney. GOOD lessons. It might take a few watches to really get it, but when you do, it just clicks, and you realize how smart this movie really is.

It’s hard to write this review without spoilers, but trust me, if you’ve never seen it, you’ll be glad I didn’t ruin it. The way this movie plays out is fun. It has twists and turns you might expect, and it has some you don’t. Just buckle yourself in for a wild, crazy ride.

And if you don’t at least tear up at the end when Rob Thomas’ “Little Wonders” song starts, you’re dead inside. Best. Song. EVER!

I give Meet the Robinsons (2007) a 3.4 out of 5.

(btw, it’s getting insanely hard to put these in a “my favorites” list….)

Up Next: Bolt (2008)