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.”

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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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Brother Bear 2 (2006)

 

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Alright, we’ve reached the last of my three sequels that I actually own. While this wasn’t put out by Walt Disney Animation Studios, (instead DisneyToon), I’m still fitting them in where they should go.

Unlike my other two sequels (Return of Jafar and Lion King 2), I had absolutely no want to see this when it came out. I liked Brother Bear just the way it was, and I worried that they would completely destroy everything that I loved about the first movie.

Well… I guess they tried not to….??? There’s mixed results. Which is interesting because this movie is actually rated higher than the original on Rotten Tomatoes AND IMDB. Maybe I’m the only one who liked the first movie? I don’t think that’s true.

Anyway, I caught this on netflix, watched it, and was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t so incredibly horrible I wanted to kill myself. Would I rate it higher than the first one? No. Not at all. I don’t understand how this happened at all.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

Kenai’s still a bear, and has been plagued recently by dreams of he and his childhood friend, Nita and a trip they took one time where they promised each other they’d be together forever, and he gave her a pendant. He tells Koda about it, then wonders what she’s been up to, as he hasn’t seen her in years.

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Turns out what she’s up to is that she’s getting married, or trying to. An earthquake right before her wedding causes her, her father, and her tribe to come to the conclusion that the spirits believe there is something wrong with this union. After visiting the shawoman of her village, it turns out that the promise she made with Kenai long ago was a binding union, and if she wants to marry someone else, she has to travel with Kenai to the place they made the promise and burn the amulet. The Shawoman gives Nita the ability to speak bear, and she’s off to find him.

Once she finds Kenai and Koda, she talks them into taking her on this little adventure. Kenai and Nita begin to fall for each other again, remembering how much they had in common, and Koda learns about jealousy. Kenai helps her get over her fear of water, she helps Rutt and Tuke learn how to communicate with the opposite sex, and in the end, well…

I actually don’t want to give it away. You’ll just have to watch it.

Unlike the first movie which deals with ideas like walking in someone else’s shoes, perspective, and what it means to be a man, the second one deals with… love. But not love like the first movie, love like romcom love. the idea of a soul mate. It’s not half as serious about its lesson as the first one, because you could argue that falling in love and “soul mates” don’t exist.

This could be counted as a point against the sequel, but I honestly don’t mind. Not every movie has to be big, and I expect less from a sequel. For what it is, it’s pretty good. I actually really enjoy when movies discuss the idea of “soul mates” because it’s one of those things almost like magic or spirits: does it exist?

In this movie this idea, although not as “big” as in the first movie, is done well. We have the existence of the great spirits again and the aurora borealis acting as the keeper of all the old souls. What I find interesting in this one is we have “proof” again that they come down and affect things on the earth. The earthquake that happens during Nita’s wedding in the beginning is seen as this “proof.” The spirits were a good, interesting part of the first movie, and I’m glad they kept it in.

Now one thing I’m NOT happy they did was take the character of the shawoman and turn her into a joke. In the first movie, Tenana was serious about her dealings with the spirits. She was wise and understood things the way no one could. In this movie we get Nita’s Shawoman, Wanda Sykes (I don’t remember the character name because literally all I think about is the voice actor when she opens her mouth).

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It’s incredibly distracting. She’s not serious. Nita goes to ask her what the earthquake meant, and what she has to do, and sure she gets answers, but it plays like a comedy club conversation. It’s the hardest scene for me to watch in the entire movie because when the first one took itself so seriously, this one pokes fun. I hate it. ugh.

Where this movie really shines is in its other characters. We have our returning favorites, like Kenai, Koda, Rutt and Tuke. All are voiced by the same actors except Kenai. They couldn’t get Joaquin Phoenix, so they got Patrick Dempsey instead. I will admit it takes a bit to get used to (especially if you watch one movie right after the other), but he’s not bad as Kenai. I would have preferred Joaquin, but it’s ok.

We get to see how Kenai and Koda’s relationship has changed. They’re super close, and while they act more like brothers, Kenai knows that he has to also be an authority figure. Koda enjoys his relationship with Kenai so much that when Nita comes in, he actually gets jealous. Wow. That’s realistic. Dad starts seeing a girl and spends more time with her instead of you. no wonder he’s pissed. His jealousy causes Koda to do some annoying things, but again, I could see a real kid doing this stuff.

It’s also to note that if you were annoyed with Koda in the first movie, I actually don’t think he’s as annoying in this one. They toned him down a bit. Sure he still blabs and tells stories, but the focus of this movie really isn’t on him. It’s on Nita and Kenai.

Ah yes, let’s talk about Nita for a second. Voiced by Mandy Moore (who would go on to Rapunzel fame), Nita is an amazing character for a sequel. I actually really like her. She’s developed, has more backstory than Kenai ever had in the first movie, and is a really good female character.

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What I like about Nita is that she’s good at a lot of things and is brave, but the movie doesn’t act like this is a huge deal. So many other movies have these strong female characters and they’re labeled as “strange” or “weird” or “odd” because they’re not in their typical woman role. This movie doesn’t seem to care about that. “You want to go on a journey all by yourself into the wilderness to track down a bear? ok!” “you need to climb mountains and set traps and actually fend for yourself? OK!”

It’s not a big deal, the movie doesn’t act like it is, and the other characters don’t act like it is either. It’s an accepted thing, and because of it, we as the audience accept it. It’s refreshing and I enjoy that aspect of her character.

But Nita isn’t just crazy woman warrior. She also has depth. In this movie, it’s her phobia of water. Turns out when she and Kenai were kids, she fell through the ice and almost drowned. Kenai saved her, but ever since then she has this intense phobia of water to the point even a lake a few feet deep has her petrified, literally. It’s something that she’s not really willing to admit she has, but is instead this huge secret that comes out only when it’s important. Only then does Kenai help her overcome her fear.

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The relationship between the two of them is pretty well done as well. They have this connection from when they were kids, and sure, at the beginning this movie plays like a horrible romcom – she hates him and only needs him to break the spell. Kenai agrees, but we always get the feeling that he’s still in love with her. What’s great about this movie is you can see that Nita is as well, but is afraid to admit it to herself. Is it because he’s a bear and it’s weird? I dunno. But eventually she lets herself get to know him again, and it’s nice.

Rutt and Tuke again are in the movie to serve for comedic relief, but also to act as a bit of a mirror of the message of the movie. In the first, it was about love and brotherhood and the idea of family. In this one, it’s Love – romantic love. They spend the entire movie attempting to woo these two female moose with no avail. It’s only when Nita adds in her opinion about doing what women would actually want do the two get anywhere.  It’s a cute little storyline, and while they don’t add as much weight as the first movie did, it’s enjoyable nonetheless.

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The animation on this movie is great – almost as good as the original. I know that’s not saying much, but I love my 2D drawn movies. No the aurora borealis isn’t done quite as well, but the mountains, forests, flowers, and characters are done well.

This movie does have songs in it too, which for me are very hit or miss. It opens with a song (or close to opens) that is almost trying to hard to be the first song in the first movie. But Melissa Etheridge’s song “feels like Home” is unbelievable. I want to own it but you have to buy the whole soundtrack on iTunes to get it (the songs from treasure Planet were like that too. boo!!!). And no i’m not into pirating music. Oh well.

All in all, this movie is a good sequel. It has the same characters we love, a solid story, new characters who are well rounded, action, comedy, and heartfelt moments. I just don’t think it hits the seriousness of the first movie in its message. But for what it is, it’s surprisingly solid.

I give Brother Bear 2 (2006) a 3.1 out of 5. For me, it just doesn’t have the magic of the first one.

Up Next: Meet the Robinsons (2007)