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Cinema in Focus: ‘Enchanted’

A fairy-tale film blends new characters with old favorites — and plenty more — in a hopeful story of life's true love.

3 Stars — Wholesome

Fairy tales seem to be going through a metamorphosis. If Disney is any indication of the change, the romantic fantasies of Walt’s early films, rejected by this generation of story-tellers, has come back around with a significant difference: We would rather have reality than fantasy. The cartoon characters of a make-believe world may promise a happily ever-after life, but "true love’s kiss" in the real world, even with the possibility that something could go wrong, is to be preferred. This is the theme of director Kevin Lima‘s Enchanted.

Building on the Snow White tale of European oral tradition, written down by the Brothers’ Grimm and made popular by Disney’s 1937 film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, this new version has the familiar characters along with some new ones. The familiar are Princess Giselle (Amy Adams), whose innocence and song can charm the animals into her service; Prince Edward (James Marsden), whose good looks and valor match Giselle’s charm; Prince Edward’s stepmother, Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon), whose narcissistic evil is set on keeping Edward and Giselle apart; and Nathaniel (Timothy Spall), who pretends to be Edward’s squire but who is really under Queen Narissa’s control. In many ways the parts they play within this tale are classic portrayals with the traditional poison apple and all. These are the characters of the land of Andalasia, where hunting gargantuan ogres is King Edward’s sport, where happily ever-after marriage is the norm and where little chipmunks like Pip (voice by Jeff Bennett  and Lima) are talkative heroes. But it is also the land from which the evil Queen Narissa banishes Princess Giselle into a world where "no one is happy," downtown Manhattan.

This changes the story, as we see the two worlds of fantasy and romance intersect with the real world of anger and divorce. This new twist comes with several new characters: Rob Philip (Patrick Dempsey), whose practice as a divorce lawyer has driven the belief in romance from his heart; Rob’s 6-year-old daughter, Morgan (Rachel Covey), who is the perfect age to believe in princesses, princes, romance and happiness; and Nancy Tremaine (Idina Menzel), who is Rob’s fiancée-to-be and trying to bond with his daughter.

Narrated by Julie Andrews, the combined tale is full of the best in romantic comedy. With humor for both adults and children, there are many moments in which love and loyalty fight against betrayal and malice. There is romantic love in all its unexpected glory as well as evil ambition in all its dragonish pride. There is courage in the smallest of creatures and there is opportunity for those whose cynicism has cost them love to change their ways.

Two of the funniest moments in the film occur when Pip attempts to communicate to Prince Edward in the real world where he has lost his ability to speak and when Princess Giselle orchestrates a full-scale musical within Central Park, but the film is full of humor at all levels.

Enchanted is a hopeful film exposing our desire for true love even in a world where suspicious loneliness has become the norm. It is a tale we need to hear anew.

Discussion:

1. When Princess Giselle becomes angry with Rob, what do you think happened within her innocent spirit? How much of anger is a part of love?

2. The attempts of the stepmother Queen Narissa to keep her throne describe the all-too-often behavior of those in power. What is it that you believe happens to a person in power? Is only ego and narcissism involved or is there more to the motivation to be in control?

3. The solution at the end of the film for all four of the leading characters is a "happy ending." Did you find it satisfying? Why or why not?

4. The realization by Nathaniel that he was only being used by Queen Narissa comes when he sees a similar relationship on a television soap opera. Have you ever experienced someone using you? What helped you come to that realization?

Cinema In Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church on the Mesa. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.

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