The world of fairytales is back and magic is afoot. Back in 2007, we all fell in love with Giselle, the fairytale princess played by Amy Adams. She was transported to New York City and fell in love with Robert (Patrick Dempsey).
They and Robert’s daughter Morgan (Gabriella Baldacchino) have been living their happily ever after since then. Of course, fairytale endings never last and the family has decided to relocate to a suburb
They find a really rundown house that looks a little bit like a castle, but things aren’t going very well. The queen bees of the neighborhood, Rosaleen (Yvette Nicole Brown), Ruby (Jayma Mays) and the leader of them all Malvina (Maya Rudolph) aren’t taking too kindly to the lovely and sweet Giselle. Morgan is teenager-ing, and the house is falling apart around them.
Since the last film, Robert and Giselle have had baby Sofia and King Edward (James Marsden) and Nancy (Idina Menzel) bring her a gift of a wishing wand from Andalasia. You see where this is going? With Morgan being a teenager and grumpy about the move, she’s taken to calling Giselle her “stepmother” in teenager voice, and in fairytales, that’s the kiss of death.
When Giselle decides to use the wand to bring magic to the real world, she becomes an evil fairytale stepmother, and has to battle it out with herself and Malvina for supremacy in a town that now resembles a fairytale land.
Fans of Enchanted are likely going to enjoy Disenchanted, but it doesn’t live up to the original. Disney has taken to the sort of light musical version of things where there are some songs but not a ton, making one wonder if there was originally a plan to do this without music. (I’m sure there wasn’t, but it just has that feel.) The songs that are there are lovely, but it feels like no one committed to the idea of a musical completely, oddly enough.
The story is sweet, sort of turning the stepmother trope on its head, though all of it feels as light as Giselle trying to understand community politics. She’s a person still, right? She is innocent and a fairytale princess, but she’s still got a brain, right?
Disenchanted doesn’t use the innocence as well as the first film (where it was justified). I don’t buy that she wouldn’t have learned something in the years since she first ended up in the real world. Some of it feels like “because that’s what the script says” more than an actual maturity or existence in current day.
A better way in with Disenchanted might have been to make the fish out of water in the story be the teenager (which they only sort of nod to in the film we actually see), and have that really push a more mature Giselle into behavior she hasn’t used before or wouldn’t have considered.
I think the issue is that everything feels very fluffy. The first film was so charming and worked so well because Giselle was so innocent – and she had a real reason for it. This entire world was new to her. As someone who lived in NYC for a big chunk of my life, I do not buy that she’d live there for over a decade and not figure out anything about the world. The joy of the first one was that this was all new to her. It’s not now.
That is not to say that there aren’t really sweet moments in Disenchanted. The performances are lovely, and Rudolph just steals every scene she’s in. Add in the fact that her “sidekicks” are played by comedy heavy hitters Brown and Mays – they don’t disappear into the background, even with Rudolph chewing scenery. (I say that in the best way, because that’s exactly what the role calls for and watching Rudolph is never anything but wonderful.)
Amy Adams hasn’t lost any of the sweetness that made the first film so charming. The flatness of this is less about any of the actors than it is the entire concept. Even within that, there are fun moments like Pip (voice of Griffin Newman) becoming an evil cat because that’s what stepmothers have in tales.
Patrick Dempsey sings here and his voice is lovely. Baldacchino is delightful as the older Morgan (replacing Rachel Covey from the first film), who isn’t the worst teen ever. That part was actually refreshing, despite wanting to see more from her and not just have her used as a catalyst for Giselle.
A lot of time has passed since that first film, and the actual world has changed dramatically. No one in this world, fairytale princess or not, is going to be unchanged by it. Nancy has truly become a princess of Andalasia, so why wouldn’t Giselle have even a hint of the real world on her?
I do want to call out the fact that we don’t see enough of James Marsters here, but the moments he’s in are adorable. Idina Menzel… do I even need to tell you about her spectacular voice? Of course I don’t. These two belong in the fairytale realm. It’s just that, held up against Giselle’s progression, it doesn’t make sense to have them be fully who they are in their world, but not have Giselle take on her new world.
Overall, it’s an enjoyable watch. It’s just that it had the potential to be so much more. I wish I’d seen Giselle get a little jaded, and then find her way back, instead of a magical MacGuffin making her “fairytale jaded.” There would have been more impact, seeing an innocent changed by the world, then remember what made her special.
DISENCHANTED REVIEW SCORE: 6 OUT OF 10
Disenchanted will begin streaming on Disney+ on November 18, 2022. The film is rated PG for mild peril and language.