Ten years after her happy ending, Giselle, Robert, and Morgan move from Manhattan to the suburb of Monroeville.
In 2007 when Enchanted was released, it felt like a breath of fresh air. It was a self-aware fairytale that showed an alternative to the Disney fairytales we grew up with. The long-awaited sequel Disenchanted brings back the original cast and has a similar fish-out-of-water fun theme but fails to bring across the self-awareness and comedic elements that made the original such a classic.
One of the interesting aspects of Disenchanted, just like the straight-to-video Disney sequels before it, explores the concept of what happens after the happily ever after. Set a decade after the first film, Giselle (Amy Adams) and Robert (Patrick Dempsey) are now married with a baby, and Robert's daughter from a previous marriage Morgan (Gabriella Baldacchino), is now a teenager. Their New York apartment had started to become too small for their growing family, and Giselle longed for an escape. So, she moves the family to the picturesque suburban town of Monroeville. The move is not exactly as charming as Gisele expected, with Robert forced to spend hours commuting to the city for his job and Morgan resenting the fact that she had to move away from her friends and the only home she's ever known. To fix her problems, Gisele uses a magic wand to wish that her life is like a fairytale with drastic consequences.
The film introduces many important messages. The first film upended popular fairytale tropes like the damsel in distress and falling in love at first sight, and this one takes a strike at the evil stepmother trope. With the spell turning Monroeville into a fairytale land, it also begins to turn Giselle into a wicked stepmother who mistreats Morgan. As Giselle tries to fight this, we see Amy Adams deliciously playing the evil role while slipping into the bubbly Giselle in a sort of Jekyll and Hyde-type way. But this also allows Giselle and Morgan to look at their relationship and how special it is, how it is not like the fairytale version of a stepmother and stepdaughter relationship; it is genuine and full of love. I wish the film had focused more on this and given us more about the relationship between the two women. Because other than the first film, which took place over ten years ago, the audience was unaware of what their relationship looked like as Morgan grew up, so we did not understand how strong or weak their relationship was. What did they argue about? What did they confide in each other about? Was any reference made to Morgan's birth mother? It felt as if this was the theme the film was based on; they left too many stones unturned.
The film also focused on other themes, such as how escaping your reality might make things more complicated, to appreciate what you have and the importance of memories. If this sounds like a lot, it is; add into this a magical wishing wand, the 'maybe' death of Andulasia (Giselle's homeland), a nefarious town Queen Bee Malvina Monroe (Maya Rudolph), and it is all a bit much. Herein lies the problem, the plot is not self-aware or different enough to entertain adults, and it is too convoluted to entertain children; then who is it for? If it was written in a similar spirit to the original, there would be more tongue-in-cheek jokes about the recent trend of Disney to make live-action remakes of all their animated princess stories or the fact that there are so many sequels revisiting popular films like Enchanted and Hocus Pocus.
Amy Adams is once again phenomenal in the role and plays Giselle with the same vigour and joy she did in the first film. Patrick Dempsey has a lot less to do in this film, but he looks as if he is having a good time, especially after he becomes a prince, and he wanders aimlessly around the town, looking for dragons to slay and people to save. Maya Rudolph is good as the villain, but it feels like she does not have much to do in the film. At times, I wished they would harken back to what Monroeville was like before Giselle's spell so that I could spend more time seeing Giselle trying to fit in with the PTA moms.
As for the rest of the cast, Idina Menzel returns as Nancy, but she has a very minor role. James Marsden as King Edward, though, made the most of every scene (there were like three) that he was onscreen and was definitely the funniest part of the film for me. It did seem like the film was introducing the talents of Gabriella Baldacchino as Morgan and as the co-lead, and for the most part, Baldacchino did a great job with the material that she was given, and she is a strong performer. She and Adams also worked well off each other.
This time, the songs are less iconic than the first film, tracks that I still sing along to 15 years later. But I still enjoyed the performances. The director Adam Shankman began his career in musical theatre and is known for directing musicals like Hairspray and Rock of Ages, so he is a likely fit. My favourite song was Badder, which was a duet between Amy Adams and Maya Rudolph and showcased both of their voices and theatrics in a fun way.
Disenchanted does not quite live up to the promise of its predecessor, but it is still a delightful film to pass the time with after a long day or when you feel like something light to watch.
Cast: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, Maya Rudolph, Idina Menzel
Our rating: 3/5 Stars
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: