Film Review – Disenchanted



Enchanted (2007) came as a surprise in how it balanced a traditional fairytale with a modern sensibility. It worked to undermine the familiar tropes of princesses, dashing heroes, and evil witches – and yet it had such an earnest sensibility that it can win over the most cynical viewers. Above all else, it made Amy Adams a household name. With her sublime performance, Adams made the good natured but naïve Giselle her own creation. She made us believe that a character from the animated world of Andalasia can come to real life Manhattan, fall in love with a lawyer, talk to animals and burst into song like it’s no big deal.

Adams brings a lot of that gusto fifteen years later in the sequel, Disenchanted (2022). Sadly, everything else fails to keep up with her. The magic that made the first film so much fun is absent here. While Adams does her darndest to keep things afloat, she is bogged down by a messy plot, flat supporting characters, and lackluster music. The original encouraged its protagonist to strike out as an individual and find their place in the world. This mismanages its theming so badly that it basically argues for the status quo. It suggests that living a mundane life of routine is somehow the equivalent of “Happily Ever After.” 


When we reunite with her, Giselle is amid a major life change. She and her husband Robert (Patrick Dempsey) have relocated to the suburban town of Monroeville – much to the chagrin of Robert’s daughter, Morgan (Gabriella Baldacchino). The transition is not going as smoothly as planned. Morgan is having trouble adjusting to a new school, and whenever Giselle tries to help, she only makes things worse. Her attempts to fit in the community draws suspicious glances from other parents, namely Malvina (Maya Rudolph). Malvina is one of the overly involved town members who has her hand in every committee and school program in existence. For Robert (who still works in the city), he finds the long train commutes difficult to adjust to. Very quickly, the family discovers this way of life has some big bumps along the way.

The direction (Adam Shankman) and screenplay (Brigitte Hales) operates as a 180 degree turn from the first outing. Instead of Giselle traveling from the fantasy world into real life, we see her with the opposite mindset. Is the real world so much fun compared to a place where magic exists and everyone gets their fairytale ending? It’s a strange question, especially since the first film already answered it. Through a series of events, Giselle is given the opportunity to go back to that kind of life. However, her journey comes filled with temptation, inviting darkness into her usually optimistic personality. Adams juggles these two forces expertly. She shows the Giselle we know and love and the new, edgier side of her. The two swing back and forth – sometimes within the same scene. The camerawork (Simon Duggan), tracks from one angle of Giselle’s face to the other, allowing Adams to play both characters simultaneously. It’s a nice showcase of Adams’ abilities as an actor. Even though Giselle is essentially having a conversation with herself, Adams makes it clear who is saying what and when.

Although Adams gives her all, the narrative structure is so loose that everything feels cobbled together. This is one of those situations where a sequel tries to stay true to what worked before while taking things to new places – ultimately failing in both. Returning faces such as Edward (James Marsden) and Nancy (Idina Menzel) appear as glorified cameos. Character motivations are underdeveloped to the point that the central tension involves two villains squaring off – not exactly a dynamic we care to root for. We begin to wonder what exactly the movie is trying to say. Underneath the colorful outfits and theme park decorations, the story just kind of sits in this weird neutral area. The sense of discovery and revelation is gone – what’s left exists in a state of blandness.


The biggest disappointment is the music. The songs leave no impact whatsoever. Memorable numbers like “That’s How You Know” from Enchanted are nowhere to be found. This is shocking, given that the music is composed by the legendary Alan Menken. Menken has had a hand in some of the most memorable compositions in Disney history – from Beauty and the Beast (1991), The Little Mermaid (1989), Aladdin (1992), and many more. His work here is not a great example of his skillset. Along with lyricist Stephen Schwartz, the musical numbers never leave us humming along or tapping our toes in rhythm. One song, “Love Power,” is meant to be the showstopper, featuring Idina Menzel’s powerful vocal range. But as soon as it was over, the song vanishes from our memory.

And yet, with the mess swirling around her, Amy Adams somehow manages to keep things watchable – at the very least. This is a reminder of how much of a star she is, and how she can lift material well below her standards. Adams slips back into the role of Giselle with ease. She takes the character in different directions but always feels consistently herself. I just wish her performance was captured in a better movie. This pales in comparison to the original – in concept and in execution. It tries to catch lightning in a bottle a second time and misses. The title can be seen from an ironic perspective. Disenchanted? Yes, indeed.




Allen is a moviegoer based out of Seattle, Washington. His hobbies include dancing, playing the guitar, and, of course, watching movies.

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