Princess Review: Enchanted


After Mulan, Disney gave princess movies a long break. A full nine years passed between Mulan and Disney’s next princess movie, Enchanted. The gap between these Princess Reviews was totally intentional and meant to mirror this real-life gap. Honestly. Unlike other installments of this series, Enchanted‘s Giselle is only partially animated, but she’s just as much of a princess as real-life Amy Adams as she is in 2D.

Enchanted is a bit of a difficult movie to review for its messages. The movie is a parody of previous princess movies, so a lot of Giselle’s actions are exaggerated and silly. This doesn’t make her any less of a princess in a kid’s eyes, however, and while the parody may be obvious to an adult, a young girl may not necessarily notice that. Is Giselle too ridiculous to take seriously, or is she just as much of a potential role model as any other princess?

Giselle (Amy Adams) is living the life of a typical pre-marriage princess: she stays in a free cottage in the woods where her animal friends take care of the housework. One night, she has a dream about her ideal prince that will totally kiss her and that’s all, and suddenly, she finds him: right when a troll comes to attack her peaceful cottage, Prince Edward (James Marsden) comes to her rescue. How convenient! They exchange names and declare they will be married the next day.

Despite her plethora of slave laborers, Giselle is a bit late to her own wedding, rushing in at the last moment. She’s stopped by a completely innocuous old woman who offers her a wish on her wedding day. Giselle takes the bait, leans over a wishing well, and suddenly finds herself in a world where dreams don’t actually come true, much to the chagrin of many a recently-graduated hipster: New York City. She stumbles blindly around the city until she meets Robert (Patrick Dempsey), a cynical divorce lawyer whose daughter has much more imagination than he’d like. Robert takes Giselle under his wing in spite of himself, and Giselle, being a hot, young thing, accidentally gives the wrong impression to Robert’s five-year girlfriend, Nancy (Idina Menzel). She decides to make it right with her gift of song.

It might have been the singing, or the red hair, or maybe the cleaning of his apartment, but despite the fact that Giselle cut up all of his nice linens to make into clothing, Robert begins to grow fond of Giselle. She likes Robert, too, since even though he doubts that her prince will ever come to save her, he lets her know that intelligent conversation and actually getting to know someone are kind of important to a lasting relationship.

Edward does come to save her, of course, but it isn’t easy for him. His mother, Queen Nerissa (Susan Sarandon), doesn’t want him to get married and take her throne, so she tries to thwart him every step of the way. Not-so-true love prevails, and when Edward somehow finds his distressed damsel in New York, even though Giselle is less than thrilled to reconnect with the man she thought she loved, Queen Nerissa comes through to protect her power. Since she’s the bad guy, she dies horribly.

After a long struggle, Giselle and Robert realize that they’re perfect for each other, Nancy and Edward run off together, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Let’s be real: while I was young enough to enjoy Mulan as the intended audience, Enchanted came out in 2007. Sure, a lot of the humor in the movie is for adults who grew up watching Disney’s earlier princess movies, and while I enjoy the references a lot, I am not the intended audience for Enchanted, and I wasn’t when the movie was released.

That doesn’t, however, make the movie any less enjoyable. It’s a lot of fun to spot the references to older movies, especially the more subtle ones. One of my favorites is “Part of your World” playing softly while Giselle is standing behind an aquarium. It’s just a couple of seconds during a scene transition, but it’s pretty glorious.

I’m a little jealous of people who are able to follow their dreams exactly and make money from it, especially in this economy. Starting your own business is hard work, and if it’s this hard to find a good job, I can only imagine how hard it is to get a loan for a start-up. Of course, Giselle’s at a slight advantage given that her boyfriend is a lawyer, and affluent enough to afford an apartment overlooking Central Park, but that doesn’t mean it takes any less drive. It’s nice to see a woman working in a Disney movie, especially if she could theoretically coast off her partner’s success. We don’t live in a world of single-income families anymore (except for the extremely fortunate), and it’s good for young girls to see a role model that enjoys the rewards of working for a living.

There’s the added bonus of letting girls know that there’s a balance between fantasy and reality. The fairy tale world Giselle is from is portrayed as something clearly different from the real world, and it’s obvious that she needs a good dose of reality. Similarly, Robert’s world is sad and cynical, and he needs a bit more optimism and magic in his life. It’s clear, even to a kid, that neither person is completely perfect, and that there needs to be a balance between the two outlooks.

Giselle is actually one of the reasons I wanted to write this series. Disney has stopped making many Enchanted items at this point since they have newer princesses to push on girls, but the products with Giselle on them really stood out to me when they were in stores. Despite being comically innocent in the movie, every image of Giselle on backpacks and notebooks featured the sleeves of her dress falling off her shoulders as she gave a sultry look to the camera. What is the point of that? Why can’t she just be a happy, silly character? Why does everything have to be sexy?

And you know what attracts Robert to Giselle in the first place, other than her being Amy Adams? He is impressed by her cooking, cleaning, and sewing. Yes, really. I know the things she does are supposed to parody the actions of previous princesses, but the only real things one could notice about Giselle are how hot she is, her homemaking skills, and her childlike view of the world. Given Robert’s reluctance to encourage his daughter’s interest in fantasy, it’s certainly not the latter, and let’s be real: he’s a rich lawyer in New York, so he can probably find a hot woman if he likes.

Robert and Nancy’s relationship may not be completely stable, as evidenced when her reaction to his changed behavior is an ecstatic “That’s so unlike you,” but they’ve been in it for the long haul, and Robert’s planned proposal doesn’t seem like an attempt to save a dead relationship. Giselle’s attraction for Robert makes sense, since this is not only the first man she’s actually gotten to know, but he is her only friend in an unfriendly new world. As for Robert, having a hot young woman fall into his lap and look at him as a hero couldn’t be easy to resist, but even if she weren’t, in his eyes, completely insane, there’s no reason for him to leave Nancy for her. Sure, things work out in the end and all parties are completely happy, but that doesn’t change how messed up the whole thing is.

While there’s the obvious problem of abandoning his serious relationship with Nancy for a hot young thing, there’s still the question of whether or not Giselle and Robert make a good couple at all. One of the major turning points in making Giselle more human is that she actually feels anger for the first time, and while it’s healthy to feel a wide range of emotions, it’s probably not a good sign that her first experience with the feeling was at her new partner. Her overwhelming optimism and his severe cynicism may seem to balance each other out at first, but how long will the balance last before Robert becomes frustrated with Giselle’s inability to adapt, or Giselle gets depressed when Robert constantly brings her back down to Earth?

Once again, it just leads to “I can totally change him and we will be happy forever!” Yes, people change. People adapt to their partners. But when two people are so radically different from the start, and a lot would have to change in order for both parties to be happy, it’s not healthy to expect that the other person will change and everything will be fine.

While the movie is a parody, the messages it sends are real, and the positive messages about drive and employment are weighed down by the lessons in awful relationships.

Previous Princess Reviews:
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
Sleeping Beauty
The Little Mermaid
Beauty and the Beast

The Swan Princess