“Enchanted,” released in 2007, diverged from Disney’s conventional princess movie plot, making the studio originally consider it a monetary risk in production. Within its mix of hand-drawn animation (which was considered old-fashioned, as the studio started digitally animated feature films in 1986), and live-action performance, “Enchanted” broke the mold from the standard of the time. Ultimately, Disney was proven wrong, as it was a smashing hit, making $340 million in box office revenue worldwide.
“Disenchanted,” on the other hand, has not proven to be as successful as its predecessor, though it’s been in development for more than twelve years. Variety first reported on a proposed sequel in 2010, with Disney hoping to release it by 2011. Its release on Disney+ on Nov. 16, 2022 was long awaited.
Set ten years after the first film, Giselle (Amy Adams) and Robert (Patrick Dempsey) are happily married. Along with their daughter Morgan (Gabriella Baldacchino) and baby Sofia (Mila and Lara Jackson), they are moving to the ultimate fairy-tale-esque suburbia called Monroeville. However, the move has not shown to be as charming as Giselle would’ve hoped, as home renovations are causing disaster, Robert has a long commute to work back in New York, and Morgan is feeling like she doesn’t have a place at her new school.
Morgan, the sweet six-year-old girl in the first film (originally played by Rachel Covey), is now a teenager. The classic “I don’t want to move I’m happy where I am trope” develops in the first half, along with sighs, eyerolls, and sarcastic remarks (which Giselle cannot comprehend). Giselle doesn’t understand that Morgan is not the same princess-loving little girl that she first met in New York a decade earlier. Not to mention the strain caused by Baby Sofia, as she receives the Wand of Wishes, a magic-wielding device that can only be used by a ‘true daughter of Andalasia,’ prompting a song, “The Magic of Andalasia” sung by King Edward (James Marsden) and Queen Nancy (Idina Menzel). Morgan feels outcast yet again, as she doesn’t have Andalasian blood, unlike her infant sister.
Giselle is introduced to Malvina Monroe (Maya Rudolph), head of the town council, with her two henchwomen (Yvette Nicole Brown and Jayma Mays) and learns of a fairy-tale themed ball in which Monroe’s son, and Morgan’s crush, Tyson, will be crowned prince. Rudolph is cast as the perfect annoying PTA, know-it-all parent, contrasting to Giselle’s joy and optimism, while Jayma Mays (you might know her as the OCD school counselor on Glee) really entices me with her performance as the ditzy, blonde, soccer-mom type.
Giselle sees the ball as an opportunity for Morgan to fit in, and tries to get her elected as the ball’s princess, but ends up embarrassing Morgan. The withered relational divide between the two prompts a scene in which Morgan tells Giselle that she’s only her step-mother, not her real mother, leaving Giselle heartbroken. She then sings, “How I miss that fairy-tale life/ Where you wake up each day/ and nothing’s changed/ and your daughter doesn’t feel estranged.”
In contrast with the original, the “Disenchanted” score doesn’t help drive the plot forward in a fun, fantastic way. The score feels like that one song in a musical that your least favorite character sings, perhaps an old man. Though composed by Disney geniuses Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz (of “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid,” and “Aladdin” fame), the songs simply state what happened in the scene before, trying to drive some emotional grasp, but one that just doesn’t hold.
The first half as a whole is highly unoriginal, even for Disney, the company who reuses the same princess design over and over again, just changing the outfit and hair. Trope after trope, the first 30 or so minutes of the two-hour long film are just plain drab, feeling more like a Disney channel teen movie, rather than a box-office hit. Not to mention, Morgan’s character in the first half highly irritated me, as she was such a sweet angel in the first movie, and now is so incredibly rude. However, I did enjoy the long-form development of the characters and plot, as it left more to be discovered throughout the course of the film.
Giselle decides to use the magic wand and wishes that her family’s life was a perfect fairy-tale. Here, the conventional Disney plot dies slightly, as the beloved main character finally faces some inner turmoil. Much like the original fish-out-of-water plot, or princess turned up in New York City, plain Monroeville is now turned into beautiful Monrolasia, the perfect fairy-tale kingdom. Malvina is now the town’s Evil Queen, Robert is a sword-wielding adventurer, and Giselle is slowly turning into a wicked stepmother, with Morgan as the ‘Cinderella’ of the story.
I was hoping for the ‘discovery’ song of the film to be somewhat catchy, but it really just banks on the same idea of “Beauty and the Beast” song “Belle.” Even with the same melodic line at times, the scene follows Morgan singing how “It’s another perfect Monrolasia morning,” with a gaggle of townspeople (and Broadway alumni) supporting her as she walks through the marketplace. I immediately recognized Tony award winner James Monroe Iglehart (“Aladdin”) and Ann Harada (“Avenue Q”). Michael McCorry Rose (“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” “Antastasia”) is also featured.
Giselle soon realizes her wrongdoings, and tries to reverse the spell along with her beloved chipmunk friend, Pip. Giselle asks the magic scroll for help, who reveals that her wish is taking away the magic from Andalasia, and everything will become permanent when the clock strikes midnight. She pushes Morgan into a portal to reverse the spell and save Andalasia.
Meanwhile, Giselle becomes even more evil, and threatens to take over Monrolasia from the Queen, and they have a competition within a musical number called “Badder.” Something the movie does right is that it’s filled to the brim with references of classic Disney, just like the original. Homage is paid to classic villains, name-dropping Maleficent, and Cruella de Vil, though it falls a little flat within Adams’ villain persona. However, I did enjoy the contrast as her ‘good’ tries to fight her ‘evil’ side in a hilarious conversation of both sides of her psyche.
Morgan, now in the slowly-dying, animated world of Andalasia, finds Nancy and Edward, and they suggest that she use the magic of memories to help reverse the spell. In a song called “Love Power,” Menzel belts out, “Find the song inside you/ That your memories seem to know/ Let it grow/ Let it glow,” which prompts Morgan to try and save Giselle.
The cheesiest plot point in the world, though somewhat endearing. The last half hour of the film reveals that it’s Giselle and Morgan’s relationship that is the true magic. I’ll admit I shed a tear or two, especially when it comes to the last breath, last wish type scenario. Ugh—I’m a sucker, what can I say?
Overall, “Enchanted” worked greatly because it used Disney as its inspiration for mockery. “Disenchanted” fell flat in this way, as it paid tribute excellently, but didn’t stand by itself. This may be due to screenwriter Brigette Hales, an alumni of ABC’s “Once Upon A Time.” The story felt very cable television, and a lot less big-screen Disney.
However, not all was lost. Marsden reprised his role as Edward beautifully, with no less charm and bravado than in 2007. I also found Oscar Nuñez’ portrayal of the magic mirror to be a positive as well, as he and Rudolph bicker back and forth with sassy one-liners throughout the film. Adams’ voice carries the ensemble, and overall, I am not thoroughly disappointed, which is always a plus.