In 2007, Amy Adams announced herself as a superstar with her lead performance in Enchanted. The actress had already been nominated for an Oscar for Junebug, but the musical comedy showcased her immense talent. Not only could she fully commit to a silly character, but she proved a gravitational force. Despite getting squeezed out of the awards race (in one of the best years in the history of cinema), Adams signaled she was set to be an all-time icon. Now, fifteen years later, Disenchanted allows Adams to reprise her star-making role. While the film cannot quite live up to the incredible heights of Enchanted, the sequel is still a wonderfully fun and silly meta-comedy worthy of praise.
After finding their happily ever after, Giselle (Adams) and Robert (Patrick Dempsey) need to move to the suburbs. Teenager Morgan (Gabriella Baldacchino) is frustrated leaving her life, but the arrival of baby Sophia (Mila and Lara Jackson) leaves their New York apartment as too small. After arriving in suburbia, Giselle attempts to help Morgan gain popularity while accidentally challenging the mothers who run the town (Maya Rudolph, Yvette Nichole Brown, & Jayma Mays). When this causes a fight between Giselle and Morgan, the stepmother wishes for life to be more like a fairy tale. This brings the magic of Andalasia, including chipmunk Pip (Griffin Newman), into the real world. It also brings out other fairy tale tropes that could change Giselle for good.
Directed by Adam Shankman, Disenchanted handles its comedy and parody aspects surprisingly well. It pushes us beyond the events of the first film, which ended as traditionally as possible, and forces each of the characters to navigate the rest of their lives. Just as life throws us curveballs, each has seen their own changes. Shankman nails the physical comedy from his cast, allowing everyone a chance to shine while also showcasing their musical talents. The dance numbers, especially when we embrace the fantasy, are particularly impressive.
This results in Adams and Rudolph getting the most shine in the film, and this should be welcome by all fans. Both actresses have proven their ability to go big at a moment’s notice while showcasing their talent behind a microphone. The two make for great adversaries, both in the real world and in the fairy tale. Rudolph becomes a welcome addition in terms of commitment, but Adams is still the engine that keeps Disenchanted on the tracks.
Newcomer Baldacchino also shows genuine talent as a singer and broadway-style performer. She is asked to handle a thankless role, especially after replacing Rachel Covey from the original film. However, Baldacchino steps into the role of the underdog, creating genuine connections with Adams. The two bring enough chemistry to sell their stepmother/stepdaughter dynamic while never leaning too far on the love versus tolerate scale.
Another aspect that helps step Disenchanted apart is the tactility of the sets and costumes. The teams create some stunning looks, and Shankman never wastes the chance to show off his team. Not only do they recreate some of the iconic outfits of the first film with all new garments, but they add considerably more unique visual stylings to celebrate the meta-commentary aspects. Fairy tale illustrations are embraced and brought to life, allowing for absurdly silly character designs.
Of course, the mainstreaming of meta-comedy since the first film allows Disenchanted to go even bigger with its gags. Not only does composer Alan Menken get to incorporate some of his trademark scores into the film, but Shankman adds layers of humor to poke fun at the Disney classics. A singer drapes herself over apple boxes, and a water effect recreates The Little Mermaid. Characters literally sing a few bars of “Be Our Guest.” Even Rapunzel’s tower makes a brief cameo. While Enchanted allowed more room for subtly in its humor, Disenchanted never has to pull a punch.
The rest of the supporting cast gets moments in the sun. It’s wonderful to see Newman find his way as a voice actor, and this is easily his best work since Master of the Universe. The former Tick actor is not only hilarious in the role but actually captures a liveliness in his vocal performance that helps lift Pip in our minds. Certainly, Disney needs to explore using him more, especially after a sequence that allows him to share screen time with Alan Tudyk and hold his own. James Marsden and Idina Menzel each get standout moments, but neither really feels essential to the story. Menzel’s number is surprisingly disappointing, but more because of the lyrics than the performance.
Undeniably, one of the aspects holding back Disenchanted are the weaker musical numbers. They are not necessarily bad, as “Fairytale Life” provides plenty of fun moments in its reprise. However, songs like Love Power feel a little too repetitive and clunky. It’s probably the aspect of the film that suffers the most, which is frustrating considering the talented singers assembled for the film.
While Dempsey and Marsden certainly do not get a lot of shine this time, but then again, Disenchanted is not about their struggles. This does harm the movie when it chooses to focus on them (Dempsey in particular) because they have little to do. Still, it’s important that Disenchanted be able to clear out for its actual story; this is simply a case of characters returning for a sequel that does not need them. The use of visual effects is also very hit-and-miss in the film. For Pip, they’re nearly perfect. Other action sequences feel complete, while a fight against a giant feels frustratingly generic. Still, compared to the other films that have gone straight to Disney+, Disenchanted feels like a technical feat.
It is sure to disappoint if you go into Disenchanted with unrealistic hopes. However, as a belated sequel sent straight to streaming, we could have far worse on screen. Adams’ performance and Shankman’s direction are more than worth the price of admission. Additionally, the craft of bringing a fairy tale world into our own is stunning. If Disney is willing to give us another round, we would happily take Re-Enchanted a little sooner.