Disney’s 2007 movie, Enchanted, is not only one of my favourite movies of that year but it may be my favourite Disney live action movie ever, before they starting remaking everything they ever did and bought everything else everyone else made. It’s a wonderful, almost perfect movie which is both reminiscent of the old-fashioned Disney movies of yore but with a modern meta, not cynical outlook. It’s a movie which had a start, beginning, and a happily ever after ending and in essence is a movie which doesn’t need a sequel. Yet here we are, fifteen years later, waiting to hear what happens after Happily Ever After.
That ‘what happens after Happily Ever After’ bit has become something of a trope in recent years as old franchises attempt to modernise and pull in both new audiences and fans of the originals. The trouble comes when we begin thinking of money rather than story – a problem increasingly plaguing Disney, although it’s always been an issue for them. It’s not an exclusive Disney problem, or Hollywood problem, but it is a problem. If there isn’t a natural need for a sequel to exist, if there isn’t a path to a story which makes sense and is at least as plausible and as interesting as the original, then your final product might make a bucket load of cash, but will likely be an inferior product.
Disenchanted starts off in a plausible fashion – many years have passed and Giselle is still happily married to Robert, living in New York with her Step-daughter Morgan. But where’s the rub? For Giselle, things have gotten somewhat stale. Memories of her magical upbringing and homeland have made her somewhat homesick, the daily grind of New York life has got her down, and having a teenage step-daughter isn’t quite the fairy-tale ending she dreamed of. Rather than simply existing in this malaise, she takes things into her own hands and decides the family needs to move to suburbia. It’s a shaky start to the story and just about makes sense for the characters, but things quickly fall apart once they make the move.
Life in the suburbs doesn’t seem any better than in the city – in fact, the story’s drama and resolution probably could have taken place without the family ever moving. The contrivances build up and a lot of nonsense is thrown at the screen in hopes of something landing. We have a local soccer mom type who becomes an evil queen, we have Morgan maybe falling for the evil queen’s son, we have Robert becoming an essentially non-existent character, and we have Giselle fighting against becoming a wicked stepmother. Not to mention magic talking scrolls, a magic wand with rules which are immediately broken, ogres, and old characters returning because why the hell not. Pick one strand and go with it, guys. It’s messy, but it never becomes a total disaster – it just feels, and looks, and sounds redundant. The magic that was there in the original, is thoroughly gone.
If a sequel was to happen, it should have been no more than five years after the original. Essentially the same story could have been told. While Amy Adams is as good as ever, and while I don’t tend to needlessly comment on someone’s age in reviews, in 2022 her Giselle is less convincing. The child-like joy and optimism simply doesn’t work any longer, and the jokes in the script don’t work. We can’t explain this away by saying the character isn’t the same as in the original, because we see that Giselle is the same in many scenes. Robert’s side arc about being a hero could be a deliberate attempt to explain his otherwise uselessness in the script as he struggles to find his place, but I think the downgrading of his character is simply to make room for the new characters.
Maya Rudolph, who has essentially been playing the same character post-Idiocracy, is fine but her story could probably have been cut from the film to instead focus on Giselle’s inner turmoil. The cat, the lackeys, the son – unnecessary filler. The performers are good, but it’s clear that no-one gives a shit about the material. Adam Shankman makes exclusively bad films, and while Disenchanted isn’t bad, it’s far from good and even further from the original. While the original performers may have been excited to live in their characters’ shoes once more, the director and writer don’t give them much to work with. While the original had a bunch of memorable, story-related, good songs, legends Menken and Schwartz fill the sequel with junk and only one standout moment – let it be said that Idina Menzel is a beast behind the mic – Love Power bringing some much needed quality to the final half.
Disenchanted, like Enchanted probably would have worked better as a standalone. They could have had this straight to streaming curio unencumbered by the pressure of living up to a brilliant original. Instead, the memory of the original looms large, almost as large as the time gap between the two films. I’m not one to say that inferior sequels or remakes destroy the legacy of the originals, watching Enchanted again knowing that this came afterwards will certainly play on my mind a little. While some of the performances are sound, while the animated portions are good, this is simply too long, too bloated, and too late, not as smart, not as funny, and lacks the magic which made the original a one of kind film.
Let us know what you think of Disenchanted in the comments!