I had the biggest, goofiest smile plastered across my face as I watched Enchanted, and I haven't been able to shake it off since. More than just a feature-length, post-post-modern love letter to a slew of Disney's most classic films, Enchanted recaptures that elusive spark that the House of Mouse has had such a tough time chasing down over the past few years. Heck, even though the bulk of the movie was shot live-action, Enchanted is teeming with so much of that Disney magic that it still feels like one of the best animated films the studio's put out in ages.
Think Shrek being turned on its head. Instead of squirting a turkey baster full of sarcasm, irony, and Smashmouth soundtrack cuts into a fairy tale, Enchanted shoves its wide-eyed princess-type into the cynical, embittered world of modern Manhattan. As the movie opens, though, Giselle (Amy Adams) is yearning for love in the enchanted kingdom of Andalasia. It's the sort of magical place that could've been yanked straight out of a classic Disney flick, brought to life with that same sort of fluid, sweeping animation and complete with a cheery musical number and hundreds of doting animal sidekicks. The lovelorn Prince Edward (James Marsden) can't help but hear her belt out "True Love's Kiss" from a distance, and a troll flogging and a when-the-bough-breaks later, Edward and Giselle are to be married.
The only thing is that once Edward is wed, his wicked stepmother -- Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon) -- has to fork over the crown. She's kinda gotten attached to the whole power-mad despot routine, so Narissa shoves Giselle off to a place where there are no happily-ever-afters: Manhattan. The Big Apple's not much of a place for someone so impossibly sweet and naive, and in the space of a few minutes, she's fussed at by a grumpy not-a-dwarf, sees her wedding tiara swiped by a toothless bum, and is pretty much ignored or sneered at by every else in earshot. I don't know if you'd exactly call Robert (Patrick Dempsey) a friendly face, but this cynical divorce lawyer-slash-single father of a princess-crazed tyke (Rachel Covey) at least tries to get her out of the rain and off of a castle-shaped billboard for some low-rent casino. Robert kinda shrugs her off as nuts, but he does make an effort to try to get Giselle back on her feet. While Robert is busy thumbing through an atlas to see if he can spot Andalasia on a map, the almost-princess Giselle struggles to adjust to life in the Big Apple. She might not have to put up with it much longer, though; Prince Edward rushes to her rescue and...no, really, he will whisk Giselle away from all of this once he picks her out of the rest of the 8 million-plus crowd, and the evil queen's wormy flunkie Nathaniel (Timothy Spall) has an armful of poisoned apples to get rid of Narissa's headache for good.
I loved, loved, loved Enchanted. I don't care that the nuts and bolts of the plot may stick to a pretty straightforward fish-out-of-water story -- c'mon, it's a fairy tale! It's not as if Enchanted gets all that bogged down in plot points anyway. This is a movie that makes me so giddy...so hypercaffeinatedly happy that I can't even hammer out some meticulously structured review. I just want to scribble down a long list of everything I adored about the movie and gush over every last one of 'em.
At the very top of that list is Amy Adams, and hers is the sort of performance where I can't picture anyone else at all taking the reins as Giselle. She's so sweet...so naive...so sincere in her belief in gallant princes and love at first sight that I honestly didn't want her to wind up disillusioned. From the sugary inflection in her voice to Giselle's wide-eyed innocent stares at this strange, unforgiving world around her, Adams really does feel like an animated Disney princess dropped into the real world. There's so much I liked about Enchanted, but it wouldn't have been half the movie if it is if anyone else had been cast in the lead. I thought Adams stole every scene she was in back in the Junebug days, but this is something else entirely, even more of a breakthrough, starmaking, hopelessly endearing turn.
I really dug Enchanted's sense of humor, and from musical numbers with toilet-scrubbing cockroaches to Giselle cartoonishly carving up everything in sight to make her sparkling gowns, I found myself laughing more throughout this movie than just about anything else I've watched in months. It's fun picking out the oodles of homages to different Disney movies, starting with Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and plowing at least all the way through Beauty and the Beast more than a half-century later. Even though the bulk of Enchanted is live action, there's a decent amount of animation, and it's such a thrill to see that sort of drop-dead gorgeous 2D artistry in the unmistakable Disney style. It wouldn't be much of a nod to Disney's sprawling back catalog if there weren't at least a few musical numbers, and Enchanted's stack of Oscar nominated songs harken back to those classics while still being witty and infectiously catchy in their own right. It's been a couple of days since I gave Enchanted a spin, and I still have "That's How You Know" -- both the song itself and its sprawling, startlingly elaborate choreography -- bouncing around in my head.
Enchanted is just a ridiculous amount of fun. It's a movie I fell hopelessly in love with as I watched it on my own, and I'm sure this'll be one of the first discs I reach for whenever one of the tykes in my family happens to swoop into town. Enchanted ingeniously gives the Disney princess playbook a whirl in the real world, and it's sugary sweet, incredibly funny, completely captivating, and...wow, that long list of adjectives just keeps going. You probably get the idea by now: Highly Recommended.
Video: Wow. Disney consistently puts out the most jaw-dropping Blu-ray discs of any studio, and Enchanted stands strong as one of their very best. The film opens with an animated prologue windowboxed to 1.66:1 or so, and it's a thrill to once again see crisp, fluid, hand-drawn 2D animation in the iconic Disney style. The animation looks wonderful, but Enchanted truly impresses once Giselle wakes up underneath a Manhattan manhole and the image expands to fill the full 2.39:1 frame. This is easily among the most exceptional looking video I've seen on Blu-ray or any other format. The bright, candy-colored visuals are as close to a live action cartoon as I could ever have hoped for, overflowing with detail and bolstered by a practically three-dimensional sense of depth.
Enchanted is on the brink of total perfection, and the only gripes I have are ridiculously minor: the exaggerated palette leaves fleshtones looking a little skewed at times, and shadow detail seems unusually dense when Queen Narissa first bounds into the real world. Still, those are easily shrugged off, and they don't come close to dimming my enthusiasm for one of the most stunning high-def discs out of the...yikes!...literally hundreds that I've watched.
Audio: Disney opted for lossless Dolby TrueHD audio instead of a PCM soundtrack this time around, and it's just about as spectacular as the visual end of things. Enchanted's sound design is particularly nimble, and the bustling city, the dozens of critters at Giselle's beck and call, and sparkling bits of magic keep every last one of the channels constantly chattering throughout. The movie sports an expansive dynamic range, from the crystal clarity of the musical numbers Giselle belts out to the colossal bass of troll wrangling, booming thunder, and wicked sorcery. The music is warm and full-bodied throughout, and there isn't the slightest flicker of hiss or distortion to be found. Again, the audio is pretty much perfect, in keeping with Disney's stellar track record on the format.
Also included are Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks and subtitle streams in English, French, and Spanish.
Extras: Enchanted is surprisingly light on the usual bells and whistles, although this Blu-ray disc does have a leg-up over the DVD with one exclusive extra. "The D-Files" is a Java-based trivia game that runs throughout the movie, and the execution is much more clever and involved than the kinda-sorta-similar games I've played on discs like Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. The multiple choice questions are mostly anchored around classic Disney films, and players are rewarded with high definition interviews and video clips explaining the many homages throughout Enchanted with each correct answer. All of the footage I had a chance to see was completely exclusive to this game, not popping up anywhere else on the disc. "The D-Files" is really nicely designed; Enchanted lets players save their progress and pick up where they left off at any time, and a press of the chapter skip button dives straight into the next question.
Rather than pile together a slew of featurettes that look at the making of the movie as a whole, Enchanted instead delves into three sequences in particular. "Fantasy Comes to Life" (18 min.) focuses on a pair of Enchanted's most memorable musical numbers along with the movie's elaborate finale. These featurettes are impressively comprehensive, touching on the songwriting, serving up raw footage from the shoot before all of the visual effects had been dropped in, what it's like to work alongside so many different critters and sometimes nothing at all, and really just giving a sense of the scale and coordination that goes into pulling off something of this magnitude. I would've liked to have seen a lot more, but what we get here is really terrific.
"Pip's Predicament" is a five and half minute short cut from the same lightly animated, pop-up book cloth as Enchanted's title sequence. "Pip's Predicament" is aimed a little more squarely towards the younger set than the movie itself, but it still looks and sounds awfully nice, presented in high definition and backed by 5.1 audio. Also in high definition is a cute two minute outtake reel.
Carrie Underwood's music video for "Ever, Ever After" also sports a mix of classic 2D animation and live action, and it's one of the only extras on Enchanted not to be presented in high definition. Also in standard-def is a reel of six deleted and extended scenes. Director Kevin Lima introduces each of them, including a longer opening sequence in roughly sketched storyboard form, Robert's shorter, clumsier introduction, a quick peek at why Nathaniel opted to bust into the ball, and a slightly extended climax. With all of this footage and Lima's introductions running right at eight minutes in total, it kinda goes without saying that they're each really short, some of them consisting of just a few lines of dialogue. Most of them are just brief extensions trimmed out for pacing, with only two completely new bits among 'em: Giselle ordering up a hot dog and showing how that fish-out-of-water is...well, in the water along with Idina Menzel getting a little more screentime as Nancy.
Rounding out the extras are high-def trailers for Sleeping Beauty, Prince Caspian, National Treasure 2, and Tinkerbell.
Conclusion: Okay, okay -- I know there's no cornier way for me to wrap this up than to say that I walked away completely enchanted, but I can't help it. Enchanted is so clever and sugary sweet that it kept a smile beaming across my face for right at two hours straight. This is a family movie in the truest sense, instantly likeable for the junior set but sporting such a sharp wit and a tremendous sense of humor that I was completely sucked in by Enchanted too. Even though this Blu-ray release is kinda lean on extras, Enchanted looks and sounds unbelievable in high definition, standing out among the very best of the hundreds of HD DVDs and Blu-ray discs I've devoured over the past couple of years. Very, very Highly Recommended.
The usual image disclaimer: the photos scattered around this review are promotional stills and don't necessarily represent the presentation on this Blu-ray disc.