Fifteen years ago, Amy Adams starred as Giselle, a woman transplanted from an animated fairytale world into live-action New York City in Enchanted. Much has changed in the time since then, even just for Adams and for the studio that made the film. Adams has earned five additional Oscar nominations and regularly gets top billing in multiple movies each year. The ever-popular Disney brand now has its own streaming service, Disney+, which is a fitting home for a long-awaited sequel that will light up the millions of television screens it’s sure to grace.
The best way to bring audiences back into a magical world is to return to an established and theoretically complete story and explain what happened after “happily ever after,” which is precisely what this film does. Disenchanted opens on Giselle and Robert (Patrick Dempsey) preparing to move out of their cramped New York City apartment with a teenage Morgan (Gabriella Baldacchino) and new baby Sophia in tow. When they arrive in the suburb of Monroeville, Giselle is optimistic but her family members have considerably more trouble adjusting. Using magic to try to rectify the situation predictably leads to chaos and a race to fix things before the clock strikes midnight.
There are elements of the original film that are preserved, but this sequel skips over any slow-moving setup to dive right into the fact that magic just exists and that Morgan is always forced to endure a chipper musical number whenever she asks a simple question. The concept of a moody teenager is another foreign thing for Giselle, who wants to remain upbeat and see the best in people, including the queen bee of Monroeville, Malvina (Maya Rudolph), who gives Giselle an icy reception. Robert’s problems are surprisingly ordinary: he hates having to take the Metro-North train into the city and miserably discovers that the sandwich he has brought for lunch has gotten soggy.
But it isn’t long before magic returns again, and that’s what audiences will truly enjoy seeing. The specifics of the plot are best left discovered without knowing about them ahead of time, and it’s enough to say that this film is just as clever as its predecessor in how it plays with established fairytale conventions and how they’re often portrayed in cinema. There are echoes of Into the Woods in its narrative, and it’s also sure to be reminiscent of a seven-season series that started and ended within the timeframe between the original film and this sequel, Once Upon a Time, with the important note that this project, unlike that series, is a musical.
It’s most fun to see the commitment of those actors who choose to fully embrace their roles as something between caricature and three-dimensional human being. Adams is more than up for the task, and it’s rewarding to see her take on some of the unexpected direction of her character’s arc. James Marsden is very welcome in his brief appearances as King Edward, and voice contributions from Griffin Newman as squirrel Pip and Alan Tudyk as the talking scroll are highlights of the experience. While Rudolph is largely delivering the same kind of performance she typically does without adjusting to the world in which she’s supposed to exist, it’s not hard for her to be entertaining in any context.
Like most Disney films, Disenchanted is richly populated with vibrant costumes and sets. Moving to the suburbs doesn’t prove limiting, and once Monroeville is overwhelmed by magic, it’s a visual feast of color and stunning backdrops. Suspension of disbelief is required in a big way to appreciate this film, but that’s hardly a challenge, and its upbeat nature is a pleasure to experience. Its performances, musical numbers, and story all combine to deliver a satisfying cinematic adventure that’s just right to enjoy at home.
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Disenchanted is now streaming exclusively on Disney+.