Director: Adam Shankman
Writer: Brigitte Hales
Cast: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, Maya Rudolph, Yvette Nicole Brown, Jayma Mays, Gabriella Baldacchino, Idina Menzel, James Marsden
Fifteen years ago, in Kevin Lima’s Enchanted (2007), we saw Giselle (Amy Adams) and Robert (Patrick Dempsey) find their way to each other, and away from their romantic interests of the time (who also end up together). Originally from the magical kingdom of Andalasia, Giselle is teleported to Times Square by Narissa, the merciless queen. She encounters her several times, each posing an obstacle to her success, until she can finally have her happily ever after. And while Giselle emerges triumphant, she still doesn’t feel like a winner. In Adam Shankman’s Disenchanted (2022), set ten years after the events of the first film, Giselle is still pursuing her happily ever after. Disillusioned by the humdrum of reality and the capriciousness of her teenage stepdaughter Morgan (Gabriella Baldacchino), Giselle longs for a fairytale world where trolls and giants are one’s only concerns. Consequently, the family relocates to a suburban town called Monroeville.
Robert and Morgan, accustomed to city life, find it challenging to adjust to the new milieu. Unsurprisingly, Giselle's sanguinity and tendency to break into song are excessive even for the suburbia. Her cheeriness is far from infectious and makes her appear out of this world in the most literal way possible. Their longtime friends and former partners, Edward (James Marsden) and Nancy (Idina Menzel) visit from Andalasia to gift them a wish-granting wand. Expectedly, Giselle uses the wand to wish for a fairytale world, challenging the limits of escapism in a society where “you just get married and then nothing ever happens to you again.” In this alternate reality, Morgan seems to be possessed by Belle from Beauty and the Beast. She belts out “Perfect” as Belle had “Little Town”, both sauntering through the village, completing their chores and yearning for a different life. Robert transforms from a lawyer to the typical Disney hero frantic to save the day, and Giselle metamorphosizes into an evil stepmother. The world is just as she had desired, but the part she plays in it is regrettable.
Disenchanted is formulaic in how the audience learns the rules of the world alongside the characters. The wand comes with an instruction scroll which reveals that Andalasia's magic is being consumed to fuel Giselle’s fairytale, and that the change will become irreversible after the clock strikes twelve. She tumbles into the evil stepmother trope one vice at a time, fulfilling its criteria by becoming vain, ambitious and cruel. Most Disney productions carry a moral compass-sized chip on their shoulders. Wary of ambiguity, they compartmentalize people, especially mothers, as good or evil (think Helen from The Incredibles as opposed to Mother Gothel from Tangled). Disenchanted is no different, Giselle is bad until she’s good again, with no trace of unpleasantness. Malvina (Maya Rudolph) – head of the town council turned evil queen of ‘Monrolasia’ – is the other antagonist in the story. They egg each other on to be the “better badder”. However, Giselle pulls a 360 for “nobody ever would bother to tell a tale with Maleficent and with Cruella” (from the song “Badder”).
A lucid moment in the midst of delirium prompts Giselle to ask Morgan to “save us”. Between parent and child, the former builds the world while the latter becomes its protagonist. When the responsibility falls onto Morgan, Monrolasia becomes as real as anywhere else in the world. In Andalasia to find a solution, Nancy and Edward guide Morgan to see the power of memories. When you share a memory with someone, its magic lives inside you too. Here, the song “Love Power” deepens the narrative and drives it forward. Most songs in the movie only manage the first. Along the way, Robert and Morgan’s crush, Tyson (Kolton Stewart), help her. They might be knights in shining armour but sans the urge to steal the show. Much like Coco (2017), Disenchanted deters one from taking their days for granted, for it is memory-making that they’re investing in. Now, Morgan only has to remind her mother of who she is for everything to fall back into place.
After the impact that Enchanted made, it could have done without a sequel. Despite a promising premise, Disenchanted relies heavily on a loyal fanbase that will watch it to know what Giselle’s life looks like now. The world is too curated to be whimsical and too sing-songy to be musical. Despite the vibrant colour palette, the movie fails to consume you, to convince you. Soon enough, you want them to return to reality just as much as they do. A Disney movie shouldn’t make you wish for that.