Our search for cinematic excellence and meaning in an increasingly tarnished-by-greed world leads us back to Disney+ and their latest straight-to-streaming blockbuster, Adam Shankman’s tartly-titled Disenchanted. This Amy Adams vehicle is a sequel to Enchanted, which coined $340 million back in 2007, and a far bigger sum on auxiliary markets; if you’re wondering why a sure-fire sequel hit like this is bypassing cinemas and being tossed to the dogs on streaming, you’re probably asking the right question. The answer is that Disney seem intent of starving cinemas of their most commercial content in the hope of forcing bankruptcy and buying them over; in 2022, vengeance is the big financial motivator and self-dealing monopolies are the goal, making magic rarely feels like part of the equation.
Into this sour, mean-spirited world comes Amy Adams, one of the hottest talents alive before the pandemic; on the back of Hillbilly Elegy and The Woman in the Window, not so much these days. She plays Giselle, a cartoon princess in human form who is adjusting to life in New York. Together with her husband Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and his daughter Morgan (Gabriella Baldacchino), she decants to the sticks, specifically the suburban town of Monroeville where posho-maven Malvina Monroe (Maya Rudolph) rules the roost. Giselle, with a new baby to take care of, feels overwhelmed, and when a crafty chipmunk offers her a magic wand from her previous homeland of Andalasia, Giselle uses it to make the real world into a fairy-tale for her and her family. But Giselle’s increasingly wicked actions drain the magic away from Andalasia, leaving the cartoon inhabitants on a mission to stop Giselle from wishing her life away…
Disenchanted might well be the right word for how most audiences will feel about this pallid inversion of the values of the first film. Sure, master composer Alan Menken and lyricist Stephen Schwartz are back, but they’re never worked on such lifeless, tuneless will-this-do? songs in their lives; only Adams’ duet with Rudolph, Badder, has any claim to pep. Adams seems to have completely forgotten how to play Giselle, sleepwalking through line-readings like an animatronic android version of herself, although she does liven up a little when she goes over to the bad side to get her wicked step-mother on, the film’s one inspired notion.
Enchanted was a great family movie back in the day, but Disenchanted reboots the same world to minimal effect, barely featuring previously loved characters (the fabulous duo of James Marsden and Idina Menzel phone it in with cameos) and trampling a considerable legacy. It’s taken longer to get the Enchanted team back together than to make an Avatar sequel, but what’s concerning is how easily treasured IP like this can be turned into ignorable trash. If the Disney brand aspires to be recognised as nothing more than a kids tv channel, they’re going about it the right way; parents generally like their babysitters to have values, and based on lazy re-treads like this, Disney increasingly don’t seem to have much left in stock.