Amy Adams couldn’t very well turn down a sequel to “Enchanted,” the 2007 Disney delight that made the “Junebug” breakout a bonafide Hollywood star.
But seeing her soldier through “Disenchanted” makes one wish she had. She puts on her happy face and tries to make new songs and a darker direction in the story seem light on its feet. And still the sinking feeling sets in that a better title would have been “Disheartening.”
“Enchanted” was a fairy-tale mash-up musical romance that leaned into Disney Princessiana. It was a lyrical comedy most heavily indebted to “Sleeping Beauty” and a pretty young fairy tale heroine, raised with the animals of the forest, just in search of her “true love’s kiss.”
“Disenchanted,” scripted by Brigitte Hales, takes “Cinderella” as its main source. It has a mean girl who’s grown up to be an Evil Queen (Maya Rudolph). But it’s more about Adams’ Giselle, with a new baby but more importantly a rebellious teen stepdaughter (Gabriella Baldacchino) since she’s married Robert (Patrick Dempsey). When Giselle magically transforms her, her childrens’ and her husband’s new home in suburban Monroeville into a fairytale-ish “Monrolasia,” like the Andalasia Giselle grew up in, guess what Giselle turns into?
“An evil STEPmother!”
Nope. Not having it. She’s a great actress and the fact that it doesn’t work is all on the writer and on director Adam Shankman, who almost never hit the right tone, here.
New challenges, going toe to toe with the local realtor/PTA queen transformed into the Evil Queen, trying to live down being mean to her own stepdaughter, with lawyer-husband Robert forced to learn how to battle dragons and sing his own songs (not badly), new production numbers set to new songs, and none of it plays as light, amusing escapism.
This thing is a joyless chore to get through. Here’s a sample lyric from an early number, after Giselle and Robert deign to move from princess-out-of-water New York to the bucolic country.
“We’ve left behind those city lights, for riding bikes and flying kites. We will be suburbaNITES!”
“Even more ‘Enchanted?'” Well, no.
When your highlight comes in the first act, as married Andalasian royalty King Edward (James Marsden) and his New York queen, Nancy (Idina Menzel) return, you can probably see in the editing process where your movie’s gone wrong.
Their royal fairytale-land friends have moved into a Queen Anne “fixer-upper.”
“Your dwelling…you’ve become POOR now?” the king wants to know. And still a lawyer, not a “country squire?”
“A brave front is required to face a life as barren as this!”
Marsden is pretty much the only reminder of how campy and giddy this material once was and that the new film should have striven to be.
Love him. Love Rudolph. Adore Amy Adams most of all. But “Disenchanted” plays like a contractual obligation, a paycheck, a nearly laughless show of loyalty to the folks who made you what you are.
Rating: PG, mild peril and profanity
Cast: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, Maya Rudolph, Gabriella Baldacchino, Idina Menzel and James Marsden
Credits: Directed by Adam Shankman, scripted by Brigitte Hales. A Disney+ release.
Running time: 1:58