Can “happily ever after” really exist? The long-gestating Disney sequel asks that question, with plenty of added ham.
Over the course of 15 years, Amy Adams’ zest for musical fairytales hasn’t faltered one bit. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for all of her co-stars. “Disenchanted,” the sequel to Disney’s beloved “Enchanted,” lands on Disney+ over a decade after the original first charmed audiences.
But hey, it’s still half the time it took for “Hocus Pocus 2” to be made. Whatever is in the water over at the Walt Disney Company, both casts have barely changed, and it feels like no time has passed on the magical ticking clock of aging. But was it worth the wait?
Adams gives it her wide-eyed all in “Disenchanted,” reprising her role of Andalasian princess Giselle, who stumbled into Manhattan through a botched portal and fell for divorce attorney and single father Robert (Patrick Dempsey) all those years ago. The sequel, also starring returning scene-stealers James Mardsen and Idina Menzel, asks what happens after the happily ever after?
A lot has changed since Giselle convinced Robert that true love exists: The couple welcomed a baby of their own while co-parenting daughter Morgan (played by Rachel Covey in the original film, now played by Gabriella Baldacchino). (Morgan is a moody teen, and the best thing “Disenchanted” does is give her rising main character energy.) Plus, it turns out that singing pigeons and rats really do get on your nerves after a decade as a New Yorker, as since Giselle (Adams) is now determined to relocate to suburb Monroeville, a set that eerily resembles Solvang, California and the ghost town of “House of Wax.”
The narrating chipmunks sing that there “ain’t nothing to perturb ya or disturb ya” in suburbia, but that gets thrown out the window, as Morgan moans that she’s being kidnapped and Giselle finds out that making friends is a little harder when magic isn’t involved. As a reminder that all Disney properties are connected, a disappointed and fish-out-of-water Giselle opts to put a wishing spell on Monroeville and merge it with Andalasia. What, have you not watched “WandaVision” yet?
Local queen bee Malvina Monroe (Maya Rudolph) and her minions, played by Yvette Nicole Brown and Jayma Mays, are transformed into a witchy trio right out of a Brothers Grimm fairytale once said spell is enacted. Meanwhile, Morgan falls for Malvina’s son while singing about “all the pleasures of housekeeping” in a “Cinderella”-esque montage. And sweet Giselle inevitably becomes an evil stepmother, whose wicked asides make for some of the film’s best quips.
As Giselle sings about vanity and how “liberating” it is being a villainess in a pitch perfect duet with Malvina, the film subtlety holds a mirror, mirror on the wall up to us all. What do the overwhelming responsibilities of motherhood, “having it all,” and leading your family into the perfect “fairytale life” really mean for our psyches?
Giselle is a woman who is burnt out while her husband Robert plays along, more of a caricature of a picture perfect husband than Giselle’s princess role in the first film. Adams, Marsden, and Rudolph carry the movie, as Dempsey is content playing the supporting arm candy, taking a backseat to the mounting drama.
The rise of Monrolasia is irreversible once the clock strikes midnight, despite Giselle desperately trying to stop time while recognizing her own slippery slope into the dark side. Giselle even carts her baby Sophia off to a group of elderly women who “look like they would be good with children.” Isn’t that what the suburbs eventually do to us all?
It’s up to Morgan, the next generation of Giselle’s magic by way of stepmother-ing, to save the town and their family, and like “Hocus Pocus 2,” the movie puts the power of the franchise in a fresh up-and-coming actress. Morgan partners (in cartoon form) with Prince Edward (Marsden) and Nancy (Menzel) to save the two worlds: In the end, we learn that it is the power of memories that can heal a curse.
Much like its message, “Disenchanted” reminds us that every moment has the potential for providing us with a happily ever after, but it’s the good and the bad that makes it ever more enchanting. Did we need a sequel to “Enchanted”? Not really, but it’s cute enough to cast a bit of an escapist spell this holiday season.
“Disenchanted” is now streaming on Disney+.
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