Saturday, March 1, 2008


"Wow. You said that without a hint of irony."

Disney had such an up-tick in dollars and artistic accomplishment with their "Princess" movies ("The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast," "Pocahontas," and "Aladdin"--yes, it had a princess, too), that you can just bet that they've been scouring the Sound-of-Music-alive hills like an accursed frog looking for that one last unspoken-for apple of a King's eye. In the meantime, Disney has made the whole "Princess" line a merchandising bonanza. Despite these girls' different backgrounds (and breathing requirements), Disney's got them together on blankets and doll-sets and china. They're more ubiquitous than the gals on "The View." On top of that, Disney's been taking quite a few satiric shots from the Dreamworks "Shrek" movies, and now that they've run their creative course, Disney wanted to show that they could do just as good a job of sending up their own work...while embracing the cliches at the same time.

So, here's "Enchanted" - Disney's way of making fun of it's cake and selling it, too. It starts out with the most elaborate of those "common (but bee-eautiful)-girl-singing-with-the-helpful-animals-overheard-by-the-most-ardent-of-princes" sequences (with music and lyrics by the multi-Oscar-winning Disney tunesmiths Alan Mencken and Stephen Schwartz). It's all done in traditional up-turned-nose 2-D animation. The voice-casting is terrific from the voice of the little buttinski Jersey "squoyel," Pip, to the Evil Queen/Step-mother who is...Susan Sarandon! And having a fine old time of it, too! Seems the Evil Step-Monster-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed doesn't approve of sonny-boy marrying a "commoner"...especially one who uses animals as indentured slaves, so she throws Giselle (of the animated land of Andalasia) down a long hole to a place where there are "are no happily ever-afters."

Giselle in full-on huge wedding dress finds herself having to pull herself out of a sewer-hole in the middle of Broadway in New York. Just that sequence alone makes "Enchanted" worth seeing. But writer Bill Kelly and director Fred Lima fill the thing with funny set-pieces, elaborate song-and-dance scenes that work on both satiric and pure-pleasue levels, and performances that are brave and hilarious. Yeah, Patrick Dempsey's in it, and. hey, he's really good. Sarandon shows up live with a perverse interpretation for the Queen that's a howl. Timothy Spall plays the usual bumbling assistant (the man was born to be a Disney character), Squirrel Pip finds himself a real squirrel who has to communicate with sign-language (In New York, squirrels only talk to a select, inebriated few).

But the star of the whole thing is Amy Adams, who is such a perfect incarnation of a Disney Princess, it's downright scary. She doesn't so much walk as glide. Her spine is never straight, but curved, bending in elegantly posed "S's" and her hands are as expressive as a hand-model's or a store-mannequin's. She's all wide-eyed belief in "happily-ever-after," and Adams sells it without a hint of irony, as another cast-member points out. It's well worth seeing...the only down-side is a real-life version of the perfunctory action finale that just doesn't play, and could easily have been eliminated in some quick Deus Ex Machina way (they have those in New York, surely. They have everything!). My favorite part, though, is everything associated with "The Happy Working Song,"* as perverse as it could be, in music, lyrics and visuals. It's one of those five minutes of film that you want to see forever and ever.

"Enchanted" is a Saturday matinee.

* The Happy Working Song

All right, everyone, let's tidy things up!

Come, my little friends
As we all sing a happy little working song
Merry little voices clear and strong
Come and roll your sleeves up
(so to speak) and pitch in
Cleaning crud up in the kitchen
As we sing along

Trill a cheery tune in the tub
As we scrub a stubborn mildew stain
Lug a hairball from the shower drain
To the gay refrain
Of a happy working song

We'll keep singing without fail
Otherwise we'd spoil it
Hosing down the garbage pail
And scrubbing up the toilet

How we all enjoy letting loose with a little La-da-dum-dum-dum
While we're emptying the vacuu-um
It's such fun to hum
A happy working song
A happy working song

Oh, how strange a place to be
Til' Edward comes for me
My heart is sighing
Still, as long as I am here
I guess a new exper-i-ence
Could be worth trying

Hey! Keep drying!

You can do a lot when you got
Such a happy working tune to hum
While you're sponging up the soapy scum
We adore each filthy chore
That we determine
So, friends, even though you're vermin
We're a happy working throng

Singing as we fetch the detergent box
Or the smelly shirts and the stinky socks
Sing along
If you cannot sing, then hum along
As we're finishing our happy working song!

Ah...wasn't this fun?

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