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Insipid ‘Disenchanted’ proves happily ever afters are better left alone

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DECEMBER 01, 2022

Grade: 1.5/5.0

As the clock struck midnight Nov. 18, “Disenchanted,” the widely anticipated follow-up to Disney’s hit 2007 film “Enchanted,” premiered exclusively on Disney+. Overly reliant on nostalgia yet devoid of the original’s effervescent whimsy, the sequel proves that perhaps happily ever afters should remain untouched by mass media conglomerates.

Directed by Adam Shankman, “Disenchanted” opens roughly a decade after the finale of its predecessor. Juggling a newborn baby and acerbic now-teenage Morgan (Gabriella Baldacchino), Giselle (Amy Adams) and Robert (Patrick Dempsey) trade their jam-packed New York City apartment for the idyllic neighborhood of Monroeville. Still, suburbia creates its own assortment of issues for the family — a disappointing fixer-upper, a judgmental high school and Malvina Monroe (Maya Rudolph), the unwelcoming head of the town council.

Indeed, “Enchanted” introduced a uniquely entertaining take on culture shock, with Giselle, once a resident of the fantastical Andalasia, forced to navigate the harsh realities of New York City. So much of the original’s appeal was derived from Giselle’s ability to gradually mesh her exuberant sensibilities with the vibrancy of the city (who could ever forget her iconic number, “That’s How You Know,” sung in Central Park?). However, by uprooting Giselle and the rest of the family from the visually iconic city to an insipid small-town neighborhood, “Disenchanted” immediately fails to capture the same charm.

Although she only leans into the role of wicked stepmother later in the film, Giselle displays irritating and invasive qualities even as she attempts to be a supportive wife and maternal figure. And while moments of poignant disillusionment and mother-daughter discord are disappointedly underdeveloped, jarring musical numbers abound. Giselle claims that she never “sings the right song anymore,” yet this doesn’t prevent her from bursting into poorly constructed verses at every minor inconvenience.

In a desperate, last-ditch effort to recreate her fairytale ending, Giselle uses an Andalasian Wishing Wand (apparently “Clichéd Obscure Magical Object” was already taken). Over an hour of cringeworthy confusion ensues as Monroeville is transformed into Monrolasia, a fantasy kingdom that typecasts the family into various storybook archetypes. Giselle transforms from former almost-princess to melodramatic villain, while Morgan essentially becomes Cinderella and Patrick is relegated to a side quest as an absurdly daring hero. 

“Disenchanted” may run rampant with disturbing CGI animals, but the film is utterly lacking in the chemistry department. During the first installment, the guarded Robert held tenderly Giselle as they slow-danced to Jon McLaughlin’s “So Close” in a luxurious ballroom — undeniably their most iconic and intimate exchange. Now, the extent of his affection is demonstrated through soulless platitudes like “Things will get better. Just give it a second.” If the couple once complemented each other like two sides of the same coin, their love has long been overspent in the sequel.

Further, much like the family’s baby, who is left unattended for disturbingly extensive periods, character development is consistently disregarded throughout the film. Admittedly, Giselle does learn how to embrace sparks of fantasy and sobering doses of reality with equal zeal. Even so, Dempsey’s Robert, as well as James Marsden’s King Edward and Idina Menzel’s Nancy, remain stagnant, any emotional growth hindered by a painfully uninspired script. The film’s writing similarly hinders Rudolph from fully shining as Adams’ exacting comedic foil.

A crucial element that could have potentially been the one and only triumph of “Disenchanted,” the film’s original soundtrack is instead the final nail in the fairytale coffin. With lyrics more bewildering than beguiling, each song feels like a haphazard game of Mad Libs. “Love Power” is the only memorable number — and that’s only because audiences spend over four minutes guessing how many times powerhouse Menzel can repeat the song’s titular phrase (spoiler alert: it’s a lot). 

Though “Disenchanted” seeks to rekindle the magic of its precursor, it falls short on almost every front. Unfortunately, by the closing of the film, it seems only fitting to say that they all lived rather mediocrely ever after.

Contact Anne Vertin at 

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DECEMBER 01, 2022