Producers: Barry Josephson, Barry Sonnenfeld and Amy Adams Director: Adam Shankman Screenplay: Brigitte Hales Cast: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, Maya Rudolph, Yvette Nicole Brown, Jayma Mays, Gabriella Baldacchino, Idina Menzel, James Marsden, Oscar Nuñez, Kolton Stewart, Griffin Newman, Alan Tudyk, James Monroe Iglehart, Michael McCorry Rose and Ann Harada Distributor: Disney+
It’s been a full fifteen years since Disney’s self-mocking “Enchanted” delighted audiences, and one might have hoped that a decade and a half would have allowed someone to come up with some nifty ideas for a sequel. It didn’t: like so many long-gestating follow-ups, “Disenchanted” proves a disappointment, straining to recapture the original’s magic and failing. But like “Hocus Pocus 2”—also screening on Disney+–it may be enough for fans of its predecessor.
It does bring back the first movie’s primary cast. Amy Adams returns as Giselle, the chirpy heroine from the cartoon realm of Andalasia who in the earlier film was transported to the live-action “human” world, specifically New York City, by the evil queen when dim-bulb Prince Edward (James Marsden) was on the verge of marrying her, thus threatening the queen’s hold on power. But despite the queen’s machinations, Giselle found a “happily ever after” in the Big Apple with handsome lawyer Robert Philip (Patrick Dempsey) and his darling six-year old daughter Morgan (Rachel Covey). Meanwhile Edward paired up with Patrick’s former fiancée Nancy (Idina Menzel), who became Queen of Andalasia by wedding Edward back in cartoon-land.
The sequel is set ten years later, when Morgan, now played by Gabriella Baldacchino, is a sulky teenager and Giselle and Robert have a newborn named Sophie (Mila and Lara Jackson). For some reason Giselle has become somewhat dissatisfied with life in the city and convinces Robert to move to an upstate suburb called Monroeville, which advertises itself as having a fairytale vibe. The move is stressful for Robert, who’s unhappy about having to commute to his law office in the city every day, but especially so for Morgan, who’s leaving behind her friends. The fact that the house they’ve purchased—a rambling, castle-like place—is still under repair adds to the discord.
Matters deteriorate further as Giselle, who’s never been able to acclimate herself to “reality” and still longs for an Andalasian ambience, foolishly attempts to help Morgan fit in at her new school, in the process antagonizing Malvina Monroe (Maya Rudolph), the town’s queen bee, who’s always accompanied by a couple of docile underlings, Rosaleen (Yvette Nicole Brown) and Ruby (Jayma Mays). But things really crater when homesick Giselle misuses the magic wand given to Sophie by her godparents Edward and Nancy to transform Monroeville into something remarkably like Andalasia.
The results are disastrous. Giselle turns into the wicked stepmother Morgan has begun to see her as, and her chipmunk pal Pip (voiced by Griffin Newman) into a wicked cat. Robert, armed with a sword given him by Edward, turns into an inept would-be dragon-slayer. And Malvina becomes a true wicked witch, bent on complete domination. A scroll that came with the wand, voiced by Alan Tudyk, informs Giselle that her spell has to be reversed using the wand by midnight, or it will be permanent. Cue a battle between her and Malvina that consumes much of the film’s final third. You know what the outcome will be, but it takes a very long time to get there, with Giselle and Malvina shooting bursts of energy at one another like characters from a “Star Wars” wannabe while the clock inches toward twelve after the ball.
Marsden and Menzel have fun reprising their original roles, with the former bringing the same dull-witted braggadocio to the role as in the first movie, and Menzel getting the best of the songs provided by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, which overall don’t come close to matching their work in “Enchanted.” (The nadir comes in the duet “Badder” sung by Adams and Rudolph, which was apparently thought a prospective show-stopper, since it’s repeated over the closing credits. Director Adam Shankman, whose hand gets heavier as the movie rolls on—a trait that also affects the editing by Emma E. Hickox and Chris Lebenzon—did the unremarkable choreography, too.) Dempsey is game, but mostly looks lost, and while Adams is engaging playing the Disney storybook princess in the movie’s first third and earns some smiles as Giselle surprises herself with nasty remarks during her transformation, she’s just boilerplate “evil” when Giselle turns bad. Baldacchino makes a conventionally snappy teen; even her tentative romance with Kolton Stewart, as Malvina’s son Tyson, is dull. But it’s Rudolph who fares worst, having little to do but glower and glare malevolently.
Tasked with constructing a New York town in Ireland, where the picture was mostly shot, production designer has done a respectable job, and Joan Bergin’s costumes are suitably florid. The visual effects by Charley Henley and David Feinsilber are pretty good as far Pip (in both forms) is concerned, but the more elaborate ones in the last act are mediocre at best; and a sequence in which Giselle’s kitchen appliances come to life, an obvious nod to “Beauty and the Best,” falls flat; generally the 2-D animated scenes do not show the Disney team at their best. Simon Duggan’s cinematography is bright at first and turns drably darker as the action goes on, reflecting the entire film.
It might simply be that this was a property well suited to its time in 2007 but one that hasn’t aged well. Whatever the reason, it’s not likely to enchant today’s audiences as the first film did fifteen years ago.