"There has never been another movie like ‘Enchanted'" insists the trailer for Disney's latest attempt to corner the festive family market, and an idle boast it is not.
While other films, notably ‘Shrek' and its sequels, have poked fun at the traditional Disney fairytale, ‘Enchanted' has the added dimension of being an ‘inside job'. Who better to affectionately satirise the values held dear to the late Walt Disney than the animation company he lovingly built?
The movie has all the essential ingredients of a film fairytale in the mould of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' or ‘Sleeping Beauty'. Beautiful Princess? Check. Dashing Prince Charming? Of course. Villainous, cold-hearted queen/ wicked stepmother? Naturally.
All are present and correct, but here, they are thrown into the remorselessly modern world of 21st Century
Tasked with fleshing out this clash of worlds is Amy Adams, whose beautiful character Giselle is dispatched from her cartoon world of magical castles by her husband-to-be Prince Edward's wicked stepmother. Left to languish amongst
Queen Narissa is worried young Giselle will dent her power over the make-believe paradise of Andalaisa and its loyal subjects, and her ruthless attempt to remedy the situation by unceremoniously bumping Giselle into a magic portal leaves her son to chase his lost love to the streets of
Popping up onto the city sidewalk via the less-than-ceremonious route of a manhole cover, the cartoon characters become real-life figures.
Prince Edward becomes the dashingly handsome James Marsden, while Narcissa is left in the capable hands of
Amy Adams jumped at the chance to play a traditional Disney princess.
She recalls: "I remember going over the script with my boyfriend and he said, ‘You are going to get this part, it is perfect for you'. I thought they would cast someone more famous so it was fantastic to find out I had got the role. "
If choosing someone of
The 33-year-old actress more than delivers on the promise of her Oscar-nominated supporting turn in comedy drama ‘Junebug' in 2005.
She has garnered universal praise from critics, who have marvelled at her ability to transfer the soul and mannerisms of the famous Disney princess archetype into the real world.
Of course, she needs a modern day man to introduce her to the harsh realities of life, and ‘Grey's Anatomy's resident ‘Dr. McDreamy' Patrick Dempsey duly obliges with his painfully modern New Yorker Robert Philip.
A cynical divorce lawyer with his own broken marriage behind him and a six-year-old daughter to think of, Robert's contemporary concerns are as grounded as Giselle's are fanciful.
Although it sends up Disney's tendency towards schmaltz, there are some very Disneyesque lessons in ‘Enchanted'. Robert and Giselle are essentially there to teach each other about love. Giselle must prove to a world-weary man that a romantic connection can still bring magic into the world, while at the same time coming face-to-face with the sort of compromises and sacrifices which represent a real relationship.
Although Dempsey is happily married to make-up artist Jillian and Adams is in a long-term relationship with actor Darren Le Gallo, both reveal they had a wonderful "chemistry" together.
Dempsey gushes: "We had a great chemistry. And I would do every movie with her if I could. She is smart and sensitive – an old-fashioned movie star."
Dempsey, 41, admits to being baffled by the hunk status which this year saw him named runner-up in People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive.
He says: "George Clooney is good looking, I am just average looking. I was known for being geeky and awkward as a kid. This projection of being sexy is funny to me. I certainly don't see myself that way."
In fact, a lack of self-regard appears to be a trend among the film's leading men.
Marsden notes: "I grew up in
"I don't see myself as handsome."
Referring to Queen Narissa's hapless valet, played by a gloriously over-the-top Timothy Spall, he adds: "I see myself more like Nathaniel the fumbling valet, who is insecure about himself."
Such modesty is in stark contrast to the 34-year-old star's onscreen incarnation Prince Edward.
At one point the prince is left stumped when Nathaniel asks him if there is anything at all he doesn't like about himself. "What's not to like?" comes his genuinely mystified reply.
Unlike Giselle, whose encounter with modern day New York teaches her that life and romance cannot be one big flawless fantasy, Prince Edward takes a very cut and dried approach to his new surroundings. Marsden puts it succinctly: "He thinks is disgusting, it smells and he just wants to go home and get married."
But he adds: "I love his black and white clarity."
One character who fully embraces everything black and rotting is Sarandon's cruel queen. The 61-year-old Oscar-winner clearly has a ball, hamming-it-up in every piece of attire ever remotely associated with Disney villainy, from an unfeasibly large-collared ball gown to the sort of hooded hag rags worn by your average hook-nosed witch.
Noting the inspiration offered by 1937 hit ‘Snow White…' – the first ever full-length animated feature – she says: "The wicked queen in ‘Snow White..' was wonderful, just like all those high-collared evil girls. There is something about a high collar that empowers you immediately, the way you walk and everything."
Despite embracing her wardrobe for the film, Sarandon admits her clothing also acted as a burden, noting: "There is a reason they only dress like that in cartoons. The high heels, the high boots that didn't bend in the knee, then balancing the collar – it was a nightmare. The head dress was really heavy and I had to get sewn in. It was quite demanding."
It is a sentiment echoed by her co-stars. Marsden has less than fond memories of sweating into his royal attire during a humid summer of filming, while
Ultimately though, it is clear every wardrobe-inflicted hardship was worth it for the cast of ‘Enchanted'.
Both Demspey and Marsden were delighted to take part in a film their children could enjoy.
Dempsey, father to five-year-old daughter Tallulah and twin 10-month-old boys Darby and Sullivan, says: "I really wanted to make a film for my own family so this meant a lot to me.
"Tallulah even spent time on set and she loved getting to hang out with a real-life ‘princess' all day."
Marsden, dad to six-year-old Jack and two-year-old daughter Mary with wife Lisa Linde, admits the film left his son confused.
He says: "Jack wondered why his dad was on screen in puffy sleeves chasing a woman who wasn't mom. But he is getting old enough to understand that it is an illusion, and he loved it in the end."
However, it is the more adult, knowing aspect of the film which really sets ‘Enchanted' apart from its Christmas rivals.
Naturally prone to breaking into song, at one point Prince Edward is readying his vocal cords when he is promptly mown down by a swarm of cyclists in
In another scene, Giselle is helped to clean Robert's
For film buffs with sharp eyes, the film also features an onscreen cameo from Judi Benson, the actress who voiced Ariel in ‘The Little Mermaid'.
It is the little touches, multiple cross references and attention to the tiniest of detail which mean this spoof/homage to some of Disney's greatest tales can justifiably sidle up alongside its predecessors.
The famous old studio has provided us with a very 21st Century Disney film which will leave a new generation of cartoon-loving children utterly enchanted.