“Disenchanted” is Disenchanting, to Say the Least



The cover of Disney’s “Disenchanted”


“Well, I say, that if this world is not to your liking, then you must change it.”
On November 21st, 2007, Disney released the family-friendly, musical-comedy “Enchanted.” A film that combines the mediums of animation and live action, “Enchanted” follows a woman (and princess hopeful) named Giselle, played by Amy Adams, who happily lives in the animated, fairytale world of Andalasia with her singing animal friends. Andalasia mirrors classic Disney princess films with damsels in distress, princely heroes, and wicked queens. After literally falling into the lap of Edward, the prince of Andalasia, he and Giselle are immediately set to be married. On their wedding day, Giselle is tricked and sent away by Edward’s vicious stepmother and forced to face reality in one of the harshest places imaginable, New York City. While in NYC, Giselle gets a taste of what the real world is like when she is taken in by a stressed single dad called Robert and his daughter, Morgan; in the midst of the chaotic events triggered by Giselle’s relocation, she and Robert fall for each other. Enchanted ends with them living their “happily ever after” in the real world and The Prince finding happiness of his own back in Andalasia with Robert’s ex, Nancy.

When news of the “Enchanted” sequel, “Disenchanted” was dropped in late 2020, fans were ecstatic to hear that Giselle was returning to their televisions. With almost all of the actors from the main cast of “Enchanted” reprising their roles and the famous composer Alan Menken returning to do the score, expectations for the sequel were very high. But sadly, “Disenchanted” did not quite deliver.

Described by Adams herself as “a love letter” to the original in her interview with E! News, “Disenchanted” seems like anything but. The film follows Giselle, Robert, Morgan, and their new baby, Sofia, on a brand-new adventure. Breaking away from big city life, the family moves to a suburban town called Monroeville. While in Monroeville, the family encounters new struggles, Giselle feels unsatisfied with her life, realizing that Monroeville wasn’t the fairytale place she thought it was; Robert, going through a career crisis, questions if he’s wasting his life away; and Morgan has a hard time fitting in at school and dealing with Giselle’s overbearing nature. When Edward and Nancy, now the King and Queen of Andalasia, show up bearing a magical wand as a gift to baby Sofia, Giselle sees an opportunity to give herself the perfect life. So she turns Monroeville into the fairytale land of Monroelasia, thinking she can have the best of both worlds–but is soon proven to be massively mistaken.

With a plot like that, this seems like the perfect movie, right? But the problem with the film lies in the execution. “Enchanted” was a self-aware, satirical film. It felt like Disney was poking fun at its own staples: wicked stepmothers, meek minions, naive princesses, and ambitiously heroic princes. What made the original film funny was the culture clash of it all and the characters being thrown into situations where the rules of their everyday lives no longer exist. “Disenchanted” seems to completely miss the point.

After Giselle’s fairytale wish comes true and Monroeville transforms, a change is seen within Giselle as well. Her biggest fear seems to be coming true: she’s becoming an evil stepmother. What this movie does well, as far as Giselle and Morgan go, is mirroring their real-world problems in the fantasy setting. The two of them had a fight before Giselle’s spell in which Morgan angrily calls Giselle her “stepmother,” a harsh contrast from the loving “mom” she referred to Giselle as before. In Monroelasia, Morgan takes on a role that is Cinderella-esque, with her being prevented from going to the town festival by Giselle. This plot point has a funhouse mirror type of effect, with one problem in their relationship being blown up out of proportion to place focus on it. The film makes a weak attempt at doing this with Robert as well, his career crisis manifesting itself as him being an unsuccessful monster hunter in Monroelasia, but the movie doesn’t give hardly enough focus on him for this to be a fully fleshed idea.

There’s a lot of magic in this film, all of it CGI, all of it poorly done. The movie somehow manages to have special effects worse than the 2007 original, though it may just seem that way because there is so much of it in “Disenchanted.” Literally every scene contained something CGI even when it was completely unnecessary. Poorly animated cats, scrolls of paper, magic mirrors, etcetera, etcetera. The animation in the original is much more charming, such as the work done with Giselle’s chipmunk friend, Pip, who is here transformed (in a truly terrifying scene) into an unrealistic-looking cat. For a movie so focused on magic, the quality of the fantasy shown is very disappointing.

While the original “Enchanted” is classified as a musical, there are only three songs sung by the characters within the entire span of the film, but each song leaves a lasting impression. Songs such as “That’s How You Know” show that quality is far more important than quantity. “Disenchanted” seems to forget that with its ten songs within the movie’s two hour runtime. Although more singing makes sense in the fairytale setting, all of the songs are fairly forgettable and occasionally accompanied by odd vocal choices from the cast. The worst songs in the movie are, ironically enough, the ones that are supposed to have the most impact: “Fairytale Life (The Wish),” “Love Power,” and its reprise. These songs are unexciting, to say the least, and the lyrics are often odd as well. It doesn’t help that these are some of the longest songs in the film on top of everything, nearly double the time of the other tracks. With Menken working on both the original and the sequel, it’s hard to understand why the songs in “Disenchanted” completely miss the mark.

The climax of the movie has so much going on with Morgan and Queen Nancy returning from Andalasia to attempt to break Giselle’s wicked curse and Giselle facing off with the Malvina “Queen” of Monrolasia (a snobby PTA mom in the real world) in hopes of taking her crown. Giselle and Malvina’s fight is a sad-looking battle of special effects, with them fighting each other with CGI magic beams and butterflies in a battle so juvenile that Disney’s most G-rated princess movie is likely more violent. The decrease in quality from the original is the most evident here. This movie feels like a straight-to-DVD sequel (straight to streaming in the modern age), which is a huge problem.

“Disenchanted” ruins the magic of the original by adding too much of it. The film takes itself too seriously and, with that, loses all the charm of the original. A story with way too many plot points to give them all equal attention and resolve them cleanly, “Disenchanted” ends messily in a way that leaves you asking, “What was the point?”, a question that lingers throughout the entire film.