ENCHANTED owns up to its title through the living incarnation of a princess heroine in the form of Amy Adams, sparkling her way into the big time with a critical and box office hit. Cleverly written by Bill Kelly, this 2007 mashup of classic Disney & fairy tale tropes skips the frenzy, noise and too often smug & nasty edge that mars numerous latter-day revisions of childhood favorites. Instead, with a glowing star at the fore, it respects the base material and actually evokes bygone charm by slipper-fitting dream whimsy into a modern sensibility.

Thirteen minutes of old-style animation in the fairy tale kingdom of ‘Andalasia’ begin the real-world journey of ‘Giselle’ (Adams), just about to marry a prince (the charming type) when she’s pushed into a well by the reigning evil queen and sorceress. Emerging from her tumble into the middle of Times Square, the lost lass is given shelter by a divorce lawyer (Patrick Dempsey) and his young daughter, beguiled by the decidedly strange but disarmingly sweet homeless emigrant from Fantasyland. Then other arrivals show up; first ‘Prince Edward’ and a helpful chipmunk, then the queen’s servile and clumsy assassin, finally ‘Queen Narissa’ herself. Before the big showdown, Giselle has won over a large chunk of Manhattan, human and animal.

Directed with the right degree of breeze and dispatch by Kevin Lima, with plenty of Disney iconography scattered around to spot in nooks and crannies, the $85,000,000 lark includes six chipper, thematically purposed songs and some neatly choregraphed dance numbers (Adams gifted in vocals and movements as well as acting). Three of the tunes (“So Close”, “Happy Working Song”, “That’s How You Know”) were Oscar nominated. Critics praised the star, and patrons paid tribute by putting it 19th among 2007’s money-makers, earning $127,800,000 on home ground, with $212,680,000 more reaped internationally.

Lima: “I had seen probably 250 girls by the time Amy walked into her audition. I was sick as a dog, with a high fever, on that day, [but] Amy walked into the room and for the next 45 minutes, I forgot I was ill….Amy’s audition tape was all that was needed to convince them that Giselle had arrived.” At 33, Adams, dutifully working her way up since 1999, had scored an Oscar nomination two years earlier for her superb indie Junebug, but her perfection as Giselle—innocence & vivacity, kindness & zest—sealed the stardom that followed, one graced by a stellar array of performances distinguished by their honesty, directness and depth.

Added fun comes from James Marsden’s perfectly pitched Prince Edward and Susan Sarandon’s flamboyantly haughty Narissa. The prince is cartoon-handsome, naturally, a spot-on sendup mixing purity, impetuosity, naïve narcissism and dash: again, like Adams, done without mocking the elemental characterization. Sarandon’s villainess has the right glimmer of humor to make her amusing as well as imposing. A further touch of “Aww!” is hearing Julie Andrews voice as the Narrator. Though kids enjoy it, the best audience are adults, especially those old enough to recall the traditional tales and nostalgic films this pays homage to with such warmth and spirit.

107 minutes, with Timothy Spall, Rachel Covey, Idina Menzel, Tonya Pinkins and Isiah Whitlock Jr.

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