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REVIEW: 'Disenchanted' insists that the magic is still there, only in a different light

By Marielle Fatima Tuazon Published Nov 20, 2022 4:21 pm Updated Nov 20, 2022 8:41 pm

I was around eight years old in 2007 when Disney released the movie Enchanted. It was an instant classic that meshed the live-action New York City with the animated Andalasia, introducing us to the princess-to-be Giselle.

The Amy Adams-led cast was stellar. They gave justice to an unforgettable soundtrack with the legendary Alan Menken, although I wish Idina Menzel was more involved musically. It gave us a modern-day and fairytale love story in one movie: an internal conflict between Patrick Dempsey’s Robert, the cynical lawyer with an adorable daughter, Morgan, who is learning to have fun; and James Marsden’s Edward, the loveable himbo prince who shares Giselle’s yearning for a true love’s kiss. Of course, Susan Sarandon’s Queen Narissa was a villain to remember, bearing resemblance to the Evil Queen Grimhilde in Snow White—an alter ego old lady with an apple and all that drama. 

One of the main selling points of the movie was the way it was told, swaying between the two worlds, showing how princess-to-be Giselle somehow began thriving in a world that didn’t rely heavily on the happily ever after while keeping her beliefs on love intact, only a little more three-dimensional. Something similar to the phenomenon of its fame with the early 2000s kids, Disney fan or not, could be how the ‘90s kids had Space Jam that featured the Looney Tunes and basketball legend Michael Jordan—only that, even on the trailer, Disney claims that there has never been anything like Enchanted. It appeals to everyone looking for a feel-good movie without a niche interest. When a movie evokes nostalgia and transcends fanbases by becoming a collective favorite, it is always likely to have a sequel. But let’s face it—they’re not all winners. Disenchanted, however, doesn’t ruin the magic of the first movie as most sequels seem cursed to do. Instead, it explores another facet of Giselle’s character and the family she built.

On Nov. 17, streaming service Disney+ finally made its way to the Philippines, just in time for the anticipated sequel, fifteen years later. Disenchanted begs the question: What happens after happily ever after? It challenges Giselle’s choices after the first movie, letting go of her dream storybook love story in Andalasia for a more realistic one in Manhattan. Here we find Giselle and Patrick with a newborn Sofia and a teenage Morgan played by Gabriella Baldacchino, sarcastic and despondent about the move to the suburbs in a town called Monroeville. Nancy and Edward come from Andalasia to bestow upon a magic wand to their new goddaughter, both good friends to the family despite the seemingly awkward past. The not-so-welcome wagon featured Malvina Monroe, the town’s “queen” played by the brilliant Maya Rudolph, and two of her ladies-in-waiting, Ruby (Jayma May) and Rosaleen (Yvette Nicole Brown). Newcomer Kolton Stewart shaped up to be a suggested romantic interest to Morgan as Tyson Monroe, a storyline they could have given more vigor. Even Pip the squirrel returned, now a father of two, still an ever-loyal sidekick. 

'Disenchanted' breaks the fourth wall—putting a damper on our nostalgia and making us reflect on the past 15 years of our lives, even though we, as viewers, are not as we were.

Fed up with the family’s declining morale adjusting to a new living situation and triggered by being called a stepmother, Giselle makes a wish that literally changes Monroeville overnight into the fairytale life she often dreamt of. Villagers dance and sing along with her, fairies as babysitters, a grand ball, and a talking mirror on the wall. Dragons, giants, and evil queens included. Giselle’s role in the story, however, began to take hold of her and breathe life into the evil stepmother inside—an eccentric display of acting prowess by Adams herself. Morgan is launched into the role of the mistreated princess of the story, and the unexpected heroine that is forced to reconcile with the past to fix the present and save both worlds. The central theme of the movie echoes Giselle’s loving reminder: “Memories are the most powerful magic of all.”

Disenchanted is a grown-up continuation of Enchanted, focusing more on the family dynamics, particularly mother and daughter, as well as the guilty discontentment that adults feel at some point in their lives. It could feel jarring when Enchanted was a romantic comedy within a Disney movie, beloved for the kilig factor and the illusion of choice between Giselle’s eligible men. New songs are added to the repertoire with most of the cast singing, making for a well-rounded soundtrack we’re yet to see if it’s able to hold a candle to the classic Enchanted songs of our childhood. In Enchanted, it was Giselle who was out of place in busy New York in all her naivete, but in Disenchanted, she is a mother coping with change but unable to gather support from her already disheartened family. For most of the movie, the entire town is enveloped in Andalasian magic that makes for a mesmerizing display of world-building through costumes, sets, and special effects that hit differently only in a way that Disney can.

Everyone still needs a little magic in their lives, after all.

Disenchanted breaks the fourth wall—putting a damper on our nostalgia and making us reflect on the past 15 years of our lives, even though we, as viewers, are not as we were. Somehow it feels perverse to seek the same comfort of Enchanted from its sequel which is good in its own accord, one that made sense, especially with the decline of the world we live in. It lives up to its title: We are often disillusioned by fairytales—our own thoughts of how things should be as opposed to learning to grow in the process of change. It’s a movie that grew up along with its audience, insisting that the magic is still there, only in a different light.

In a way, Enchanted had an impact on the woman I am today. From a starry-eyed eight-year-old who wanted to meet her prince one day and was a frustrated fashion designer over the years, endlessly inspired by Giselle’s sewing skills; to a twenty-something woman who wears pretty dresses often to romanticize my life, still waiting for my prince, but otherwise putting on Happy Working Song as I clean our house, right after seeing Disenchanted

Everyone still needs a little magic in their lives, after all.