“Enchanted” or Disenchanted?
Disney’s musical marriage message fails to uphold itself.
“How do I know he loves me?” sings the lovely Amy Adams, as the Princess Giselle, in the somewhat-recent Disney comedy Enchanted (2007). The concept of love and relationships is the main focus of this film about a princess from an animated world who winds up stranded in the real world.
Giselle (Adams) is about to get married to her dearest love (after only one meeting,) the handsome but self-obsessed Prince Edward (James Marsden). They both live in a fantasy (quite literally), beautiful, traditionally animated land; but, their dreams of “true love” get shattered when Giselle is sent to New York City (why always New York?) by Edward’s jealous step-mother, Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon). Sound familiar?
This fish-out-of-water tale spoofs past Disney movies throughout the film, which may be the only thing that “Enchanted” has going for them, other then Alan Menken’s musical numbers. The long-and-short of this story is that Giselle ends up staying with a cynical and world-weary single dad named Robert Phillip and his daughter. Robert (Patrick Dempsey) is rightly suspicious at first, and then concerned about this crazy lady running about New York in a singsong, happy-go-lucky and carefree manner, who asks people where the nearest castle is, or if they know of any dwarves living nearby because, “I hear they’re very hospitable!” Noting her apparent absence of mind, Patrick really feels nervous about helping, but eventually he yields and allows her to stay one night, as she has nowhere else to go and in her case, could end up dead, in a world so foreign to her. He is trudging through life; Giselle is dancing through life. He is in a world of pain and confusion, after his wife left him, while our Disney princess is oblivious to it. The two have a conflict of personalities and of ideals. And this really becomes the heart of the film, the nature of love, as represented by these two, becomes thesis that the filmmakers are debating through these screen personas. Giselle is living in an overly happy, whimsical world, and would have everyone get married quickly – but on the basis of shallow ideas of emotions and touchy-feely romanticism. To her mind, you don’t need to know anything about the person you marry; you just meet and, somehow, “fall in love”. That spark that strikes when you sing a duet love-song is all she needs. Not many watching the movie will take Giselle’s foolish emotionalism seriously; her character is too much a caricature of fairytale damsels for us to really believe what she’s saying. But then we have Robert. While his ideas on marriage and relationships may seem a little more down-to-earth and pragmatic, they are still just as experiential and feelings-based as the other. Robert, is dating a woman named Nancy Tremaine (Idina Menzel) who he thinks that he loves but is hesitant, due to his past divorce. He believes – and rightly so – that you don’t rush things with marriage. You take your time and get to know the person before you fly to the altar. But, his bad encounter with marriage, and probably his failure as a husband, have made him into a cynic and pessimist, though he calls it being a “realist”. Even with all that, Robert’s criterions are things such as: if you like the same things, if you have similar lifestyle preferences and if you get along with the person. All of those are important in marriage, but absent from both these views is any true virtue, like what read of in Ephesians 5:25-29, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.” Also, both sides appeal to humanistic feelings for their view, and completely missing is the idea of commitment as well as the God who makes commitment and faithfulness possible.
All of this is being battled out between them, as Robert tries to get Giselle home (whether that be her storybook world or the insane asylum, he doesn’t know) and she waits patiently for her lover Edward to come rescue her. This he does, and soon he is gallivanting about NYC with Giselle’s friend, Pip the talking squirrel (who humorously loses his voice when they arrive in the real world), and the Queen’s secret informant Nathaniel (Timothy Spall).
Meanwhile, Giselle is experiencing a paradigm-shift, a change of values. Through Robert’s influence she feels an emotion she had never before – anger. In an outrageous display of the absurdness of living for emotion, Giselle becomes jubilant that she has been excited to anger during an argument, which I guess would be a good thing if all you have is a Romantic worldview. But the Bible teaches that anger, other than godly indignation and anger, is a result of Sin in the world, and the presence of it in our lives should be avoided, not celebrated. Robert, a divorce attorney, takes the princess to work with him, where she learns that “in the real world” people don’t stay together once married, that sometimes they separate forever. After learning this, Giselle breaks down into tears, communicating to the audience that she is uninformed and naïve, even foolish, for thinking that long-term commitment is a reality anymore. Once over the shock of harsh, unfeeling “reality”, Giselle turns to Robert and counters with, “How Does She Know That You Love Her” a sappy song that teaches Robert to be more sentimental, but not faithful.
The extent of Giselle’s time with Robert is characterized by totally inappropriate innuendos, jokes that jab at her fantasy ideas or the actual Christian values, and various Disney “cameo appearances”. Nathaniel has been commissioned by Narissa to kill Giselle, so that she may keep her position as ruler of her land, but he is unsuccessful. This forces the evil Queen to come to New York herself.
By the time that Edward arrives at Robert’s apartment to rescue his damsel in distress, she no longer wants to sing duets with him. She has been wised-up. Actually, what has happened is she has “fallen in love” again, this time with Robert. Confused, all she wants to do now is go on lots and lots of dates with Edward before they get married. He doesn’t understand what she’s talking about, but he agrees to go to a special ball being held. Ironically, Giselle had arranged for Robert and Nancy to go to this very ball.
At the ball, both of them abandon their previous lovers to dance with each other. This is interrupted by Narissa, who feeds Giselle a poisoned apple, just like the very first Disney princess of them all. Edward knows that the effects of the poison can only be reversed by True Love’s kiss (of course!) But, when he tries it, nothing happens! They all realize that Robert, in spite of his unspoken covenant with Nancy, is Giselle’s true love, he kisses her and she awakes. Enraged, the Queen turns into a poorly done 3D dragon, and snatches up Robert taking him up on the rooftop. But thankfully, Giselle saves him and Narissa is defeated. This is a classic example of Disney’s Marxist push for feminism that has been seen for the last few decades!
To compound the film’s disappointing ending, both Giselle and Robert renounce their positions on relationships to be with each other. While Edward takes the rejected Nancy back to the animated world to get married (implying that marriage only lasts in a fantasy land), our main characters live together with no marriage commitment, just date after date of fun and games. It turns out that neither sentimental romanticism nor existential pragmatism is sufficient for relationships that work, so the film takes the easy way out. Since they don’t have God in the picture, the film can’t uphold it’s own thesis but must depart from it. Enchanted will entertain die-hard Disney fans, but is more likely to leave you Disenchanted about love, marriage and this movie!
Reviewed by: Isaac R. Arthur, filmmaker and student at Blue Banner Media
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