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Myths and Fairy Tales

November 26th, 2007

I’d been jonesin’ to see Enchanted the moment I first heard about it. The high concept–a romantic comedy involving a typical Disney princess thrown out of her animated world into modern-day New York–was so brilliant that I was surprised it hadn’t already been done. And happily, they didn’t screw it up.

Enchanted reminded me most of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, even though there’s very little mixing of animation and live-action. However, Amy Adams’ character Giselle is like Roger Rabbit in that she continues to operate by her own cartoon rules within a real-life setting, including the traditional Disney princess’ ability to gather the local wildlife to help with the chores. Giselle’s initially one-dimensional personality could’ve become very annoying, but Adams makes her endearing, with perhaps her best moment the giddy delight she expresses after becoming angry for the very first time.

Enchanted avoids other obvious missteps. With several scenes set in the Times Square theatre district, it’s amazing that it avoided the banal corporate synergy opportunity of sending the characters to one of Disney’s Broadway shows. I also appreciated that the losing members of the plot’s romantic quadrangle weren’t spiteful obstacles to be overcome, but likable characters who, despite their good qualities, simply weren’t “the ones.”

My only complaint is that there wasn’t enough of Susan Sarandon, who steals the show’s final act as the villainous Queen Narissa. I would’ve enjoyed seeing more of her adventures in the modern world. Still, I suppose it’s another sign of restraint on the part of the filmmakers that they didn’t pad out the flick with extraneous scenes of Sarandon’s wickedness. (Indeed, the highest praise that could be given Enchanted is that not once did Vic declare “This film needs a good editor!” She felt that, unlike most movies these days, it ended precisely when it should’ve. I agree.)

An entirely different take on myth and fantasy was the CG animated Beowulf, which I saw the weekend prior to Thanksgiving. While I would’ve preferred to see it in IMAX, the closest such theater is a two-hour drive, so I settled for the local cineplex, which at least did offer digital 3D. (I have long been a complete sucker for 3D; I still have my glasses from Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare.)

Honestly, I don’t know why this film was done entirely in CG; it didn’t seem that anything within it couldn’t have been achieved with the mix of live-action and computer wizardry employed by the likes of Peter Jackson. On one hand, the almost photorealistic representations of Anthony Hopkins and Angelina Jolie were stunning, but surely the real people would’ve worked even better? That said, I appreciated that the hideously misshapen, rotting, pustulant monster Grendel still managed to vaguely look like Crispin Glover.

The main problem with Beowulf (and not having read the original, I have no idea whether this is an issue of the source material) is that I didn’t like any of the characters. Beowulf is a braggart, a liar and a jerk. The king is a drunken wretch. His queen is a cipher. Grendel screams a lot. (Though you would too if your eardrums were on the outside of your head, or if you vaguely looked like Crispin Glover.) The only one who comes off at all well is Jolie’s mother of monsters.

Plus, I got to see far more naked Beowulf than I cared to, to say nothing of digital Anthony Hopkins in a side-less toga. Shudder.

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