So, now that I have seen Enchanted (2007), does Disenchanted (2022) make more sense? Honestly, I have no idea how to answer that question. I suspect that I could have watched the second of these Disney fairy send-ups and I would have at least gotten the gist of what they were trying to accomplish. Whether it lands is a separate debate. What I mean by “making sense” is my confusion as to why people enjoy this nonsense. To be fair, I am thrilled by a whole host of stuff that other would also label as nonsense. Perhaps I have backed into non-theological definition of existence, that we are all defined by the nonsense we like. Of course, I will take my cues as to who I am from my God in Heaven. Take my waxing philosophical interlude for whatever you like.
Even though Enchanted came out a little over fifteen years ago, Disenchanted does not follow this timeline. How do I know this? Because they got a different actress to play the role of Morgan Philip (Gabriella Baldacchino) at sixteen years old. Without going into detail, trust me, the math is off. At any rate, at some point between then and whenever now is, Morgan has become, er, disenchanted with her fairytale step-mother Giselle (Amy Adams), formerly of the animated/alternate dimension(?) kingdom of Andalasia. In the previous film, Morgan had been the driving force behind getting her father, Robert (Patrick Dempsey), to fall in love with previously soon-to-be princess of the cartoon land. The sunshine, lollypops, unicorns, kittens, and rainbows have been replaced by teenaged angst, particularly as the Philip family has decided to move from New York City to the fictional suburb of Monroeville. You know how this goes, right? There is all the usual trouble adjusting to their new surroundings, particularly for Morgan at her new high school. While she struggles to make new friends, Giselle plows ahead trying to do her best to help Morgan as she sees fit. Because she has not lost that charmed positivity of her life in Andalasia (one might call it naïveté), she opens up a booth outside of Morgan’s school to tell everyone there how great is her step-daughter. Aside from the social disapprobation of Morgan’s peers, the display also draws the ire of the town’s self-appointed social activities director, Malvina Monroe (Maya Rudolph). She and her cronies are quick to point out how things are typically done in this town. This is when Giselle decides to turn to an item given as a sort of house-warming gift by Robert’s former fiancé and current queen of Andalasia, Nancy Tremaine (Idina Menzel). Her and Giselle’s own one-time husband-to-be, King Edward (James Marsden), had brought her a magical wish-granting wand. Boy, if that is not lazy writing, but whatever. Seeing that things are not going as she hoped, Giselle uses it to conjure a “perfect fairy tale” for her family. When she awakens the next morning, the town (and I guess the world?) have been changed into Monrolasia, you know, because they all have to end in “asia.” She is the only one that is aware of a transformation as everyone else, including Morgan and Robert, exist as if their entire lives have been in this Brothers Grimm world. As such, Giselle should be in her element, but something is off. For starters, it becomes apparent that the relationship between her and Morgan puts Giselle in the role of the “wicked step-mother.” Think classic Disney films and you get the picture. This comes out in moments where the spell of this world takes hold of her and she behaves as one would expect of such a character. Stereotypes, am I right? It is particularly noticeable when the now-lowly Morgan is invited to a ball by Malvina’s son Tyson (Kolton Stewart) that accompanies the town festival. Of course, in this world, Malvina is the evil queen and Tyson is a prince, though kind-hearted unlike his mom. The wicked side of Giselle is intent on locking Morgan in their house’s tower (so many clichés here). What saves them is that, in Giselle’s more lucid periods, she convinces Morgan to travel to Andalasia and there hopefully find a way to reverse what is happening. While she is the animated world, the wickedness overtakes Giselle and she is now openly challenging Malvina for rule of Monrolasia. This is made trickier because Malvina has stolen the wand, which is part of the reason for Giselle sending Morgan away. Luckily, Malvina is having trouble using the wand, which can only be wielded by a true daughter of Andalasia. This is when Giselle sends her cat minion, Pip (voiced by Griffin Newman), who is usually a chipmunk, to steal back the wand. Meanwhile, in Andalasia, Morgan learns that the magic of that kingdom is being sucked into Monrolasia, slowly destroying the former. Edward and Nancy take Morgan to a memory tree and suggest that only its powers can help Giselle. Morgan returns armed with a family tree, and the knowledge that if she is not successful by midnight (sigh) the changes will be permanent. She arrives to find Giselle and Malvina locked in a magical duel, though Giselle triumphs with the use of the wand. Morgan gives Giselle the tree, but she contemptuously rips it in two. Still, the magic contained therein breaks the spell that had taken hold of her, and she realizes what she must do. It is complicated when Malvina, not wanting to relinquish any power, takes Morgan hostage and demands the wand. After exchanging it for her step-daughter, Malvina breaks it, and things continue to go to pot. As Giselle begins to fade, just before midnight, she entreats Morgan to use the wand (which still works for some reason). She does and when they awaken, everything is returned to normal. Only Giselle and Morgan (and the Andalasians) have any recollection of these strange events, but they live happily ever after, I suppose.
Watching Disenchanted, I wonder if it is too obvious to point out this is all a bunch of made-up stuff anyway? It comes off like a bunch of children making up a game as they go along. Then again, it is a film clearly not aimed at my demographic. And that is okay. As the old saying goes: to each their own. What this practicing Catholic will give the film credit for is the way the lessons that come from this seeming apocalyptic scenario are told through the events in this movie. While my hyper-analytical side wonders if what is happening in Monrolasia is also affecting the rest of the planet, my Catholic side (and favorite side) appreciates that Giselle learns to accept that not everything can be perfect. It is fair to say that this is this is the reason for the title. Andalasia is the land of fairy tales where everything is perfect. While it is not in any way a fitting analog for Heaven, it is still useful to point out that nothing in our world can be or will be. Giselle, and Morgan, have to learn to adapt rather than trying to force their circumstances into the neat little modes of doing things to which they had grown accustomed. As has happened in many of these reviews, I am reminded, fittingly, of the words of the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who pointed out that we are not made for comfort. This life will challenge us, and they are opportunities (Faith would call them blessings or graces) to grow. As much as I might not like this movie, I can at least acknowledge that Giselle and Morgan came out better people for their experiences. For me, I pray that mine lead me closer to God.
Okay, so now I can check Enchanted and Disenchanted off the list. They are fine movies for those who are into such things, but that is clearly not me. In that case, you probably do not want me telling you about it, but here I am anyway. At least it is not offensive nonsense.
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