Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Enchanted Makes Satire Sweet

"Satire" conjurers all sorts of associated adjectives, words such as "mocking" and "biting," "sardonic" and "acid." Satirical works get kudos for creatively lampooning their subjects, but almost no one ever praises them for striking an irenic tone. Of course, that's not really the point. Satire should skewer. Yet I enjoyed the Disney's Enchanted precisely because it kept a gentle tone while mocking the Magic Kingdom's excesses.

In the far-away land of Andalasia, in a verdant forest brimming with wildlife, and in a home nestled against a tree lives Giselle. She spends her days dreaming of her one true love -- both figurative and literally. Just last night a well-built, blue-eyed prince appeared before her sleeping mind's eye, and she's sure he's the man she must marry. Meanwhile, comely Prince Edward prowls that very forest, hunting trolls. Though he possesses wealth, royal position and (everyone knows) good looks, he feels that something's missing. So when he and Giselle bump into each other (or crash, really, after an enraged trolls takes its boulder-sized fists to Giselle's tree), they decide they'll tie the knot the next day. But unbeknownst to either of them, Queen Narissa, ruler of all Andalasia, has sought to keep Edward from women his entire life, fearing the loss of her throne. She has a simple plan: Before the nuptials, she'll cast Giselle through a magic portal and into a place where there are no happy endings -- New York City.

Enchanted opens with an animated style familiar to anyone who's watched late-nineties Disney movies -- only moreso. Beauty and the Beast seems the prime inspiration. Whereas a sparrow or two might've fluttered about Belle, Giselle is constantly surrounded by a cloud of twittering, chittering wildlife that would give Alfred Hitchcock nightmares. With puffy sleeves that could double as shock absorbers and an overweening, self-centered cluelessness, Edward makes Gaston seem the humble philosopher. Sunshine sparkles numinously, critters frenetically frolic, and everyone appears poised to burst into song at any moment. Which they do. Director Kevin Lima deserves praise for managing to keep the ridiculousness intact when the Big Apple scenes transition over into live action. Giselle still belts out choruses at the drop of the hat, although a divorce attorney with whom she meets up informs her that not every couple lives happily ever after. For his part, Edward attempts to slay a gargantuan metal monstrosity (a bus), and while frantically banging on doors in search of Giselle, the prince meets a frazzled mother surrounded by children who says, "You're too late." Most satires would content themselves with such clever mockery and be done with it. Yet the movie manages to gently affirm Disney-esque themes while poking fun at their schmaltzy presentation. Through Giselle, the divorce attorney learns that reconciliations can occur and reality doesn't necessarily have to crush every pleasant longing. Enchanted's magic lies in making satire sweet.

(Picture: CC 2009 by wickedboy_007)

2 comments:

thebookhaven said...

Enchanted isn't a brand new world, but it's one we know and like. Disney made fun of itself in a charming way.

Loren Eaton said...

Thanks for stopping by! Honestly, that's what I loved about the movie. It poked fun at its own mythos without getting all barbed about it.