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Review: Disenchanted (2022)

Let’s say it all together: “Disney, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should!”

I have a bone to pick with Disney+. They insist on continuing to make long-awaited sequels to their classic live-action movies and yet they continue to NOT bring back the directors who made those movies so special in the first place! Just like how Disney+ made the mistake of not throwing money at Kenny Ortega to get him to return to direct Hocus Pocus 2 (2022) – check out my review, here – Disney+ has this time around enlisted Adam Shankman to direct Disenchanted (2022), the sequel to Enchanted (2007) – check out that review, here – rather than original director Kevin Lima. Why does Disney keep doing this? Ortega and Lima have given them so much so why not bring them back? Could it possibly be that both directors declined to return because they knew they already crafted perfection and didn’t want to helm an unnecessary sequel? I can’t confirm it but that would be my best guess. I had hoped that Disenchanted would turn our better than Hocus Pocus 2 but sadly, this is another legacy sequel that lacks the magic of the original movie. 

Credit: imdb.com / Disney+

Disenchanted picks up 10 years after Enchanted with Giselle, Robert, Morgan and new baby Sophia moving out of New York City and into the picturesque suburb of Monroeville. But things aren’t as tranquil or easy as Giselle had hoped, causing her to use a magic wand to wish that her life could be more like a fairy tale. Monroeville is transformed into a place of adventure and music but it comes at a grim price: all the magic from Giselle’s home of Andalasia.

Even though I didn’t really feel that a sequel to Enchanted was necessary, this was a sequel that I was optimistic about. I didn’t have my expectations set too high and at the very least, I was hoping that Disenchanted would be a delightful, heartwarming romp filled with memorable music and magical wonder. There are brief moments where Disenchanted touches on the magic of the first movie, but it’s simply not enough. It’s as unsatisfying as one spoonful of cereal in a big bowl of milk. Early on it became fairly apparent that Disenchanted is hiding behind an abundance of style (and not even great style at that) over substance. I’m not saying that a sequel has to be exactly like the first but it should be in the same tone and of the same quality. You can make a sequel to just about anything but Disney…just because you CAN make a sequel to something doesn’t mean you should. I’m extremely worried about the sequels to Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993) and The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004) that they have in the works. Disney+ is a fantastic tool for watching classic Disney content but unfortunately the price is that it’s also a factory for middling sequels of great movies. 

Disenchanted is a more gratifying legacy sequel than Hocus Pocus 2 but not by much. Even after 15 years of repeat viewings, watching Enchanted for the millionth time just a few days ago filled me with so much joy and warmth. Disenchanted however, despite all the vibrant colours and shoddy special effects it’s hiding behind, is just cold and lifeless. The most fun part of this movie is recognizing all the Disney references and Easter eggs. But even that isn’t particularly pleasing because unlike the original whose references were a blend of blatant and subtle, this time around they’re so obvious they smack you in the face. They’re cute but sometimes making a reference just for reference’s sake isn’t worth it. 

I was quite surprised at just how many songs were included in Disenchanted. In the first movie the songs were used sparingly for greater effect but this time around they’ve doubled down on the songs. This is much more heavily a musical, one where the songs sadly all sound the same. The songs in Enchanted are amazing because they’re clearly inspired by classic Disney. These all sound generic, as if there weren’t any inspiration behind them at all. They’re not at all parodic like the first movie and instead are just used randomly to fill time like a stage show. In fact, this sounds like the stage version of Enchanted rather than a sequel set in the same universe. Especially because the songs are all so expository. Two songs in and neither are particularly memorable because they’re not inspired by anything. I hate to admit it but Disenchanted really took the “quantity over quality” approach the it came to the music. Which is weird because the great Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz returned to write the songs. It’s disappointing but hey, at least I get to hear the goddess Idina Menzel sing her face off. Menzel is not only the best singer in the cast (obviously) but as Nancy, she gets to sing what is undoubtedly the best song in Disenchanted, “Love Power.” 

Credit: imdb.com / Disney+

I think I’m over the plot device of “be careful what you wish for.” It’s been done to death at this point. Instead of doubling down on fantasy magic in this new town, I think what would have made for a far more entertaining sequel is seeing Giselle adapt her fairytale outlook on life to NYC. Being a mother, getting married, running her business (something that is completely ignored in this movie)…that way you could still touch on a lot of elements that are present in Disenchanted but while retaining the spirit of the original movie. That’s what would have been more enjoyable for me because mama, this isn’t it. Amy Adams and Maya Rudolph wearing fabulous costumes and singing about how villainous they are should be catnip to me but it’s thoroughly unimpressive. As is the movie as a whole, sadly. 

Just like Hocus Pocus 2, I went into  Disenchanted with complete faith in the performances of the returning cast (plus the wonderful editions of the always reliable Rudolph, Yvette Nicole Brown and Jayma Mays). Thankfully, I was rewarded for my unwavering faith! Menzel, James Marsden and Patrick Dempsey are a delight to watch (even if the latter two are severely underutilized) but it’s Adams who once again is the star of the show. The way she effortlessly steps back into the role of Giselle is amazing. The enchanting voice, the little hand flourishes and the heartwarming innocence all prove that Adams IS Giselle. Watching her get to play both a heroine and a villain this time around is fun to watch, a great way for Adams to demonstrate her masterful range and sharp comedic timing. Her performance is a shining star in this letdown of a sequel, even if it’s slightly hindered by an underwhelming plot. 

I hate to say it but I am rapidly losing faith in Disney. At least when it comes to creating sequels, reboots and live-action adaptations, that is. The heart, humour and magic that they were once so synonymous with seems to be absent from almost everything they put out these days. I honestly think what would be best for Disney is if they halt the onslaught of sequels, reboots and live-action adaptations for a while, regroup and focus on delivering something truly magical. Something like Enchanted! But alas, that doesn’t seem to be the case. I hope you all enjoy the upcoming Lilo & Stitch (2002) live-action movie and The Haunted Mansion (2003) reboot. Yep, those are really happening.

Will you check out Disenchanted? Are you a fan of Enchanted?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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