By: Amanda Guarragi
Fairytales have always been an important part of pop culture, especially when we were children. The idea that anyone can break into a song and express their true feelings is what makes them magical. The characters have always been virtuous, loving, and empathetic towards others to have kindness overpower any form of hatred. There is just something special and heartwarming about fairytales that other romances do not have. Disney princesses have always been a staple in everyone’s lives, and Gisele (Amy Adams) from Andalasia certainly made her mark. Ingrid Werner who makes her acting debut in Disenchanted has her own reasons as to why fairytales can resonate with everyone,
“I enjoy them because while it’s like very fantastical storylines, I enjoy being taken out of reality for a moment in time, and kind of escape a little bit. It also grounded in real morals and stories, and when you peel away the fantastical elements, it’s all there to teach us something or make us realize something about ourselves or even society.”Ingrid Werner, Disenchanted
Fairytales can come in all forms and it’s bold to make some changes to their structure. Uprooting an animated princess in a fairytale world and placing her in one of the rudest cities known to man was a choice. Adams was an absolute delight as the excitable and ever-so-loving Gisele, who wanted to spread all the love and kindness wherever she went. Here, Gisele learned from the people around her and made a grumpy middle-aged man into someone warm and kind.
The sequel Disenchanted offers a different take on a fairytale. Gisele has now built a family with Robert Philip (Patrick Dempsey) and Morgan Philip (Gabriella Baldacchino) but she still feels something is missing. The magic in her life has turned into something different with her newborn child, and she misses the fairytale world that she came from. One could consider this a midlife crisis for a princess, which seems attractive at first. However, as the story goes on, it changes from a fairytale into a nightmare for Gisele. There’s a comment made by Morgan after moving to a new part of town that felt homier for Gisele, and she calls her, “stepmother”. After being with her since she was born, Gisele was hurt by this comment. She finds this magical wand with some help and she makes one wish to make her life more of a fairytale. Since she had Morgan’s comment in mind, her fairytale slowly turns wicked. After waiting over a decade to see our cheerful Gisele back on screen, it was a bit disheartening to see her go in a darker direction.
There is no issue with Amy Adams’s performance, as she completely nailed the descent into the wicked stepmother, but it felt like we didn’t get enough time with Gisele. The film of course is extravagant and the wonderful music by Alan Menken made the musical numbers worthwhile, but it just felt a bit empty because the attachment to Gisele was lost in the fold. Sure, it felt nostalgic and the development of the mother/daughter storyline with Gisele and Morgan was touching in the end, but it felt disjointed. The songs were not as memorable as the one’s in the first and it feels like a disservice to the wonderful character of Gisele. It’s hard to enjoy a sequel that is so focused on changing the lead character to make it a bit more interesting so it’s not a repeat of the first instalment. The cast is lovely and Maya Rudolph had some strong moments, the song “Badder” is probably one of the best moments between her and Adams. It sadly felt like a sequel with no clear direction in where they wanted Gisele to go. Of course, it was wonderful to see Adams in the role again, but it didn’t do anything for the character.
When asked about the change in storytelling over the years in Disney films, Werner expressed that the films have changed drastically and it’s because we as an audience don’t buy into the magic of the storylines anymore. The world has changed our perception of everything and we are no longer looking at it through rose-coloured glasses,
“I’m of the generation where we all bought into the fairytale and you find your happily ever after. Right? Now, there are a lot more inclusive storylines, and I love the new princesses that came out in the last 10 years. It’s just really interesting stories and I love that they keep finding new things to create. But also the stories have a bit more dark elements to them, but I feel like now they’re dealing with real world problems, but in a fairy tale perspective.”– Ingrid Werner, Disenchanted
Disenchanted may look and feel extravagant because of the production design, costuming, and musical numbers, but at its core, it feels a bit hollow. There just wasn’t the same magic that was there in the first instalment. It’s sometimes hard to recapture the same feeling in sequels, especially those that come a decade after their predecessor. Adams plays the dual role incredibly well, and she proves again that she is one of the best actresses of our generation. It comes down to the writing and the direction they decided to take the story. Just because it looks magical, doesn’t mean the story matches that level. There are small moments that creep through that work, but it takes a while to get into the story and when that happens, it’s too late. The expectations were high for this sequel, especially because Gisele is one of Adams’s best characters. It is the one that put her on the map and made people recognize how much talent she has. The film is now streaming on Disney Plus and is still worth watching if you’re a fan of the first one.