Disillusionedthe highly anticipated sequel to Disney’s enchanted, starts with a good dose of reality: a new baby, a distant teenager and a cramped apartment have left Giselle (Amy Adams) dissatisfied with her Happily Ever After. The city of New York she came to love in the first film – where she twirled through Central Park and sang tunes with strangers – has lost its charm. The boredom of the household has taken its place and Giselle yearns for a change.
When Giselle sees an ad for a house in Monroeville, a cartoony suburban New York getaway, she jumps at the chance to restore some of the magic to her life. Together with her new baby, her husband Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and a now-teenager Morgan (Gabriella Baldacchino), Giselle moves to the idyllic land of fixer-uppers, commuter trains and competitive PTA parents.
It comes down to
Cannot compete with its predecessor.
Directed by Adam Shankman (2007 Hair spray), Disillusioned lacks the charisma and curiosity of its predecessor. Aside from the nostalgia benefit, enchantedThe success of ‘s came from an alchemical combination of strong performances (particularly from Adams), a chaotic location, and a commitment to basic moral lessons (the magic of true love), even while turning fairytale tropes on its head. Disillusionedwhose screenplay was written by Brigette Hales from a story by J. David Stem, David N. Weiss, and Richard LaGravanese, it strives for the original’s deft mix of slapstick comedy and gripping reporting, but struggles to find its footing, resulting in a film as vanilla as its setting.
Sequels rarely live up to the standards of their first installments, but Disillusioned feels particularly disappointing because of the star cast. Adams, Dempsey, Idina Menzel and James Marsden reprise their roles as the once naive protagonist, her skeptical New York husband, his ex (now Queen of Andalasia), and the original Prince Charming, respectively. Aside from Adams’ character – who learns valuable lessons about the desire to live in fantasy rather than reality and the importance of enduring life’s exciting and quiet moments with equal enthusiasm – the others don’t budge their prescriptive roles. Newcomers like Maya Rudolph, who plays the most powerful parent in Monroeville, and Yvette Nicole Brown, as her sidekick, don’t get the chance to show their full comedic or dramatic range.
And that’s a shame, because Disillusionedwith his interest in overcoming periods of restlessness and disillusionment, offers foresight lessons for this moment, when the pressure to survive in the face of multiple social catastrophes has made mustering enthusiasm for everyday life a challenge.
When Giselle, Robert and Morgan arrive in Monroeville, their house – a pink castle in need of extensive renovation – is incomplete. Contracted construction workers are everywhere: drilling in the walls of the living room, sawing wood in the garden, painting the exterior. The chaos forces them to spend their first night in the master bedroom, a situation that Morgan, sharply and sarcastically, rightly compares to their New York apartment.
Morgan is no longer the deer-eyed six-year-old enchanted who hung on Giselle’s every word. She is less fond of her stepmother’s singing and saccharine advice, which leads to a lot of tension and miscommunication. The sharp-tongued teen spends most of the film’s leisurely half hour begging to return to New York. Her rocky relationship with Giselle – dramatic swerves between reluctant sympathy and utter disdain – is one of the film’s threads that could have used more refinement and development. It’s clear early on that Morgan feels pushed aside after the birth of her sister Sophia, and that some of her erratic moods are due to a mounting resentment. But Disillusioned doesn’t spend enough time on her character to keep us invested in figuring out the teen’s issues.
Disillusioned is more successful and confident when it focuses on Giselle’s attempts to embrace the ebb and flow of reality. Hyperaware of her family’s unhappiness, she uses magic from Andalasia to turn her life into a fairy tale. The wish changes Monroeville’s makeup and typifies the people in Giselle’s life – including herself. When Giselle realizes the full impact of her wish, she races against time to try and undo it. It’s gratifying to watch Giselle jump to her own conclusions, admit her mistakes, and try to fix them; such developments give her character, which was sweet but one note in it enchantedsome edge and dimensionality.
When Disillusioned doesn’t try to create a suburban portrait or investigate the protagonist, it becomes a predictably plotted and mundane struggle to restore order. As a setting, Monroeville doesn’t quite lend itself to the same kind of funny comedy as New York’s most touristy locations, meaning certain elements of Disillusioned have to work harder to hold our attention. Production designer Dan Henneh and his team make a significant and rewarding effort to turn the small Irish town where the film was shot into an upstate New York enclave (and promote cottagecore). Stephen Schwartz’s reliable original songs and Alan Menken’s fantastic score deliver a handful of strong moments – a spirited duet from Adams and Rudolph, a soaring solo from Menzel – that almost capture the magic of enchanted. In these scenes, Disillusioned loosens just enough to be truly mesmerizing.
Production companies: Walt Disney Pictures, Josephson Entertainment, Right Coast Productions, Andalasia Productions
Cast: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, Maya Rudolph, Yvette Nicole Brown, Jayma Mays, Gabriella Baldacchino, starring Idina Menzel, James Marsden
Directed by: Adam Shankman
Screenwriters: Brigitte Hales, J. David Stem (story by), David N. Weiss (story by), Richard LaGravenese (story by)
Producers: Barry Josephson, Barry Sonnenfeld, Amy Adams
Executive Producers: Jo Burn, Sunil Perkash, Adam Shankman
Director of Photography: Simon Duggan, ACS
Production Designer: Dan Hennah
Costume Designer: Joan Bergin
Editor: Emma E. Hickox, ACE
Composer: Alan Menken
Casting Director: Louise Kiely, Cindy Tolan
Rated PG, 1 hour 56 minutes