Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm;
for love is strong as death,
passion fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
a raging flame.
Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can floods drown it.
If one offered for love
all the wealth of one’s house,
it would be utterly scorned.
Song of Solomon 8:6-7
This delightful film begins in the typical Walt Disney fashion of his animated films: The wicked Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon) plots to stay in power by preventing her step-son Prince Edward (James Marsden) from marrying his true love. That true love Giselle (Amy Adams) lives in the forest singing merrily while surrounded by cuddly little birds, animals, and even cock roaches, who help her with the household chores. When the prince meets and falls in love with her, they burst into song. He brings her to the castle, but before they can marry, the queen pushes the girl into the abyss at the bottom of a fountain. All in standard animation, which abruptly changes to live action in the next scene.
Giselle, in a puffy white wedding gown, pushes the iron covering above her head, and the real life girl discovers she is in the middle of Manhattan’s Times Square. What ensues is a fish out of water plot, well developed, as she, not aware of the dangers of New York traffic starts across the street, halting cars and even causing a fender bender, while trying to find out from bewildered passers-by where the castle is. Wandering forlornly along without being able to get anyone to help her, that night she spies a large advertising sign with a castle, so she climbs up and bangs on what she thinks is a real door.
Robert Philips (Patrick Dempsey ) is driving by with his young daughter Morgan (Rachel Covey) when they see the girl frantically begging admission. When she falls from the platform, Robert catches her and winds up taking her to his apartment until he can discover where to send her—her answers to his questions making no sense. Trouble is, Robert intends to ask his girlfriend Nancy (Idina Menzel) to marry him, so when she pays a sudden visit and finds Giselle in a compromising position with Robert, she is not pleased. Morgan, however, has never warmed to Nancy, but she likes Giselle instantly, believing her to be a kindred spirit. Little doubt as to what will eventually happens.
Meanwhile, Prince Edward dives into the abyss and emerges in Times Square in search of his true love. Managing to bewilder some repairmen and jump atop a bus and pierce it with his sword, the Prince also is befuddled by the strange new world, especially when the angry, no-nonsense black woman bus driver gives him chase. He is soon joined by his not too bright manservant Nathaniel (Timothy Spall), dispatched by the evil queen who promises him her hand if he will get Giselle to eat one of the three poisoned apples she has prepared.
A small chipmunk also comes along, adding to the humor by, when it discovers to its dismay that it cannot talk in Manhattan, trying through signs to tell Edward that Nathaniel has been ordered to kill Giselle. Not much brighter than his servant, Edward constantly deduces the wrong meaning from his little friend’s antics. Nathaniel adds the little fellow to his hit list.
The film’s title aptly describes the effect on most of us who view it. Amy Adams wins us over totally as the innocent searching for true love in a world she does not understand. And it is great to see Susan Sarandon in a wicked role, so different from the dedicated mothers she has played so often. There is even Julie Andrews, who narrates the film. Director Kevin Lima keeps things light and lively, and screenwriter Bill Kelly’s wonderful script manages to gently spoof without mocking the animated tales that have been the bread and butter of Walt Disney Pictures for over seventy years. Lots of fun for young and old here.
1) How is the opening sequence like the great Walt Disney classics? What elements of the following do you see: Snow White…, Sleeping Beauty, even the non-Disney King Kong?
2) How does the animated fantasy conventions play against the Manhattan setting?
3) What besides love does Giselle bring into Robert’s life that was missing?
4) In the apartment cleaning scene, how is the convention of the Disney animated film brought in? That is, what kind of help is Giselle able to call in? How do the hordes of roaches contribute to the spoofing?
5) When Giselle is under the spell of the poisoned apple, how do prince Edward and Nancy show that they are characters of grace?
6) In the climactic battle atop the tall building. how does Giselle reverse the usual rescue scene of the traditional fairy tale?