Enchanted, the new Disney live action/animated musical is the latest post-modern pastiche that depends too much on inside jokes rather than genuine emotion. It’s the type of film one wants to work, but despite some delightful moments, soon becomes tiresome.
The story begins in Andalasia, an ersatz 1950s cel animated, fairytale country, where the handsome Prince Edward meets and falls in love with the beautiful Giselle; however, his plans to marry her the next day are thwarted by his evil stepmother, Queen Narissa, who promptly sends the princess-in-waiting hurtling into the real world, i.e., New York’s Times Square, where she becomes flesh and blood. She is then followed by Edward and Narissa, among others, while Giselle is taken in by chase after her; in the meantime, Giselle is taken in by an divorce lawyer who tries to keep his young daughter away from fairytales.
Though much has been made of the opening sequence’s use of traditional animation, it tends to look and feel like the worse Disney had to offer (and that could be pretty bad ). That would not be a problem if Kevin Lima’s direction and Bill Kelly’s script had gone beyond the obvious cliché moments. Ironically, the one scene where the animation does come alive is when the CGI chipmunk, Pip, in a game of charades, tries to tell the clueless Prince Edward about Queen Narissa’s plot to kill Giselle (see above). (Equally good, in a different way, is Susan Sarandon’s turn as the Queen, who milks her brief live-action appearance for all its worth; unfortunately, it ends prematurely when she turns into a Sleeping Beauty-style CGI dragon.)
The film’s appeal may owe something to the way it tries to lovingly parody the Disney family jewels. This is somewhat akin to Julie Andrews topless turn in Blake Edwards’ S.O.B. (1981), though not so naughty. It was certainly done to better effect in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, as well as numerous other films from the era of Looney Tunes to numerous episodes of today’s TV series.
Bee Movie, DreamWorks Animation’s latest effort (directed by Simon J. Smith and Steve Hickner), is a fairly conventional showcase for the talents of comedian Jerry Seinfeld, who helped produce and write it. The plot deals with the ambitions of Barry B. Benson, a bee just just out of school, who wants to explore life outside the hive before choosing a career.
Animated films centered around the personality of a comedian like Seinfeld are nothing new. I recall, with some pleasure, Rover Dangerfield (1991), whose Rodney Dangerfield script and performance helped alleviate the film’s rather slapdash production. However, Bee Movie really owes more to DreamWorks’s Antz (1998), which featured the vocal talents of Woody Allen.
For whatever reason, I never watched Seinfeld on TV and, thus, never developed a strong affection for his brand of humor. Even so, I found Bee Movie a pleasant, if not particularly memorable film.