Disenchanted Is A Edge-Of-Seat Horror Movie For Parents, A Joyful Romp For Kids
Disney doubles down on its subversive fairy tale movie, in a sequel that is totally for everyone.
Morgan is not Rosemary’s baby, but she certainly seems to bring ominous tidings. In Disenchanted the sequel to Disney’s beloved 2007 fish-out-of-water fairy tale Enchanted, everything goes wrong, and it all points back to the newest character in the series — Morgan, the baby. Many live-action Disney movies try to hit that sweet spot of actually being great for the whole family. Disenchanted is the rare example that succeeds, even if it is a little messy. Spoilers ahead.
First, a refresher. 2007’s Enchanted was a live-action Disney movie about a young maiden, Giselle (Amy Adams), who is banished from the animated kingdom of Andalasia and lands in the gritty reality of New York City where she falls in love with an emotionally reserved divorce attorney named Robert (Patrick Dempsey) a single dad to a six-ish-year-old girl. Giselle wows Robert with her fairy tale dreams, love breaks the shackles of normal life and they get together, happily ever after.
In Disenchanted, they have a baby. Parents, you know where this is going.
In the opening of the movie, we find Robert and Giselle coping with the realities and limitations of apartment space, sleepless nights, and raising a pubescent teen. In our interview for Fatherly’s cover story with Patrick Dempsey, he summed up the drama: “Giselle is a stepmother, right? She has that dynamic with Morgan, Robert’s adolescent daughter. Certainly, Robert is stuck in the middle. He's trying to be all things to all people — he’s got this teenage daughter and he's worried about his wife, who is postpartum and depressed. He’s trying to do what’s right for the family. He's trying to find meaning, and I think that's where the movie begins.” That about sums it up.
And this is where the horror movie plot really takes off — with a wish, that has unexpected consequences. But first, a move to the suburbs. Giselle pushes the family to a run-down McCastle in the suburbs, chasing after her fairy-tale sensibilities. Arriving at their new home, she discovers the other moms are cliquey and mean; Morgan, the step-daughter, is upset about being yanked away from her school and friends; and Robert is confronted with a suffocating cycle of commute and work and commute. To make it all better Giselle waves a magic wand gifted to Morgan and wishes for a fairytale life.
To be clear, there’s nothing actually scary about Disenchanted. But the existential crises — one after another — that come from the new baby are so familiar, so well laid out that if this weren’t a song-and-dance comedy, you’d be covering your eyes rather than laughing. Fortunately, there’s laughter for mom and dad. The winks and nudges aimed at parents' land.
For example, Robert, newly transformed into a prince, takes off to aimlessly roams the countryside in search of a quest. “It’s time for a new adventure,” he says, before just randomly leaving. “A chance to prove my worth and heroic fortitude, only to return home to you, my family!” Clearly, whatever he’s doing can’t be that important.
Then there’s Giselle, turning into a “wicked stepmother” as she fights her desire to subjugate her teen to the kind of parental emotional roller coaster that comes with raising a teen “Do your chores!” “Oh honey, I’m so sorry, I love you and am here for you.” “Actually!, do your chores!” Or the battle against Malvina, the evil Queen of the town that begins with the dueling bake sales of overbearing moms trying to do right by their struggling teens.
There’s plenty for the kids as well. After all, this is a Disney movie with a chaotic mishmash of talking animals, song and dance, cartoons, physical pratfalls, and a joke-a-minute dialogue. The songs are not quite Frozen catchy, but when paired with real-life choreography and over-the-top effects, they’re dazzling. The jokey talking animals will likely grate on the parents, but captivate the kids. The (spoiler) turn to classic 2D animation near the end is a nice Disney kiss for all.
But it’s the plot that drives the movie — chaos that teases resolution and makes you actually wonder how this is going to wrap (spoiler: like a fairy tale). Still, the movie seems to fall apart often — with one fairy tale idea after another turning the disharmony into danger, the growing pains into an actual existential crisis.
Director Adam Shawshank wanted it that way. He told us by phone while driving in the car that “I think that the very challenging and chaotic roles that we’re living in right now call for this. The movie is meant to offer a push to stop and smell the roses,” he says. “A little of ‘hey look around and appreciate those who love you.’ Embrace the ever-evolving nature of life because we can’t control it. We have no control and a lot of stuff is going to happen that we need to accept. I think this is an important message for right now.”
Or maybe it’s all just a great lesson for all newbie parents. It’s all going to fall apart, but that’s ok. Don’t blame the baby.
Disenchanted is streaming now on Disney+.
Read Fatherly’s in-depth interview with Patrick Dempsey right here.