Managing audience expectations is a tough battle to fight, especially for sequels to something as widely adored as Enchanted. Fifteen years of waiting for a follow up to the story of Gisele – a cartoon princess lost in New York – is a whole new level of anticipation.
Yet in spite of the mounting pressure on this sequel, Disenchanted is a welcome addition to Gisele’s story, serving up catchy tunes and all the sweetness of the original with a new level of knowing. Not only do we get a fun update on Amy Adams’s not-so-cartoon princess, we get a comically realistic one too.
A few years down the line from Gisele’s Happily Ever After with Robert (Patrick Dempsey), we see that Afters aren’t always quite so Happy. As a matter of fact, spontaneous singing and an alarmingly consistent positive attitude don’t always gel with the city cynicism of Manhattan, and Gisele starts to feel out of place.
In an attempt to regain the magic of her former life in Andalasia, the family decides to leave New York for a town in the suburbs, Monroeville. While Gisele and Robert are more than keen to start a new life there, their daughter Morgan (played this time around by Gabriella Baldacchino) is far from it, and increasingly mortified by her step-mother’s musical outbursts.
Eventually, after being given a magic wand by Edward (James Marsden) and Nancy (Idina Menzel), Gisele rashly makes a wish for a fairytale life once again. Surprise, surprise, the spell doesn’t quite go to plan. Things get taken far too literally and not only does she wake up to talking animals and a husband overcome with the need to slay a creature three times his size, she also starts to turn into a wicked step-mother, hellbent on destroying Morgan’s chances at happiness and risking the existence of Andalasia in the process.
The returning favourites of this cast take us straight back to the magic of the first film, very much giving the feeling that we picked up just as we left off. And the new additions to the cast – most notably Maya Rudolph as Giselle’s new nemesis Malvina – freshen up the story and bring a new, more modern wit to the noughties classic.
Disenchanted manages to avoid the mistake of repurposing the same successful plot in a new location and calling it a day. Instead, it offers a whole new story that tackles the realistic hard truths of familial love, and the trials and tribulations of motherhood. While the novel magic of the original movie is not quite matched, it’s a welcome return nonetheless that pushes the story in satisfying new directions, with familiar characters that are hard not to love.
The movie even manages to rectify the terrible mistake that Enchanted dared to make: casting Idina Menzel in a musical and not letting her sing a single note. In Disenchanted, Menzel (unsurprisingly) astonishes with her vocals alongside the exuberantly talented Adams. Even Patrick Dempsey manages to push out a few notes this time around, but the jury’s still out on whether that’s a good or a bad thing.
Ultimately, Disenchanted hits the nostalgia nail on the head and gives us two hours of silly antics and earworm tunes that more than capably fill the fifteen year Gisele-free hole we’ve had to live with. While it doesn’t quite reach the peak that That’s How You Know (That You Love Her) did, it’ll be hard to finish without your heartstrings still feeling well and truly played.
Disenchanted is streaming now on Disney+