Monday, December 24, 2007

Enchanted

Many movies annoy me. Quite a few bore me. Some offend me. But Enchanted may well be the first movie that left me not only irate, but also genuinely puzzled how anybody who saw it could be otherwise.

You see, the charm of fairy-tales and chick flicks is that they don't ask certain questions. Boy meets girl, boy and girl overcome wicked stepmothers or their modern substitutes, boy and girl ride off happily into the sunset and everyone applauds. And if somebody cynical chooses to sneer and ask questions like "But what do they know about each other?" "What sort of basis do they have for a relationship?" "Can they even have a normal conversation with each other?" "What's going to be in thirty years when they're both ugly?", well, that's between me and whichever unfortunate person I'm ranting to.

But Enchanted decided to ask those questions. And I was really pleased. Here, I thought, reading the brief plot blurbs in ads, here would be a fun, crazy, charming movie where Disney gets a chance to laugh at itself and its skewed vision of romance, where fairy tale people learn about the real world and real world love.

Spoilers ahead, I suppose. But only for those who were naive enough to believe the above.

After the opening Disney-fairy-tale part of the movie, I was excited. The musical number was pure classic Disney, overdone enough to be read as a brilliantly subtle self-parody. The gritty little chipmunk worried me- grittiness was enough of a pseudo-twist that it almost made you think that they meant the whole thing. But still, my bubble remained unburst.

The real-world. The divorce attorney who's getting engaged. A very promising speech about love being about knowing the other person, understanding their strengths and weaknesses. Yay, I thought, they really are going to talk about how silly- and ephemeral- fairy tale love is.

As the attorney chatted with his daughter about women accomplishing things in the world and why that's nice, I turned to my friend and said, "What they had better not do- and actually I have enough respect for them to have faith that they won't do this- is have this man become involved with the princess."

Yeah. Really, I don't know why I bother with my tireless optimism.

But I kept hoping, even as the chance grew smaller and smaller. Right on through the silly scenes. Despite even the catching and the bath towel, I truly hoped. I think it was Nancy who shattered that hope- Nancy, without enough personality to make the viewer sad when Robert would break off a five year relationship (five years!) for the girl he met the day before.

It was then that I realize that this movie was not a self parody. It was not correcting the foolishness that every Disney movie innocently propagates; it was going to deliberately and in cold blood, with malice aforethought, support, justify, and embrace every single one of them.

And so there was no hope left to be shattered by the rest of the movie, nor was I thrown off by the clues that almost suggested the lesson that I had once hoped for: the support for dating and actually getting to know your partner; the brief re-emergence of Nancy as a kind of sweet person; Robert having the courage and decency to break off the kiss.

No, it was clear that if the movie was going to preach against giving your life to somebody you had known for a day, it was definitely going to come down clearly in favor of giving your life to somebody you had known for two days. In favor of believing that love can conquer all, no matter the marital difficulties that have thrown you into bitter divorce proceedings. In favor of happily ever after and true love's kiss.

And what made it all more painful is that the movie had so much. It was a clever premise, and it was executed cleverly. The musical number in Central Park, the vermin cleaning song, the prince were all terribly fun. And if they never actually crossed over into self-parody, they could have done so easily. Even at the end, there were places when I could daydream of the movie being saved from itself. I even saw one brilliant ending where nobody kissed the princess and she died and then paramedics burst in, gave her CPR, pumped her stomach, and she ran to Robert and he told her that a day of song and dance doesn't trump five years of commitment and understanding....

But despite what Enchanted may have to say on the subject, many dreams don't come true. And the dream of Disney presenting a mature, balanced, moral, clever, self-deprecating love story is apparently one of them.

9 comments:

Halfnutcase said...

and this is the kind of reason why I don't much watch many disney movies anymore...

Almost the reason why I decided to write my story, but its probably not cynical enough in that regard. (sorry.) (more because I'm to prude to tollerate some of the blatant displays of not-tzniusness in most of such stories, and instead have a much more subtle kind of display, where they aren't having passionate interactions every other step. Isn't there some kind of joy to subtlety? Granted I'm not the best at subtlety, but i mean, like, cummon.)

Maybe you should write your parody as a novel. Or maybe it should be a group project. I'd love to help. :) (give me something to occupy my self with.)

thanks for warning me though. I might have seen the ad and decided otherwise to watch it.

Yosef said...

But that's not why people go to movies, to see the real world. If they wanted real world, they'd look out their windows or online.

Tobie said...

Yoni- the movie doesn't need a parody. It needs to have been a parody. But you might want to go see it anyway, both because it has a lot of really fun parts and because I personally always enjoy getting really worked up.

Yosef- Granted. But there's unreal life and there's deliberate and damaging deception. Too many otherwise intelligent people really do believe, in some corner of their heart, in happily ever after and love at first sight and songs in the heart keeping troubles away and so forth. And all movies naturally encourage this because movies want to be fun and light and end with a kiss and the music swelling. Fine. As I said, I don't hold it against movies to not raise the questions. I just hold it against this movie to raise the question and then convincingly argue an answer that is false, believable, and damaging. It's simply blatant propoganda for a view that drives me crazy.

Halfnutcase said...

tobie, you missunderstand. I don't mean write a parody of the movie, I mean write the parody you wanted the movie to be. :)

e-kvetcher said...

Movies?

Miri said...

Tobie I have to disagree with you. you missed a fundamental point of the movie - the fact that once the princess had been touched by the real world, she was inadverdently affected by real world values. that's why she couldn't finish the duet when her prince burst in and why she wanted to go on a date. the point of the movie was not that romance is the only way to go - the point was that you need a mixture. that's why the sharp contrast between pure romance and dry practicality; the point is, you need both for a relationship to work. and I have to say - the prince did not border on self-parody. the prince was self-parody personified. slaying a bus? come on now. and the evil stepmother was brilliant! she was nothing if not pure meta! I don't think you're giving this movie enough credit. I do see your point, I just don't think it's 100% valid.

Tobie said...

Yoni- it's tempting...

Miri- oh, please, that's balance? The person that you met two days before? (While Nancy and the prince don't even have that, not that we really are supposed to care about them) I know that the premise was supposed to be that she was affected by the real world as much as vice versa, but... c'mon. There was really none of that. Where exactly in the movie did you see Robert and Giselle getting to know each other deeply and personally before the kiss of true love and their happily ever after? Maybe the movie threw out lame tendrils towards the idea, but they never followed up on them sufficiently for them to make a difference. Also- five years? That sounds a lot liking working to me!

And yes, the prince was beautiful, although I was not particularly impressed by the step-mother.

Miri said...

really it was just that bit at the end where she was getting all meta, but that was pretty good stuff. and come on now. it was a two hour movie. don't you think you're asking a little much from it?

Tobie said...

No!! If it can't handle answering the questions, it shouldn't ask them.