For the next two days, I'm going to repost some old entries from several months ago (aka back when no one was reading my blog).
Then, to close out the year, on Wednesday I'll give you my list of "Bests" for 2008.
You're on the edge of your seat aren't you?
SOMEWHERE, WALT IS SMILING...
A rant and a rave...
This is going to be a bit awkward -- I'm about to gush.
About a Disney movie.
A Disney Princess movie.
The movie is Enchanted, and I'm...well...enchanted. Let me start by saying that I am a big fan of Walt Disney -- the man. He is one of my heroes. Walt Disney was a man with a dream, and he made it come true, then he proceeded to try and make other people's dreams come true, as well. He was a man concerned about the details. It was the quality of the product that set Disney -- the man, and his company -- apart from the crowd. And that reputation meant everything to Walt Disney. So, when I see what has happened to Walt Disney -- the conglomerate -- I think Walt must be rolling over in his grave.
Until late in his life, Walt Disney was not comfortably wealthy, despite the success of so many of his ventures. Why? Because he nearly bankrupted his company several times, in pursuit of excellence. Maybe that's not the best business sense, but he did it for you and me -- those who would buy his product. Ultimately, he set the standard for excellence.
So, what happened?
Disney has always come in waves of success. The last wave started in 1990, with The Little Mermaid, and crested in 1994 with The Lion King. There were a few decent movies after that, but the decline was obvious.
Now, let me digress for a moment to say that I only consider Pixar movies to be a Disney product in the broadest sense -- they were, in the beginning, a separate company. Nearly everything Pixar has done has been a home run. It's okay that Disney doesn't knock them out of the park every time, but in the pursuit of nothing more than cheap money, the company -- under Michael Eisner -- finally broke Walt's cardinal rule -- NO SEQUELS!
Walt's first major success was The Three Pigs. It was a runaway hit. The world clamored for more pigs, and at first Walt acquiesced. He made several different versions of the story, but realized quickly that none of them were bringing in the kind of attention that the first movie did. From then on, his motto was "You can't top pigs with pigs." And he never made another sequel.
Instead, he moved on to bigger and better things -- Snow White, Cinderella, Pinocchio. So, when the company bearing his name began to produce sequels -- it began with The Rescuers Down Under, and descended rapidly into straight to video garbage like Cinderella 2, Peter Pan 2, etc...I wanted to gag. Nearly every Disney classic -- with the exception, as far as I can tell, of Snow White, Pinocchio and Sleeping Beauty -- now has at least one sequel, made for just one reason -- to get gullible people to shell out good money for a cheap product, that masquerades as a Walt Disney movie.
So, on to my real reason for writing here: Enchanted is the best thing Disney has produced in a VERY LOOOOONG time. I was so affected by this movie, that it's a little startling to me. It's the story of Giselle, a cartoon Disney Princess, in the tradition of Ariel, from The Little Mermaid, Belle, from Beauty and the Beast, as well as classic Disney heroines like Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora. She spends her days singing to her furry woodland friends, and waiting to be swept off her feet by the obligatory Prince, at which point they will be married and share true love's first kiss, and live happily ever after.
Giselle runs afoul of the wicked stepmother -- of course -- and before she can live happily ever after, finds herself banished to reality -- modern day New York City, no longer a cartoon princess, but a flesh and blood human being. I don't want to give the movie away, but suffice it to say through the course of the story, Giselle experiences the ups and downs of life, and love, as a human being. There are constant references and homages -- both subtle and obvious -- to many of the preceding Disney films, as well as other cinematic treasures like The Sound of Music. In fact, each time you watch it, you'll see more.
And that was the danger that Enchanted faced. This movie could have been SOO bad! It could have descended into wink and nod parody. It could have been a joke, something along the lines of the drek that passes for entertainment on the Disney Channel (I'm sorry, but even the vaunted High School Musical wouldn't have cut it as a theatrical release). But, Enchanted works, and here's the reason why: Amy Adams.
The rest of the cast -- Patrick Dempsey as Robert, the love interest, James Marsden as Prince Edward/comic relief, and Susan Sarandon as Narissa, the evil queen -- are superb. But Amy Adams, as Giselle, sparkles! From beginning to end you believe that Giselle is a cartoon princess, brought to life. More than portraying a cartoon princess in the flesh -- you can see that at Disney on Ice -- Amy Adams' task is to give life to a character who begins as two-dimensional in every way -- not just the way she is drawn, but in her understanding of life and love -- and show the transformation to a fully three-dimensional person. She does it, and does it with a refreshing, wide eyed, innocence. She really is the embodiment of the character.
I'm a romantic at heart. I'm not afraid of happily ever after, but my reaction to this movie has been a little shocking, even to myself. Here's what happened: There's a feeling that we get only a couple of times in our lives. It's that wonderful feeling that starts somewhere near the heart, and spreads out to your whole being. It's the way we feel when we begin to fall in love with someone. I got that feeling when I watched this movie -- not through the whole thing, but at one particular point.
There is a scene, near the end, where all of the characters are at a ball, and Giselle and Robert are dancing (it's a beautiful homage to the waltzing scene in Beauty and the Beast), and they look into each other's eyes, and realize, for the first time, that this is really where they belong. They are falling in love. And I bought it.
I got that feeling.
I was feeling what the characters were supposed to be feeling. That does not happen to me -- not to that degree - when I watch movies. It was so starling to me, that I said out loud (to an empty room) "What is happening to me?"
That moment is the highlight of the movie to me -- it makes the story (this story about a cartoon princess) personal to me. The only thing that could ruin the experience for me would be if they made a sequel. I loved the characters. I love watching the movie.
This movie. This story. I don't need to know what else happens to them.
Happily ever after is a good ending.