Disney Movies; DMA; Disney Wiki; IMDb; Rotten Tomatoes; TV Tropes; Wikipedia
The very first thing I liked about this movie is how after the standard Disney opening logo of the Magic Kingdom, the movie just starts zooming in on the logo's castle... Then, of course, we see a pop-up storybook with a voice-over narration (by Julie Andrews) that introduces us to the backstory, about a magical kingdom known as Andalasia, where lived an evil queen (Narissa, though we don't learn her name til near the end) who wanted to prevent her stepson from ever marrying, because that would mean she'd lose her throne. Once that's established, we see a pretty maiden named Giselle (Amy Adams, the best thing about the movie), and all her talking animal friends. She's had a dream about a “true love,” and she's hoping to meet such a person someday. So she sings a song about “true love's kiss.” It's all very classic Disney stuff, very sweet and innocent and fun and uplifting and retro... but at the same time, even while it feels like it could be sincerely that type of old-school animated movie, like “Cinderella” or “Snow White” or something, there's something that feels ever so slightly tongue-in-cheek about it. Like the people making the movie know they're playing to a modern, cynical audience who may be capable of simultaneously appreciating such movies and also rolling their eyes at them. People these days want irony, they want twists, maybe a bit of realism... and old-school fairy tales are inherently unrealistic. So I find it a very neat trick to appeal to both sensibilities at once, even if at this point it does seem to be a bit more heavily weighted toward the sincere rather than the ironic.
We then meet a dashing prince, who spends his days troll-hunting. Suddenly, as he himself starts singing about longing for true love's kiss, he hears the maiden singing, in the distance, and rides off on his horse, to find her. Of course, he ends up rescuing her from a troll, and of course they instantly fall in love. Then, on the day Giselle is to marry Prince Edward, the evil queen (who is, of course, rather hot herself, in an evil sorta way) magically disguises herself as an old crone, who insists on giving Giselle a wedding gift: a wish at a wishing well. But while Giselle is making her wish, the queen pushes her into the ridiculously deep well, and she falls into what looks like some kind of cosmic phenomenon. Then she is transported to the real world (in New York City), no longer animated (but of course, still beautiful).
Giselle is of course very confused by everything, and things do not go so well for her. But she is rescued by a man named Robert, a divorce lawyer who I guess is divorced, himself, who has a six-year-old daughter named Morgan (who, of course, is excited to meet Giselle, who seems like a fairy tale princess). Robert is planning to get remarried, to a woman named Nancy (played by Idina Menzel, familiar to me from Glee), but dealing with Giselle (who seems pretty crazy, talking like a fairy tale character in a real world context) interferes with that. Meanwhile, Giselle's chipmunk friend, Pip, has gotten Prince Edward, and the two of them tumble down the well together to rescue Giselle. (In the real world, Pip is CGI, and can't speak, much to his surprise. Well, he can kind of speak. It's... I dunno. It's just weird. But he relies somewhat on pantomime, which doesn't work well because Edward is apparently rendered moronic by his narcissism.)
Well. Man, I dunno what to say. It all really is crazy and hilarious. Giselle tidies up Robert's apartment, with help from nearby animals including rats, pigeons, and bugs. But then Nancy shows up and finds her there, which of course she misinterprets. (Though Giselle will later help patch things up between Robert and Nancy.) Meanwhile, the evil queen sends her servant, Nathaniel, to the real world to stop Edward from finding Giselle. She also wants Nathaniel to find Giselle himself, and give her a poisoned apple. Which Pip could warn Edward about, if only he could talk properly.
Anyway... when Robert finds out Giselle has only known Edward for a day, he tries to explain how love actually works. And she uses a song to explain her idea of how love works. Honestly, I'm solidly on Robert's side in this matter, but I can't help but adore the way Giselle expresses her feelings, even if I mostly disagree. In fact, it makes me think that if I ever fall in love with someone, after a long time of getting to know her, it'd be awesome if we could take time once in a while to practice an elaborate song and dance number with lots of back-up singers and dancers. You know, it'd be something to do together. Looks fun. I mean, if you know what you're doing. (Such things obviously don't happen spontaneously in real life, though oddly enough, Giselle seems to be surrounded by people who can back her up... it must be magic.)
I don't want to give away any more of the plot, but there are, of course, happy endings for everyone (except Narissa). The movie is mostly quite predictable, though some things may not be entirely predictable. But like I said, it's a neat trick making it be appealing in two opposing ways. It's really fun and sweet and hilarious and redonkulous and even romantic. (I should say, I could have put this review in various categories, like "animated"- even if most of it is live-action- or "fantasy" or "comedy" or "musical" or "family" or "quirky," but really I think "romantic" is maybe sort of the best fit.) Honestly, even if I'm not totally convinced... that the ultimate romantic pairings of the movie actually make sense in a realistic way, it makes a bit more sense than I expected. I mean, you have to go into this expecting Giselle and Robert will end up together, and also kind of dreading that it will be too... convenient. (That, btw, is a word I enjoyed in one of the DVD's bonus features, about Pip.) But I think one of the really neat things about the story is how, even if their respective feelings about love were both a bit too far to one extreme or the other, they both were partly right and partly wrong. And Giselle starts to see things Robert's way, while he starts to see things her way. It's not really believable, but as I said, it's not as unbelievable as I feared. And honestly, that's kind of what I'd like to have someday... a romance that is a mix of fairy tale and reality. Because I really don't think either one is good enough to properly represent what true love should be. It should be both.