(Photo from EW.com)
So how freakin' adorable is that Amy Adams?
Adams appears to be one of those actresses who likes to work and does not demand a lot of perks when the work seems interesting. She's got kind of a nothing part in "Charlie Wilson's War," but there she is, dutiful sidekick to Tom Hanks, doing scenes with Hanks and Julia Roberts, getting directed by Mike Nichols. I have been tempted to create a huge backstory for her character -- one where she was once like the other women in Charlie Wilson's staff, but she's the one who decided that she wanted to be taken seriously, and she changed her look accordingly -- but it doesn't really matter. It's not her movie.
While Adams has done some other interesting work (and was indeed also adorable in "Junebug"), nothing in "Charlie Wilson's War" prepares you for the way she just takes over "Enchanted," by turns delightful, tuneful, hopeful and so completely in synch with her fairy-tale character that she's not afraid to push her to the point where it's not just the other characters who might see her as bedbug-crazy. She's willing to unnerve the audience a bit, too, because she knows that her optimism will be vindicated and that a happy ending is not far away.
Never underestimate the power of a happy ending, either. It's a powerful draw for some moviegoers, and the Disney imprimatur on "Enchanted" means that children who will never go near "Charlie Wilson's War" will see Adams in this, much the way they'll encounter Timothy Spall here instead of in "Sweeney Todd," or James Marsden in this movie-with-music than in the musical-movie "Hairspray." (Indeed, there were quite a few kids at the "Enchanted" matinee we attended today.)
But "Enchanted" has more going for it than just a happy ending. It's not entirely original in bringing fairy-tale characters to the modern world (anyone remember the '80s TV series "The Charmings"?). There's a point somewhat early on when the movie feels blah, and the female-empowerment climax is too over the top considering what has gone before.
Still, the movie is still plenty clever once it gets Adams settled into NYC, the songs are very likable, there are Disney-cartoon references scattered through, and it knows how to mingle live action, CGI and cartoon animation. Indeed, the movie is very able at mingling, both in visual forms and with music. This is not a musical per se but it is willing to interrupt the action for a couple of extended musical numbers. Good ones, too.
Again, this is not a new trick; Disney in Walt's days more than once combined live action and animation, with music thrown in. Only this is a movie built on old things -- fairy tales, you know -- and still having fresh fun with them. The cast, which also includes Patrick Dempsey as The Guy Who Must Learn To Love and Susan Sarandon as an evil witch, does its job quite well. But Adams is the one who makes you keep paying attention.