I absolutely adore my eight-year-old niece Alyssa, but I don't always adore the movies we see together. Lately my brother and I have fallen into a pattern when we take his kids to the movies: he goes to some shoot-em-up or chop-socky flick with his 15-year-old son Nicholas, and I take Alyssa to something a tad more appropriate to her age and girly sensibility. Fortunately, my sensibilities are decidedly girly as well, but I have been forced to see some pretty dreadful stuff, such as the recent "Underdog" movie. Sheesh.
Well, this weekend, while Mark and Nick took in "Beowulf," Alyssa and I went to see "Enchanted." I was actually looking forward to this movie, given its multifarious Broadway pedigree, and I'm glad to say that it did not disappoint. The songs are by Stephen Schwartz (lyrics) and Alan Menken (music), a formidable pair indeed, and they do a bang-up job of sending up archetypal Disney ditties, particularly with "True Love's Kiss" and "Happy Working Song." The big supposed show-stopper, "That's How You Know," is a bit more lackluster, but it certainly serves its purpose.
Beyond the Schwartz/Menken connection, the movie also employs a healthy complement of veterans from the New York stage, and it was lots of fun trying to pick them all out, including Tony-winner Idina Menzel (as Patrick Dempsey's girlfriend), Tony-winner Tonya Pinkins (Dempsey's divorce client), Edmund Lyndeck (derelict old man), Brian D'Arcy James (voice on soundtrack), Gregory Jbara (voice on soundtrack), and Daniel Mastrogiorgio (ensemble).
As a charming bonus, the movie also employs a number of Broadway performers who have previously served as the voices of various Disney heroines. Jodi Benson, who plays Dempsey's assistant, was the voice of Ariel in "The Little Mermaid."
Judy Kuhn, who has a very brief bit as a pregnant woman with a bunch of kids, was the singing voice of "Pocahontas." And Paige O'Hara, whom I didn't quite catch in the movie, but who is nonetheless listed in the credits, was the voice of Belle in "Beauty and the Beast."
The movie itself is quite good, and would still be so even without the theater-queen-recognition factor. It's a clever and engaging mix of animation and live-action, and it gently and lovingly skewers many of the conventions and clichés that Disney invented in the first place. "Enchanted" is a terrific holiday treat for the kids in your life, be they female or male, but it's also great for tapping into that eight-year-old girl within.
I know I have one. Isn't it time you embraced yours?