What works most in “Disenchanted” is the general sense of joy there is in making a somewhat more old-fashioned musical in the vein of classic Disney fare. (Morgan, now a surly teenager, briefly scoffs at the idea of Giselle singing, but it’s fortunately a one-and-done comment that’s easy enough to chalk up to a teenager being embarrassed by her parent’s behavior than a studio being nervous about embracing the musical genre.) Composer Alan Menken and lyricist Stephen Schwartz reunite here, after having worked on the original “Enchanted” as well as a couple of Disney’s animated films. Though few of the songs have quite the same ineffable staying power as “How Do You Know” from the original, the anthemic “Love Power” is well suited for its main performer, returning cast member Idina Menzel as a transplant from the real world who now lives in Andalasia. (Menzel, you may recall, did not get a chance to sing a single note in the original “Enchanted.” Consider it the least surprising development that the voice behind Queen Elsa of Arendelle not only gets a big in-film number but the end-credits remix as well.)
The script also has a good deal of fun playing around with audience recognition of villainous tropes, as when Giselle’s trusty squirrel sidekick Pip (voiced by comedian/podcaster Griffin Newman) goes through a shocking transformation of his own to align with being an evil stepmother’s plaything. Just as “Enchanted” playfully winked at recognizable aspects of the good side of Disney animation, so too does “Disenchanted” tackle the darker side and do so in a package almost as winning as its predecessor. So many of the actors, also including supporting players Yvette Nicole Brown and Jayma Mays as two suburban lackeys, get a kick out of being bad, and it’s easy to see why.
If there’s anything truly baffling about “Disenchanted,” it’s that an all-ages fantasy featuring a very famous movie star is being kicked straight to streaming. “Enchanted” was an agreeable, well-liked family film (one released almost 15 years ago to the day, also during the Thanksgiving holidays). The fact that we’re getting a sequel implies Disney knows there’s interest among audiences. And yet this film – one whose production is impressively mounted, whatever its budget may be – will only be available on streaming. It’s an unfortunate situation for a film that manages to defy most expectations for such a late-stage sequel. “Disenchanted” is saddled with a silly title, it’s true, but the story within that title is a lot more enjoyable than would have seemed likely.
/Film Rating: 7 out of 10