Like a lurking spectrum haunting my dreams, Disney returns with another straight-to-streaming sequel, Disenchanted. The 2007 live-action fairy tale redux Enchanted represented a breath of fresh air for Disney, showcasing an alluring array of bright music numbers and clever twists on the studio's well-known formula. The feature also marked a mainstream breakout for star Amy Adams - a six-time Oscar nominee who imbued an exuberant presence into the lead role of princess Giselle.
Fourteen years later, Disenchanted releases on Disney+ to little fanfare. This sequel follows Giselle and her husband, Robert, as they move into the suburbs. What promises to be a fresh start for their family quickly sours on Giselle's teenage stepdaughter Morgan. To correct the situation, Giselle wishes to change their neighborhood into a fantasy world. Her request soon presents unpredicted ramifications as Giselle comes face-to-face with her possible existence as a fairy tale cliched - the wicked stepmother.
Disenchanted is an ironically apt name for this lame-duck sequel. While Enchanted cultivated a passionate audience from its balance of whimsy and intellect, Disenchanted never captures the vibrant spark that enchanted viewers in the first place.
The numerous deficiencies are apparent from the film's onset. Director Adam Shankman exhibits little care in his director-for-hire efforts, showcasing a studio-friendly visual sheen that looks more akin to a half-hearted Disney Channel program than a big-budget feature film. Even the film's attempts at showstopping music numbers and lavish action setpieces look aggressively shoddy - a fact made all the more inexcusable considering the unlimited money and assets Disney has at their disposal.
I can't blame Shankman too much because it's clear Disney inserted little effort across the entire production. The screenplay is as thankless as it gets, regurgitating its predecessor's attempts at modernizing fairy tale tropes but without the cleverness and perspective that made Enchanted so noteworthy. As a result, viewers can practically set their watch for when each unsurprising plot twist and maudlin moment of melodrama will occur. Every detail, from the half-hearted jokes to the trite music numbers, feels like a lifeless shell of what the original achieved.
Even the star-studded cast seems bored by Disenchanted. Amy Adams tries her best to elevate wayward material, but her genuine efforts are squandered in a movie that doesn't know what it wants to do with her character. Gieselle fluctuates from wholesome positivity to moments of utter wickedness as she falls into a sinister spell. Like most elements of Disenchanted, Gieselle's character change feels like a half-hearted attempt at fusing new energy into the proceedings. Co-stars Patrick Dempsey, Maya Rudolph, and James Marsden are equally wasted in roles that underutilize their distinct talents.
Disenchanted never answers one crucial question - why continue the Enchanted story? You would think after 14 years, Disney would concoct an inspired vision for building upon one of the best live-action films of their modern era. Instead, Disenchanted reads more like a last-minute project slapped together by procrastinating parties vying to meet an imminent deadline. It's an undernourished and uneventful feature that wastes its creative talent's energy and, worst of all - the audience's time.
Disenchanted is now playing on Disney+.