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'Disenchanted' is more frustrating than fun

Disenchanted didn’t have to be this way. The sequel to the 2007 musical fantasy Enchanted has a story that wasn’t necessarily doomed. If you don’t remember, 15 years ago, Amy Adams’ Giselle was tossed by an evil queen through a portal from her fairy tale home of Andalasia to New York City. She eventually decided to stay in our imperfect world after meeting Patrick Dempsey’s Robert, though I’ve never quite figured out why. But here we are, present day, Giselle and Robert are married, with a new baby and Robert’s daughter Morgan now a grumpy teenager. Giselle is starting to feel disaffected, so the family moves to the suburbs. And when that doesn’t work, she tries magic, making a wish that they would all live a fairy tale life. This thrusts them all into the world she thinks she wants, flipping the original movie on its head.

Not the worst idea, and it gets better when we all remember Giselle is Morgan’s stepmother, and stepmothers don’t generally end up being the heroes of fairy tales. We had possibilities, here. But then we start piling plots on top of each other, and none of them become subplots so much as competing primary conflicts, and we wonder why we’re spending time watching two characters fight each other when it would ultimately be bad for either one of them to win, and besides, there are more pressing issues at hand.

The movie leans a lot harder on musical numbers than it does on comedy, different from the first film, and I think the bloated plot would have made more sense if this had been developed first as a stage musical, something that could have worked, too, if the songs made any gestures toward exuberance.

The look of the movie is exuberant, though—it’s delightfully colorful and beautifully designed. Amy Adams is nearly always fantastic and we’re given hints of what she might have done here if she’d been given a better story, and I’m happy for Patrick Dempsey that he gets to have more than one expression in this sequel, even if he’s still a bit of a dud. But the movie all just ends up being frustrating rather than fun, and left me feeling… well, do I need to remind you of its title?

Disenchanted is on Disney+

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.