Year Released: 2007
Directed by: Kevin Lima
Starring: Amy Adams, James Marsden, Patrick Dempsey, Susan Sarandon
(PG, 108 min.)
"Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, / Or what’s a heaven for?" Robert Browning
What if Alice didn’t stumble into Wonderland, but instead the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, and the Queen of Hearts exploded out of the rabbit hole into our world? Something along those lines happens when a Beautiful Princess Bride, her Prince Charming, and a persistently annoying Evil Queen erupt from a manhole in modern Manhattan.
New York nuance gets a fairy tale spin in this melting pot of cartoon whimsy, romantic comedy, and Broadway musical --- with a liberal portion of Disney self-parody thrown in for good measure.
In one of the quickest courtships, even for animation standards, Giselle (Amy Adams, who brought down the house in Junebug) sings a song of longing for her true love only to be catapulted into his arms, and then whisked away upon his white charger to become his bride the following day. Not falling in with the happily ever after crowd is Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon) his evil stepmother, who is not yet ready to give up her crown so easily. She quickly dispatches with the troublesome beauty, sending Giselle to “a place where there are no happily ever-afters” before the wedding can take place.
Of course, New York City is the place so vilified by Queen Narissa, and Giselle enters rather inauspiciously through a manhole cover, all white lace and promises, with one hum dinger of a hoop skirt petticoat to boot. Having survived New York traffic, a street person who steals her jeweled tiara, and a drenching downpour, she seeks comfort at a beautiful pink castle looming above.
Poor bedraggled Giselle is attempting to climb into a signboard advertising the Palace Casino when single dad/divorce lawyer Robert Phillip (Patrick Dempsey) reluctantly comes to her rescue, just barely catching her as she tumbles into his arms from atop the billboard. And as the days tick by, several more inhabitants from Giselle’s Andalasia are ejected from the very same Manhattan manhole – Prince Edward (James Marsden), his manservant Nathaniel (Timothy Spall), in secret working for the queen, Giselle’s favorite, Pip, a talking chipmunk who somehow loses his voice in the transition, as well as the queen herself, at long last, with her supply of three gleaming poisoned apples.
Certainly, this sets the scene for some significant jabs at the Big Apple itself, but for the most part, under Giselle’s sunny influence, the city sets out to show Queen Narissa’s prediction wrong. In fact, Central Park, so recently a menacing Gotham in Jodie Foster’s The Brave One, becomes one joyous stage, an over the top musical where hard hats turn into June Taylor dancers and seniors on park benches are suddenly song and dance men.
And of course, as the two worlds collide, we have some comic misadventures, in particular Giselle’s songful cry to her cutesy animal friends – you know the helpful little mice and birds who helped Cinderella get ready for the ball. When Giselle sings so sweetly from Her New York balcony, the creatures respond as well, only these are urban beasts – ponderous rats, scruffy pigeons, and teeming cockroaches. But the otherwise loathsome vermin get the job done, although the little rat tails that act as dish clothes are enough to turn you to paper plates indefinitely.
The film’s gentle self-parody never mocks though, its sly self deprecating tone only ingratiating more fully those Disney ideals such as true love, honor, and loyalty. There are, of course, some reversals and transformations, perhaps the main one being that Giselle, in addition of being rescued, actually does some rescuing herself, even if it is saving us from ourselves, returning us to a child’s world where innocence and imagination trump experience and reality. Like Edmund Gwenn’s Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street, released some sixty years ago, Giselle also deals with a single parent hoping to bundle a daughter in a blanket of bland reality, an adult settling for a sad approximation of true happiness. In both cases, the child and not the adult has the true wisdom.
Perhaps what Enchanted does best is exactly what all the Fairy Tales of old have done. It pictures a glorious ideal, one that is certainly out of our grasp, but one nonetheless we are obliged to pursue in our own imperfect and clumsy way. Because, as they say, if there isn’t a happily ever after, then what’s ever after for?
Toddler talk: My grandson's favorite was Pip, the talking chipmunk, especially after he all but lost his voice in New York and had to try to communicate with Prince Edward in pantomime. Conclusion: Even though the guy really looks good in tights, I wouldn't want gorgeous Prince Edward as my partner in Charades.
Giselle and Robert’s quiet dinner together – don’t dare call it a date since his daughter Morgan is with them – is at a small restaurant featuring a simply beautiful pizza. We get to feast our eyes upon it, but that’s about all since it disintegrates in the blazing oven before anyone can eat it. If you still long for an authentic New York style pizza, here you go.
Otherwise, like Prince Edward, feast on this street food favorite, a New York Hot Dog with Grilled Onions. And I’ve given a few broad-brush strokes on another food all the rave in the Big Apple, too, the Huarache, a kind of open-faced taco.
New York Street Food
Hot Dogs with Vendor Style Onions
8 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cups onions, cut in quarters and diced crosswise
1 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
8 hot dogs
8 hot dog buns
Heat oil slightly in a heavy skillet and add onions, tossing until coated with oil. Add paprika, cumin, salt and pepper and toss again.
Cover and simmer over low heat about 25 minutes, stirring often, without allowing onions to brown. Onions should be just a little firm when finished. If mixture becomes dry, add a few tablespoons water.
Grill hot dogs. Open buns and toast over fire. Put hot dogs in buns and spoon the onion mixture over them, dividing equally. Serve immediately.
Huarache (Sandal shaped open Taco)
Here is another great idea, with just the basic form and ingredients.
Vendors line two streets that border a soccer field in the Red Hook Recreation Area in New York City where they and dish out Mexican, Central American, South American and Caribbean specialties every Saturday and Sunday, rain or shine, roughly from May through October.
The huarache is a large oval corn tortilla, just millimeters thicker than a standard tortilla, on account of the impossibly thin smear of beans contained between the thinly stretched masa. Once the huarache is cooked you can have it topped with meat of your choice — pork and chorizo are both good options — and then a battery of condiments: salsa verde, salsa rojo, chopped avocado, grated cheese, pickled jalapeños and more. Served open-face, a huarache is a meal in itself.
Recipe Source: CDKitchen.com