I wrote this essay for a Comedy Film class during the Spring Semester 2008.
Film: Enchanted (2007)
A “fish out of water” situation is the comic base for this film. The characters of Giselle, Prince Edward, Nathaniel, and even a chipmunk named Pip, are from a fairy tale land named Andalasia. They begin in an animated world but through the evil designs of Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon), they become mortal and end up in a world of reality: New York City. The situation creates a comic climate on two levels. First, humorous situations arise from the innocence of the characters in a land so foreign to their usual existence, and second, references to animated films add amusing sparks throughout the film.
Giselle (Amy Adams) does not understand the reputation of New York City, and her innocence creates several funny situations; for instance, when Giselle becomes mortal (through trickery of the evil queen), she frantically scampers around in a huge wedding dress, trying to make sense of her situation. Cold and afraid, she approaches a homeless old man on the sidewalk and pleads for a smile and kind word to lift her spirits. He gives a toothless grin then grabs her tiara and runs off. Later, when Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and his daughter discover Giselle, she tells them, “Nobody has been very nice to me.” Robert responds sarcastically, “Yeah, well, welcome to New York.” She brightens tremendously and answers in all sincerity, “Thank you!”
Prince Edward (James Marsden) demonstrates a “you ain’t from around here” situation when he attacks a bus, thinking a monster entrapped the people. He stabs a sword through the top of the bus (barely missing a passenger below) as he shouts, “You’ve met your match, you foul bellowing beast!” Then he tells the passengers, “The steel beast is dead peasants! I’ve set you all free!” Of course, the only real danger he needed to worry about was the irate bus driver. She was not grateful or understanding of his supposed heroic actions, and storms off the bus to confront him. Another wonderful “fish out of water” moment is when Prince Edward searches for Giselle in an apartment building, knocking on door after door. An obviously pregnant woman surrounded by small children answers a door, and seeing the "Prince Charming" attire, she sighs, "You're too late."
Another level of comedy stems from the references, or homage, to Disney animated films. “Examples of homages in a film are the inclusion of part of an earlier film, a re-creation of parts of it, or a respectful imitation of aspects of an earlier film” (Phillips 632). For instance, consider the reference to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: when Giselle wanders the streets in her wedding gown, she approaches a corner and suddenly a disgruntled little person scrambles out from beneath her skirts muttering, “Hey! Watch it, will ya?” Giselle, thinking he is a familiar dwarf, responds, “Grumpy!” He looks at her, “Geez, lady! Are you for real?” To which she answers, “I-I think so.” Then in a later scene she tells Robert she needs to “find a place to rest my head for the night,” like a “nearby meadow or a hollow tree.” He questions, “A hollow tree?” She answers, “Or a house full of dwarves. I hear they’re very hospitable,” giving yet another reference to Snow White.
There are many examples of homage throughout the film. For instance, Robert lets Giselle rest on his couch. When she awakens in the morning and realizes his apartment needs tidying, she enlists the help of small creatures. She leans out the window and warbles a melody similar to Sleeping Beauty. The audience expects the typical fairy tale animals of bluebirds, squirrels, and bunnies to respond—or perhaps no response at all since she is in a mortal world—but instead, creatures of the big city come to her aid: pigeons, rats, and cockroaches. And, tipping the hat to Cinderella, the creatures help her make clothing. Of course Robert does not appreciate the huge dress-shaped hole cut out of his drapes.
Other references to animated films are more subtle, like having Jodi Benson—the voice for Ariel in The Little Mermaid—play the part of Sam, the receptionist at Robert’s office. In addition, while Robert talks with Sam, Giselle looks at fish in an aquarium while music from The Little Mermaid plays softly in the background. Late in the film, Robert attends a ball wearing a costume similar to the Beast in Beauty and the Beast, providing another subtle reference.
Having characters come from an animated world into the real world gives plenty of material for “fish out of water” comic scenes. Add the nods to other Disney films in the mix and Enchanted has the audience swimming in laughter.
NOTE: I have the citation references, but opted not to publish them along with this post. If you would like to know a specific source, please ask, and I will gladly provide the information.