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The Reeler Blog

Some Enchanted Evening

By Christopher Campbell

The Reeler visited the Ziegfeld Theater Monday night, when Disney and the Mayor's Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting hosted a special New York premiere of the studio's new animation-meets-live-action fairy tale, Enchanted. Mayor Michael Bloomberg went so far as to present Disney chief Robert Iger with an official document proclaiming Monday as "Enchanted Day." "The title is spectacular," Bloomberg said to the audience before the show, pointing out that Enchanted employed over 3,000 New Yorkers spotlighted city landmarks from the Brooklyn Bridge and Katz's Delicatessen. "It really does say everything about our city."

The powers that be: (L-R) Disney president Dick Cook, co-star Patrick Dempsey, mayor Michael Bloomberg, co-star Amy Adams, Disney CEO Robert Iger and director Kevin Lima at Monday's Enchanted premiere (Photo: WireImage)

All of which was pretty ironic once the screening began, because Enchanted features possibly the most artificial-looking New York since Eyes Wide Shut. Sure, it was actually shot in places like Central Park, Columbus Circle, Times Square and other recognizable locales, but it comes off as dated, generic, glossed-over and unhip. Aside from its portrayal of the Bowery as a dirty, sketchy area (has anyone at Disney been down there lately?), the movie looks like an obvious I (Heart) NY commercial. Or a live-action cartoon, I guess. And perhaps that's what the filmmakers were going for.

"I think New York is an American fairy tale city," Enchanted director Kevin Lima told The Reeler. "It can be scary, or it can be gentle and kind. The other thing: I was looking for a complete contrast to a Disney movie. So here I am doing a Disney film that's soft and cuddly and round, and you come to New York and it's hard and straight and there are no trees in parts of the city."

This contrast would have had a stronger impact had New York looked more real, considering it is supposed to literally clash with the animated fairy-tale world we see in the movie's opening before the soon-to-be-Princess Giselle (Amy Adams) is banished by a wicked queen (Susan Sarandon) to the strange land of buses, cell phones and -- worst of all -- divorce.

But at least it wasn't shot on a soundstage or in another city.

"Where else can you get this?" Lima asked, referring to the ambiance of New York. "They talked about shooting this in Toronto for a moment, and I said, 'Are you kidding me? They don't have a Brooklyn Bridge; they don't have a Times Square. How are we going to do that?' It had to be here."

Stephen Schwartz, the veteran lyricist who composed Enchanted's songs with partner Alan Menken, agreed. "The film definitely needed to take place in New York," said Schwartz, who admitted that none of the songs in Enchanted are specifically about the city. "New York is the quintessential contemporary urban location, and it's as far away from a fairy tale kingdom as you can get, even though it isn't in a way. It's both very different from a fairy tale kingdom and it's own kind of fairy tale kingdom."

Among the evening's main red-carpet attractions was Enchanted leading man Patrick Dempsey, a k a Grey's Anatomy's Dr. McDreamy. "The energy in the city, certainly the architecture," he said, ticking off a few of his favorite things about shooting in New York. "The history -– when we were doing the musical numbers I thought of Hair and thought of On the Town, and you think about all those things and that if the movie worked it would be a part of that history."

Dempsey also explained to The Reeler that parts of New York have sentimental value for the actor, who arrived here in 1983 and spent many years unemployed, wondering if he'd ever have a job. "Anywhere I go in the city I have a memory of that period of my life," he said. "And I never forget it. Anytime I cross that section of the city, or that stoop or certain area, I stop to think about those moments and where I've come and where I hopefully can go."

Posted at November 20, 2007 7:25 AM

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