DVD Tuesday: ‘Enchanted’, ‘I Am Legend’

by W. Andrew Powell

EnchantedMultiple book adaptations arrive on DVD this week, plus two films that focus on two drastically different visions of New York City. Enchanted is however the big release of the week, and happens to be one of the first big signs that Disney still knows how to make a great fairly tale come to life. Also arriving this week are those three book adaptations, including the vampire survivor tale I Am Legend, Academy Award nominee Atonement, and Love in the Time of Cholera.

Disney’s library of films should impress almost anyone, especially if you happen to be a movie fanatic like me. For decades the company produced dozens of classics, including some of the best fairy tales of all time – like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Beauty and the Beast. In recent years though, it was easy to wonder what had happened to the once great film studio.

Enchanted is finally a step in the right direction for Disney, and captures some of the greatest moments from their best fairy tales, while adding fresh characters, a few familiar settings, and then turning the whole tale on its edge to make it a really cute romantic comedy.

From the animated world to the real one, we follow Giselle (Amy Adams) as she hunts for her true love and tries to get back to her home of Andalasia where cute animals are her friends and apparently the handsome Prince Edward (James Marsden) is just around the corner. In her animated land Giselle has the perfect life, and is about to be married to Edward, but his evil stepmother (Susan Sarandon) can’t allow the two to get married for fear of losing her throne and pushes Giselle into a well that leads to our world.

Coming up out of a sewer hole, Giselle finds herself in New York City where she meets Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and his daughter Morgan (Rachel Covey). Morgan convinces her father to take Giselle in for the night, and what follows are comic mishaps involving street creatures coming to help clean Robert’s apartment, troubles with his to-be fiancé, and the eventual arrival of Prince Edward. Throw in some poisoned apples, an evil henchman (Timothy Spall), and a chipmunk that keeps trying to warn Edward of Giselle’s impending doom, and you’ve got one of the most lively and cute adventures Disney has made in a long time.

This is definitely a film that is aimed at families, but it is so likeable I would recommend it to anyone. The cast is very good, with Spall, Dempsey and Sarandon doing their usual bits very nicely, but it is Adams and Marsden who steal the show, along with all of the musical numbers. Adams has never been better, and there is nothing like watching her dance and sing in Central Park with Dempsey in tow.

While the DVD offers a few bonus features, including three great making-of featurettes on developing the biggest scenes in the film, Enchanted does not offer a lot of extras, which was a slight disappointment. There is also a slightly annoying extra suggesting that you check the film out on Blu-Ray since that version comes with a number of features you can’t get on DVD. Enchanted is so good though it really does not need any features to draw you in, and it is hopefully just the start of better films from Disney.

I Am Legend
Will Smith is the perfect everyman-survivor for I Am Legend, but for a film that promises a lot of tense action, there is definitely something missing in this story about a man living in New York City after a virus has mutated the population.

Based on Richard Matheson‘s 1954 novel, this is actually the third adaptation of the book, and places Smith in the role of military scientist Robert Neville. Robert watched years ago as a virus that was meant to cure cancer turned the world around him into vampires, with all the prerequisite primal urges, and the aversion to sunlight. Trying to stay alive in a city filled with the hungry creatures, Robert has created a bunker out of his home and lives there with his only companion – his dog Samantha. Each day they go out, hunt for food, wait for any other possible survivors at the docks, and then go home as sunset approaches.

Robert is not content to wander the city and live out his days hunting for survivors though. He knows that he is immune to the virus, and has been working on an antidote in his basement laboratory that could cure the virus’ effects. He just has to find a way to make it work.

I Am Legend certainly has a lot going for it and Smith is easily likable. He is such a natural screen icon to cast in this role that I literally cannot imagine anyone else as Robert Neville. It is also impressive to see him, along with help from his dog star, fill nearly half of the movie with his presence alone – a tall order for any actor. The action sequences in the film are also original and very tense, with New York unquestionably transformed into a vacant shell.

Where the film falls flat is in the rendering of its monsters, and in the last quarter of the film as Robert meets another survivor. Up until this point the film has everything you could want in an action-drama, including a few decent laughs, but the ending of the film feels like it has no real anchor to the rest of the story. It seems an inevitable ending, but one that lacks a satisfying finale.

Features on the DVD are also practically non-existent, and the ones that are included are strictly for your computer. This is in fact the strangest aspect of the film since I rarely watch DVDs on my computer. The included alternate ending is interesting but it still seems strange that they would not offer it as a standard feature to watch on your television.

Also arriving this week…

Atonement stars Keira Knightley as Cecilia, and James McEvoy as Robbie; two lovers who are torn apart when a jealous sibling falsely accuses Robbie of a crime that has him sent to prison. Ultimately, Robbie ends up in the army during World War II, and his accuser must face the realization that she must make amends for what she has done. Atonement was nominated for numerous awards, including the Oscar for Best Picture, and has been widely praised as a compelling adaptation of Ian McEwan famous book.

Love in the Time of Cholera is yet another book adaptation, but Gabriel Garcia Marquez‘s novel doesn’t quite get the same treatment as Atonement. Starring Javier Bardem and Giovanna Mezzogiorno, the film is a tale of life-long love which covers more than 50 years of our character’s lives. Bardem is Florentino, a young man who falls for Mezzogiorno’s beautiful Fermina, but finds that he has no chance of marrying the woman because of her father. The classic tale is rendered flat for lack of intensity, which is of course the killing blow for any film about love and passion.

Plus, TV titles arriving on DVD include season three of Battlestar Galactica, the eighth season of Married With Children, and the (perhaps) short-lived The Bionic Woman, volume one.

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