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4K Ultra HD Review: Don’t Worry Darling

November 29, 2022

By John Corrado

Please note that this is a review of the 4K Ultra HD release of Don’t Worry Darling. For my full thoughts on the film itself, you can read my original theatrical review right here.

After releasing in theatres in September, Olivia Wilde’s much buzzed about second directorial effort Don’t Worry Darling is now debuting on 4K Ultra HD this week.

Mired in reports of behind the scenes drama that spilled out into the open, Don’t Worry Darling attracted a lot of pre-release publicity involving gossip about what transpired on-set, which in some ways is more interesting than the uneven film itself.

Set in a seemingly utopic 1950s suburban community, where Alice (Florence Pugh) lives with her husband Jack (Harry Styles) and starts to realize things are not as they seem, Wilde’s overly ambitious attempt at a psychological thriller feels surface-deep.

While Florence Pugh’s good performance and Matthew Libatique’s attractive cinematography keep it from being a total write-off, Don’t Worry Darling is a heavily flawed film that frustratingly only shows flashes of true promise. But, despite these ample story problems, the film looks good with its glossy surfaces and 1950s colours, and the 2160p with HDR-10 presentation on the 4K disc is excellent.

Film Rating: ★★ (out of 4)

Bonus Features (4K Ultra HD):

The 4K disc has no bonus features, but the set comes with a regular Blu-ray that includes a featurette and single deleted scene. A code for a digital copy are also included in the package.

The Making of Don’t Worry Darling (17 minutes, 12 seconds): Wilde is joined by members of the cast and crew to discuss the themes of the story, as well as capturing the look of the 1950s through the impressive production design, costumes and cinematography, in this pretty solid behind-the-scenes featurette. It’s a bit longer than expected, but given all that reportedly went on behind the scenes, it’s easy to feel like tongues are being bitten and stuff is being held back.

Alice’s Nightmare (Deleted Scene) (54 seconds): A black-and-white dream sequence presented on its own without much context.

Don’t Worry Darling is a Warner Bros. Home Entertainment release. It’s 123 minutes and rated R.

Street Date: November 29th, 2022

Review: Spoiler Alert

November 28, 2022

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Based on Michael Ausiello’s autobiographical book Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies, the point of the movie Spoiler Alert (and the book that preceded it) is to tell a sweeping love story where we already know the tragic outcome. The film succeeds at this with mostly satisfying but somewhat mixed results.

Jim Parsons stars in the film as Michael, a writer for TV Guide who falls in love with photographer Kit Cowan (Ben Aldridge), with their relationship taking a heartbreaking turn when Kit is given a terminal diagnosis of a rare form of neuroendocrine cancer.

Parsons narrates the film, which was adapted for the screen by actor David Marshall Grant (who plays a therapist) and advice columnist Dan Savage. The screenplay charts the ups and downs of their relationship over the years – including the Christmases that they spent together – as Michael reflects back on both their good and bad times as a couple, while helping Kit through his final few months with the illness.

The film is directed by Michael Showalter, who mined similar territory with better results in The Big Sick. A man watching his partner dying of cancer could have made for a completely depressing film, but Showalter instead goes for The Big Sick approach of trying to balance both humour and heart. The only trouble is that, while Spoiler Alert is presented in the same vein as that 2017 film, the title all but tells us it won’t have a feel-good ending, which Showalter has some trouble reconciling with. The film is clearly modelled after other cancer dramedies like 50/50 and Terms of Endearment (including a reference to Shirley MacLaine’s Oscar-winning performance), but it doesn’t quite nail the balance.

The film tries to be both a sentimental Christmas rom-com and authentic tearjerker, and at times the approach can feel forced. This is especially true in regards to the film’s more stylistic narrative choices, which don’t always mesh with the more grounded portrait of a relationship evolving and changing over the years. We get flashbacks to Michael’s childhood done in the style of the 1980s sitcoms he grew up watching, and there is a stylistic pivot near the end that actually undercuts the emotion of the climactic moments. These elements feel like something out of a different movie, and feel somewhat out of place amidst the otherwise more conventional storytelling.

If not every stylistic touch or narrative choice works equally well, Spoiler Alert is still a touching film that does deliver some bittersweet and more genuinely emotional moments. The material is elevated by a fine cast. Parsons is good, building upon the dramatic range that he showed in A Kid Like Jake and the 2020 remake of The Boys in the Band, while Aldridge delivers an appropriately gutting performance, making us fall for Kit before breakout our hearts. Sally Field and Bill Irwin nicely fill out the supporting cast as Kit’s parents, who have to go through their own journey of acceptance regarding both their son’s sexuality and terminal diagnosis. The result is a decent if imperfect holiday weepie.

Spoiler Alert opens in select theatres on December 2nd, before expanding on December 9th.

Review: Bones and All

November 27, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Luca Guadagnino’s Bones and All is a love story between Maren (Taylor Russell) and Lee (Timothée Chalamet), two lonely young cannibals who are both on the run from family problems and their own desires, when they meet on a road trip through the Midwest in the 1980s.

After being abandoned by her father (André Holland), Maren hits the road in search of her birth mother, hoping to find answers for her bizarre urges to consume others. She meets fellow drifter Lee along the way, with the two bonding over their shared taste for human flesh.

While Bones and All could be classified as a horror movie due to its subject matter, the film unfolds at somewhat of a slow-burn pace, with Guadagnino focusing more on capturing the vibes and feeling of being on the road for long stretches at a time. Based on a novel by Camille DeAngelis, which has been adapted by screenwriter David Kajganich, the film is at its strongest when it embraces being an offbeat road movie, showing the stretches of wide open spaces and weird outsiders – both kindred spirits and potential victims – that Maren and Lee meet along the way.

We learn that “eaters” have a way of “smelling” each other, which draws a predatory older cannibal named Sully (Mark Rylance) towards Maren. Despite a relatively short amount of screen time, Rylance fully leaves his mark on the film, delivering a genuinely unsettling performance. Michael Stuhlbarg also appears for a chilling scene that serves as a perverted subversion of his monologue from Guadagnino’s previous romance Call My By Your Name (which incidentally also starred Chalamet).

This is obviously a much darker take on a love story than Guadagnino’s Call My By Your Name, but Bones and All does share some of that film’s sensuous style. It’s beautifully photographed by Arseni Khachaturan, who shoots on Kodak film, capturing the expansive fields and Magic Hour skies of the open landscapes that our characters are passing through. It’s accompanied by an excellent musical score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross that provides haunting and emotive accompaniment.

Surprisingly tender at times, but absolutely brutal when it needs to be, Bones and All taps into a very specific feeling of loneliness and searching for a place where you belong. Russell, whose breakout role was in the 2019 movie Waves, carries the film. She compellingly portrays Maren’s torn emotions, including the guilt that she feels over her seemingly insatiable desire for human flesh. Chalamet is similarly understated, portraying a character who has seemingly shut himself off from the emotions around what he needs to do to survive.

It’s a film that, perhaps by design, kept me at somewhat of an emotional distance. While it can be taken at face value, the cannibalism aspect is clearly intended as metaphor for any difference that is shunned by society (perhaps how gay people were treated due to AIDS given the Reagan-era setting, though a drug addiction parallel seems more apt). Still, the fact that they are literally eating people makes it hard to fully connect with the characters. It’s pretty safe to say this is a film that won’t be for everyone, but I admired the effort. The strong performances and haunting atmosphere draw us in, and kept me engaged throughout the carefully paced 130 minute running time.

Bones and All is now playing exclusively in theatres.

New This Week (11/25/2022): The Fabelmans, Glass Onion, Strange World, Bones and All, & More!

November 25, 2022

By John Corrado

New releases for the week of November 23rd and November 25th, 2022.

Theatrical Releases:

The Fabelmans (Wide Release): My favourite of this week’s new releases is Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans, the legendary filmmaker’s semi-autobiographical film that had its world premiere at TIFF in September, where it picked up the People’s Choice Award. It’s an absolutely wonderful portrait of the director’s childhood, that is brought to life with excellent performances, including Gabriel LaBelle as young Sammy Fabelman and Michelle Williams and Paul Dano as his parents, and delivers some magical cinematic moments. I adored it. Go see it in theatres if you can. (TIFF 2022 Review)

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (Wide Release): Rian Johnson’s murder mystery sequel started a week-long run in theatres on Wednesday, before it hits Netflix next month. While I liked the first Knives Out, I wasn’t the biggest fan of this sequel when I saw it at TIFF, having found it bloated and overlong. But others will feel differently and the star-studded cast, including the return of Daniel Craig as dapper detective Benoit Blanc, will attract audiences whether in theatres or on streaming. (TIFF 2022 Review)

Strange World (Wide Release): Disney’s latest animated film, Strange World is a throwback to old school adventure movies, following a family of explorers named the Clades. It has some story problems and feels like it doesn’t live up to its full potential, but it’s still a mostly entertaining animated film that works as an unremarkable but enjoyable enough tribute to B-movie adventures from decades past. It’s fine for what it is, but I imagine a lot of viewers will wait until it’s on Disney+. (Full Review)

Bones and All (Wide Release): A love story between two lonely young cannibals (Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet), Luca Guadagnino’s Bones and All is an offbeat road movie that is absolutely brutal at times but also surprisingly tender. I just watched it the other night, and it’s safe to say this is a film that won’t be for everyone, but I admired the effort. The strong performances and haunting atmosphere draw us in, and the musical score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is excellent. (Full Review)

More Releases: Devotion (Wide), Tehranto (Limited), Lady Chatterley’s Lover (Limited), EO (TIFF Bell Lightbox), Nanny (TIFF Bell Lightbox)

Streaming Releases:

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (Disney+): A spinoff of James Gunn’s two Guardians of the Galaxy films, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is quite simply one of the most purely delightful things that Marvel Studios has ever done. At around forty minutes, this Christmas special is short and sweet, with a lot of feel-good festive spirit. (Full Review)

More Releases: Everything Everywhere All at Once (Prime Video), Good Night Oppy (Prime Video), The Noel Diary (Netflix)

Disney+ Review: The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

November 23, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Following in the footsteps of the Halloween special Werewolf by Night, Marvel Studios now switches their focus to Christmas with The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special.

Written and directed by James Gunn, the special is designed as a loving homage to the infamous Star Wars Christmas Special, and it’s quite simply one of the most purely delightful things that Marvel has ever done.

The special features the return of the Guardians of the Galaxy gang. After learning about Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) having his Christmas ruined as a child after he left Earth, Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Drax (Dave Bautista) decide to give him the holiday he deserves up in space. The only problem is that their plan involves going to Earth to kidnap legendary “hero” Kevin Bacon, to bring him back as a present for the lonely Peter.

Right from the opening strains of The Pogues’ “Fairy Tale of New York” that play over the Marvel Studios logo at the beginning, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special had me smiling. Like Gunn’s two Guardians of the Galaxy films, the special manages to strike that balance between being a little goofy and very funny (Drax and Mantis are a delightful duo) but with a lot of heart. While this could have easily been overly crass or even mean-spirited, there’s an inherent sweetness to the special that feels sincere.

Hovering just over forty minutes, including end credits and stinger, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special gets by on being short and sweet. The entire cast has fun with it, including Bacon, who gamely plays a version of himself. The whole thing is set to an excellent soundtrack of counter-cultural Christmas songs (you would expect nothing less from the series that gave us not one but two Awesome Mixes). It all adds up to an incredibly enjoyable Christmas special that nicely compliments the two Guardians films, while really embracing the feel-good festive spirit.

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special will be available to stream exclusively on Disney+ as of November 25th.

Review: Strange World

November 23, 2022

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Strange World, the latest feature from Walt Disney Animation Studios, is a throwback to old school adventure movies from the 1930s to 1950s that works as a somewhat slight but mostly entertaining animated film.

The film centres around the Clades, who are a legendary family of explorers. The opening prologue – which is nicely done in the style of an old newsreel – introduces us to the patriarch Jaeger Clade (Dennis Quaid), who wants his son Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal) to follow in his footsteps, before abandoning him on an expedition and disappearing into the mountains.

Flash forward to years later, and Searcher has become a farmer, harvesting a plant that he discovered which is able to provide a seemingly endless power source for his town of Avalonia. Searcher now has a family of his own with wife Meridian (Gabrielle Union), including teenaged son Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White), who is both gay and not sure if he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps and take over the farm. When the plants start to lose their power, the Clade family set off on a new adventure into the Earth to find the root.

What follows is a mostly predictable journey, that does feature a variety of fun and enjoyable moments along the way. There are some visually appealing designs elements in this imaginative world, including a variety of unique creatures, with a blue jelly blob nicknamed Splat filling the obligatory role of comic relief sidekick. Ethan’s sexual orientation is handled in a positive light, with his crush on a boy named Diazo (Jonathan Melo) being presented in a very innocent and refreshingly nonchalant way. Gyllenhaal also really throws himself into the role of the dad, offering a fully committed vocal performance.

Where Strange World falls somewhat short is in the story department. The overarching themes about a family learning to overcome their differences and work together, particularly balancing the expectations between fathers and sons, are nicely handled in some ways, but also a bit obvious and generic. The characters can also feel too one-note and aren’t always the most likeable. The film does introduce some more interesting ideas, especially in its second half, but a lot of it feels underdeveloped, with a twist that leaves more questions than answers. The film ultimately bites off more than it can chew, including an environmental message that takes hold in the last act and feels heavy-handed.

Directed by Don Hall (Big Hero 6, Raya and the Last Dragon), with a screenplay by co-director Qui Nguyen (Raya and the Last Dragon), Strange World is a film that feels like it ultimately doesn’t live up to its full potential, but still has enough positive elements to make it worth watching. With some lush and colourful animation, backed up by Henry Jackman’s fun musical score, it’s a largely unremarkable but enjoyable enough tribute to the B-movie adventures of decades past that should satisfy family audiences, whether in theatres or inevitably on Disney Plus.

Strange World opens exclusively in theatres on November 23rd.

4K Ultra HD Review: Planes, Trains and Automobiles

November 22, 2022

By John Corrado

In honour of its 35th anniversary this year, the 1987 John Hughes classic Planes, Trains and Automobiles is making its 4K Ultra HD debut this week from Paramount, just in time for American Thanksgiving.

The film, of course, stars Steve Martin as Neal Page and John Candy as Del Griffith, two men who end up stuck travelling together from New York to Chicago as Neal tries to get home to his family in time for the holiday.

The main draw of this release, aside from the 4K, is actually the bundled “lost luggage” Blu-ray disc, which includes over an hour of previously unreleased deleted and extended scenes. The material that is presented is quite rough in terms of image quality, having been pulled from VHS tapes found in Hughes’s archive, but it’s fascinating to watch for a variety of reasons.

Presented as a 75 minute block, we get a lot more riffing between Martin and Candy (the scene where Del talks Neal’s ear off on the airplane goes on for over ten minutes, including an inspired bit about the impact that Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho had on the shower curtain industry), and it gives us a really good glimpse into their creative process and their ability to take a scene and just run with it. Seeing the extra footage also helps us appreciate just how tight the finished film is, with the edit allowing everything – both the laughs and emotional beats – to come into sharper focus (for example, the hotel argument is more impactful in its tightened version in the finished film).

As for the 4K disc itself, the film is presented with Dolby Vision and HDR-10. The image has undergone some noticeable digital noise reduction to reduce some of the film’s natural grain, so your feelings on the quality will likely depend on how you feel about DNR. But there are some nice upgrades over the original Blu-ray, and the 2160p transfer does bring out some new details. Still, the main draw of this edition for fans of the film really is the bonus Blu-ray disc.

This is a film that I’ve loved dearly ever since first seeing it on VHS as a kid. I’ve been curious to see this extra footage ever since learning about the existence of an initial, nearly three-hour workprint cut of the film, so I’m beyond thrilled that it has finally been released. While this extra material doesn’t add a ton of new stuff to the story, it absolutely serves as an interesting companion piece to one of the best holiday films of all time, and a further testament to the brilliance of Martin and Candy in these roles.

In short, Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a film that has held up remarkably well over the years. It stands as one of the best things Hughes ever wrote and directed, having pulled off the high-wire act of crafting a buddy comedy with a deeply poignant, beating heart at the centre of it all, as we watch the initial annoyance between Neal and Del develop into a genuine bond between the two men. The newly discovered deleted and extended scenes are just the cherry on top of what is already a classic film.

For more on the film itself, you can read my review of the 30th Anniversary Blu-ray right here.

Bonus Features (4K Ultra HD):

The 4K disc includes the film and a variety of previously released featurettes, while the Blu-ray holds only the deleted and extended scenes and not the film itself. A code for a digital copy is also included in the package, which ships with a slipcover.

4K Ultra HD:

• Getting There is Half the Fun: The Story of Planes, Trains and Automobiles (16 minutes, 38 seconds)

John Hughes: Life Moves Pretty Fast (Play All – 53 minutes, 30 seconds)

• John Hughes: The Voice of a Generation (27 minutes, 39 seconds)

• Heartbreak and Triumph: The Legacy of John Hughes (25 minutes, 51 seconds)

• John Hughes for Adults (4 minutes, 1 second)

• A Tribute to John Candy (3 minutes)

Blu-ray:

Deleted and Extended Scenes (Play All – 75 minutes, 27 seconds): From the disc: “Attention travellers. This collection of deleted and extended scenes from Planes, Trains and Automobiles was recently discovered in the archives of writer, producer and director John Hughes. The low picture and audio quality of this material is due to the age and format of the VHS tapes on which the scenes were found. We hope this offers a unique glimpse into the filmmaking and editing process, and delights fans with even more hilarious moments between Steve Martin and John Candy.”

Waiting to Board (Extended) (4 minutes, 35 seconds)

Seatmates (Extended) (12 minutes, 7 seconds)

Airplane Food (Deleted) (3 minutes, 30 seconds): Presented in HD, and previously available on the Blu-ray and certain TV versions of the film.

Dooby’s Taxiola (Extended) (7 minutes, 18 seconds)

Edelen’s Braideood Inn – Part 1 (Extended) (12 minutes, 5 seconds)

Edelen’s Braideood Inn – Part 2 (Extended) (14 minutes, 58 seconds)

Broke at Breakfast (Extended) (8 minutes, 50 seconds)

99 Bottles of Beer on the Bus (Deleted) (1 minute, 26 seconds)

The El Rancho Motel (Extended) (8 minutes, 20 seconds)

The Oshkonoggin Cheese Truck (Extended) (2 minutes, 14 seconds)

Audition – Dylan Baker “Owen” (3 minutes, 34 seconds): Baker’s audition for the part of the pickup truck driver Owen offers an early glimpse at his memorable line readings. Presented in equally rough VHS form.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a Paramount Home Entertainment release. It’s 92 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: November 22nd, 2022

4K Ultra HD Review: Wayne’s World: 30th Anniversary Edition

November 21, 2022

By John Corrado

Following a SteelBook Blu-ray release back in February, Paramount Home Entertainment is now releasing the 1992 comedy Wayne’s World for the first time on 4K Ultra HD in honour of the film’s 30th anniversary.

Mike Myers and Dana Carvey star as Wayne and Garth, slacker hosts of the public-access TV show Wayne’s World, who go up against the big shot TV producer Benjamin Kane (Rob Lowe) as he tries to take over their show, while Wayne pines after local rockstar Cassandra Wong (Tia Carrere).

Directed by Penelope Spheeris, this is a classic comedy that remains one of the best movie spinoffs from Saturday Night Live, filled with so many quotable lines and classic moments (head-banging in the car to “Bohemian Rhapsody” and a cameo by – “we’re not worthy, we’re not worthy” – Alice Cooper, etc.) that are always fun to revisit.

The 2160p 4K presentation with HDR-10 and Dolby Vision offers good image quality, with some nice definition and colours (especially during the “product placement” scene). The 4K edition also notably restores the original audio of Wayne playing the actual first few notes of “Stairway to Heaven” in the music store scene, which had been changed in previous editions due to losing the song rights (“no Stairway – denied!”). While fans who already purchased the SteelBook Blu-ray at the beginning of the year will have to decide if it’s worth double-dipping so soon (and the lack of new bonus features might be a deterrent), this is a pretty solid upgrade.

For more on the film itself, you can read my review of the Blu-ray right here.

Bonus Features (4K Ultra HD):

The 4K disc includes the same three bonus features (a commentary track, featurette, and trailer) as prior releases. A code for a digital copy is also included in the package, which ships with a shiny slipcover.

• Commentary with Director Penelope Spheeris

• Extreme Close-Up (23 minutes, 14 seconds): Spheeris, Myers, Carvey, Carerre, Lowe, and producer Lorne Michaels reflect on developing the characters, shooting the film, and how much fun they all had on set in this enjoyable vintage featurette.

• Theatrical Trailer (2 minutes, 6 seconds)

Wayne’s World: 30th Anniversary Edition) is a Paramount Home Entertainment release. It’s 94 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: November 15th, 2022

New This Week (11/18/2022): Bardo, Holy Spider, Disenchanted, Spirited, & More!

November 18, 2022

By John Corrado

New releases for the week of November 18th, 2022.

Zar Amir Ebrahimi in Holy Spider

Theatrical Releases:

Holy Spider (TIFF Bell Lightbox): Director Ali Abbasi’s Holy Spider was one of the best movies I saw at TIFF this year. The Iranian serial killer thriller follows a journalist (Zar Amir Ebrahimi) chasing a killer (Mehdi Bajestani) through the streets of Mashad, as sex workers keep being brutally murdered in the city. In addition to being a tense, skillfully crafted game of cat and mouse, the provocative film also works as piece of scathing social commentary on how women are treated in a fundamentalist, theocratic society. It’s gripping, disturbing, and builds to a genuinely chilling final scene. (TIFF 2022 Review)

Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths (TIFF Bell Lightbox): Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s latest film is an ambitious, at times surrealistic epic that finds the Oscar-winning Mexican director telling the semi-autobiographical story of a documentary filmmaker (Daniel G. Cacho) returning to his home country. This is a polarizing film, but I found it to be fascinating as an artistic statement, with a lot of value in the cinematography and production design. It’s now playing in 70mm at TIFF Bell Lightbox, before coming to Netflix on December 16th. (Full Review)

More Releases: She Said (Wide), The Menu (Wide), Fisherman’s Friends: One and All (Limited), Stay the Night (Limited)

Streaming Releases:

Disenchanted (Disney+): Arriving fifteen years after Enchanted – a film that I loved – I’m sorry to say that the Disney+ sequel Disnechanted is a pretty major disappointment. Sure, Amy Adams does have some fun reprising her role as Giselle, and James Marsden is a scene-stealer, but the film itself struggles to recapture the same magic and almost everything about it feels like a pale copy of the original. It lacks the spark of the first film, and the new songs aren’t even very memorable. (Full Review)

Spirited (Apple TV+): A modern reimagining of the Charles Dickens story A Christmas Carol starring Will Ferrell as the Ghost of Christmas Present and Ryan Reynolds as his latest subject, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this one. Sure, it’s a bit uneven in places and a little too long, but as I said in my review, Spirited “delivers exactly what you want as a fun, slightly cheesy, and appropriately heartfelt Christmas musical.” Ferrell and Reynolds have good comedic chemistry, and the songs by Benji Pasek and Justin Paul are catchy. A fun streaming option for the holidays. (Full Review)

More Releases: The Wonder (Netflix), Slumberland (Netflix), A Christmas Story Christmas (Crave), Mickey: The Story of a Mouse (Disney+), The Santa Clauses (Disney+)

Disney+ Review: Disenchanted

November 18, 2022

By John Corrado

★★ (out of 4)

Arriving fifteen years after Enchanted, Disney’s self-aware 2007 fairy tale that found an animated princess stumbling into our live action world, Disenchanted is a direct-to-streaming sequel that unfortunately struggles to recapture the same magic.

Amy Adams reprises her role as Giselle, who left her home in the animated Kingdom of Andalasia, and went to live in New York with her husband Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and his daughter Morgan, who is now a sarcastic teenager (Gabriella Baldacchino). Giselle and Robert have a new baby together, and the film opens with them deciding to leave the city and move to the suburban community of Monroeville.

But the family’s attempts at starting a new life get off to a bumpy start. Robert resents having to take the train into the city for work, Morgan struggles to fit in at a new school, and Giselle is unable to compete with the “queen” of Monroeville, Malvina Monroe (Maya Rudolph). With the help of some Andalasian magic courtesy of King Edward (James Marsden) and Queen Nancy (Idina Menzel), Giselle makes a wish that they had the perfect fairy tale life. But Giselle’s wish starts to backfire, and threatens to turn her into a Wicked Stepmother.

Directed by Adam Shankman, taking over for the first film’s Kevin Lima, Disenchanted begs the question of, did we really need a sequel fifteen years later exploring Giselle and her family’s suburban malaise? For me, at least, the answer is no. This change in setting is one of the main challenges of this sequel, which lacks the special New York magic of the original. While it attempts to copy the self-aware but still sincere tone of its 2007 predecessor, which poked fun at the classic Disney tropes while also embracing them, Disenchanted simply doesn’t feel that fresh this time around.

It has the feel of a sequel that is arriving too late, and lacks the genuine spark of the first one. The film’s generic, predictable story is somewhat sluggish at roughly two hours, and the mediocre visual effects are actually a step down from 2007 (the crickets look especially cheap). It looks like a TV movie compared to the theatrical production of the first one. Alan Menken and Stephen Scwartz do return with a selection of new original songs, but the tunes aren’t even particularly memorable this time around, and there is nothing on par with their wonderful contributions to Enchanted.

I loved the first Enchanted, so it pains me to say that this sequel is a disappointment. Adams (who also serves as producer) does seem to be having some fun reprising her role as the cheery Giselle, especially as her character starts taking on the traits of an “evil stepmother,” and Marsden does steal the few scenes he has. But almost everything about Disenchanted feels like a pale copy of the original. It’s not a terrible streaming option, especially for families, but it is a major letdown compared to the first one, and too often feels like it is just going through the motions.

Disenchanted is now available to stream exclusively on Disney+.

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