Happily Ever After - Does It Exist?
by Phil Boatwright

“I thought it was a great opportunity to do a film that my kids could see,” said James Marsden (X-Men, Hairspray) at a recent press junket.  The actor plays the live action version of Prince Edward in Disney’s new family comic adventure, Enchanted“I have a six-year-old boy and a two-year-old girl and I don’t get out to the movies very often these days.  So the movies I do see are these types of films…so I thought it would be fun to make a family movie, and one particularly for my kids.”

This newest release from Disney Studios puts a delightful spin on the happily-ever-after story, with the mean old queen casting the lovely princess into a portal that takes her to a decidedly non-fairytale world – New York City.  There she learns that life can be a bit messier than in Cartoonland.  But she dispenses some lessons of her own, reminding her new acquaintances of the glories of whistling while you work and true love’s kiss.

“It was something I could take my daughter to see,” says Grey’s Anatomy star and father of his own little princess, Patrick Dempsey, who plays Enchanted’s male lead, Robert Phillip, a cynical lawyer who gives shelter to the lost princess.  “I now go see more family movies than anything else.  I wanted to do something that was nonviolent, that was positive and unusual.”

As with any Disney production, all the best ingredients are brought to the recipe.   In this case, it’s a distinguished cast (Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, Timothy Spall, Susan Sarandon), and a storyteller bent on making a film that engrosses both children and the child in adults.  Add to that the music makers responsible for Colors of the Wind from Pocahontas and God Bless the Outcasts from Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Then there are the unnamed technicians who manage to outshine those from just about every other studio, especially when it comes to family-aimed projects.   In fact, learning of such a production seems to draw enthusiastic talent from all arenas much the way Snow White attracted hard-working dwarfs.

But what about that spin?  “It changes the myth of the princess story,” says Mr. Dempsey.  “Here the princess saves the hero.  A woman’s identity used to be, you get married, you settle down, you have kids.  That’s no longer true in modern society.  The balance now is you have a career, you get married and then you have kids.  It’s much more complicated now.  How do you find that balance between being a good mother, a good businesswoman and a good wife?  That’s what was interesting to me, especially having a daughter.  It changes the whole dynamic of what a princess is.”

Asked if true love actually exists, those questioned were romantic, yet realistic.  The film’s female star, Amy Adams, for instance was asked, can you fall in love in one day?  “Absolutely,” was her reply.  Then she quickly added, “And you can fall out of love in one day.”

The question of true love was then directed at Patrick Dempsey.  “I think there is.  I think there is a connection you find with someone.  I don’t necessarily think it’s a happily ever after.  It’s a hell of a lot of work.”

Director Kevin Lima put it succinctly:  “What I thought was important was to tell audiences that you could have the happily ever after ending, just maybe you couldn’t have it the same way you can in a Disney cartoon.  But you can have it.  However, it takes some of the same values that Disney characters hold on to in order to get it.  You have to have perseverance.  You have to hold love in your heart.  You have to have hope.  All those things are important. Those were messages from old Disney classics.  I just wanted to put those messages in a contemporary setting.” 

The most positive answer concerning the happy-ever-after question came matter of factly from Jodi Benson, who plays Sam.  “Well, who doesn’t want a happy ever after!”  Actress/singer/mother of two and follower of Christ, Jodi Benson of Little Mermaid fame took on the small part of a real-life person (with legs), in order to be a part of a production she hoped would be a positive outing for families.

But her answer reflected not so much the seeking of a happy ending on earth, but the realization that people could have an eternal one.  “We’re just Christian folk” (she includes her husband, fellow performer Ray Benson).  “We believe that we have had our sins forgiven by Jesus and have tried to follow in His footsteps.”

The Little Mermaid continued, “We’re trying to use our gifts and talents to bring glory and honor to Him.  And we’re just trying to keep our priorities and values and family lined up with the scriptures.  That’s how you find the happy ending.”