DVDs of the Week: 'Enchanted,' 'I Am Legend'

From Stacie Hougland: New this week is the multiple-Oscar nominated Disney film Enchanted (3 of 4 DVD stars), starring Amy Adams as an animated princess-to-be banished by her wicked queen/stepmother-to-be (Susan Sarandon) from their kingdom of Andalasia to New York City. If being lost in the Big Apple isn’t jarring enough, princess Giselle finds herself now a flesh-and-blood female. Jaded lawyer Robert (Patrick Dempsey) stumbles upon her wandering in Central Park, and offers her a place to stay. Meanwhile, hapless Prince Edward (James Marsden), along with some of Giselle’s animated furry friends, manages to sneak through the wormhole in search of his wayward betrothed. Will she stay with her cynical new prince charming, or return to her life at home?
Amy Adams makes a cute fish out of water.

Refreshingly, Enchanted eschews the slick pop culture references that have become de rigueur in family films these days. Disney instead upends the fairy tale by unexpectedly poking fun at its own traditions. Giselle’s Andalasian pals are chipmunks and birdies—in New York, roaches and rats assist her in tidying Robert’s apartment in a terrific set piece. Adams is a joy on-screen, nailing the irrepressible Princess Giselle with aplomb. She’s naïve without being immature, sweet without being corny. That said, the movie has its flaws, and you wonder if the filmmakers could have mined the high concept for more rather than relying on a predictable saccharine ending. Around the film's climax, you’re wondering if you are watching the same movie you started with.

Extras: Love the blooper reel. Of the other bonus features, kids will enjoy “Pip’s Predicament,” a pop-up storybook short with Giselle’s chipmunk pal. “Fantasy Comes to Life” reveals the making-of in three featurettes, of them the most interesting being the creation of the “Happy Working Song” scene with Giselle and her helpful vermin.

Overview: It’s a little sticky-sweet, but still inspired, and given a huge boost by Adams’ acting chops.

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Also out is the third adaptation of Richard Matheson’s novel, I Am Legend (2.5 of 4 DVD stars), with Will Smith starring as the last man on Earth. When the film came out last December, it earned some well-deserved praise for its amazing re-creation of a world without humanity, and Smith’s terrifically realized performance as Robert Neville, a doctor hanging on to a futile hope that he can make everything all right again who roams the streets alone save for his dog Sam. (Kudos also went to Smith’s canine companion, Abby, who managed to convey more emotion on-screen than many actors I can think of but who shall remain nameless....) At the same time, the film also got some well-deserved knocks—the ending left many critics cold, and the CGI mutants and animals were sometimes laughably bad. Note to producers: Audiences know a fake lion when they see one.

Legend comes in a 2-disc version, and the main reason to pick it up is for what’s being touted as the film’s “controversial” alternate ending on the second disc. I won’t give it away, but it’s definitely a different twist, and I’m surprised they didn’t use this ending in the theatrical cut (apparently it’s the ending director Francis Lawrence initially wanted to use). It’s more upbeat, and truer to the spirit of the source material. There are also a few new moments here and there within the film that add to it.

He's a sole man.

This is one of the best special-effects movies I’ve seen in a long while, and the visuals come to life in widescreen (if you can, watch in high-def!). Pay attention to the sound, too—or lack thereof. One of the film’s main departures from the source material was relocating from Los Angeles to New York, and the effect of absolute silence in the country’s largest metropolis is deafening.

Extras: If the ending left you cold, you’ll like this alternative. Other than that, the pickings are slim. (No featurette on Abby the dog, other than a short, buried chapter?) Included you’ll find four animated featurettes, which explore how the rest of the world was affected by the virus in places like Hong Kong and Central America. The vividly drawn 2-D renderings are cool, but don’t add a whole lot to the experience of the movie itself.

Insert the DVD into your PC’s DVD-Rom, and with an internet connection you can download more extras that wouldn’t fit on the disc: “Creating I Am Legend," which at 50 minutes should have something for everyone about the making-of; and “Cautionary Tale: The Science of I Am Legend,” a 20-minute examination of pandemic viral infections over the last 100 years that isn’t as alarmist as it is informative (and grounds the movie in more fact than, say, 28 Days Later. Speaking of which, check out our coverage of contagious cinema.)

Overview: What should have been a legendary horror/sci-fi epic thanks to Smith’s compelling one-man-with-dog show and a people-free post-apocalyptic Big Apple disappointingly falls apart in the third act. The alternate ending isn’t enough to save it, but it sure helps, and the quality of the viewing experience is impeccable. I wish the features were beefed up….director’s cut, maybe?
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