Quite good, actually. Rousing, catchy, memorable. Generally amusing and occasionally screamingly funny. The animation is face-meltingly beautiful, the singing is fantastic. As packed with superb performances as my car’s ashtray is with protein bar wrappers.
I can’t just *stop* being awesome
I would buy it on DVD, and I have, like, eight DVDs. The last one I bought for myself was, I think, Shaun of the Dead, but when your life’s great love gives you “Big Train” for your thirteen-month anniversary, there’s not much reason to hit the Best Buy.
So how am I able to reconcile my affection for this movie with the fact that I found it jaw-droppingly sexist?
I’m so glad you asked.
How does she knoooow… if your movie’s anti-female?
I grasp that this is a happy-fun family film, geared especially to families with four- to eight-year-old girls who are into pink and ponies and the Disney princesses (Belle does one scene — one scene! — in that yellow dress and that’s all you take her for? What happened to her ponytail and BOOK?). It doesn’t have a message, it shouldn’t have a message, just chillax.
But nature abhors a vacuum. In the absence of a discernible message, theme, or point from the writers, the story supplies one so eloquently stated that it could not be more explicit if all the characters had it printed on T-shirts:
Good girls get married. Everything else is secondary.
If you really loved me you wouldn’t have a phone
Some other thesis statements:
- You know who’s so five minutes ago? ROSA PARKS.
And Marie Curie. Square dad Patrick Dempsey gets his six-year-old daughter a book on women in history for her birthday. Oh, dad, don’t you get it? Six-year-olds don’t want Rosa Parks; they want a Pretty Pretty Princess game. But you can’t just name-check Rosa Park and non-ironically dismiss her and not come back to it. No no no. The correct thing to do would be for the daughter to open the book later with renewed interest — perhaps share it with Princess Gisele to help explain what a heroic woman is like. Nope. Book never reappears. Pooh-pooh on Rosa Parks.
- The more assertive a woman is, the more deserving she is of scorn
Resident Big Bad is Susan Sarandon’s wicked queen (OK, and she totally kicks ass in this part. She alone is worth the cost of admission) is the powerfullest and evillest of them all. Unfortunately, Giselle fails to exhibit ANY critical thinking whatsoever, and Wicked Queen? Cause of death: hubris.
Plus, Wicked Queen’s death is an homage to Maleficent’s in Sleeping Beauty, so it’s a sin of omission that Giselle doesn’t get to give her the old dagger-in-the-heart. COME ON.
A bossy black female bus driver gets treated to the indignity of a chipmunk in her big kinky hairdo — and some insulting low-angle shots designed to play up her weight. Serves you right for being bossy. And black!
Career girl Nancy redeems her selfish, job-loving ways by giving boyfriend Patrick Dempsey permission to kiss another woman. She is rewarded with marriage, which she celebrates by throwing away her Blackberry. WHAT THE FRICK?! I’m married now, forget my job! It’s every girl’s dream! Wheeee!
- Rape culture: double true
Little Morgan advises Gisele, with complete sincerity, to “wear makeup, but not too much — because boys only want one thing.” Now, it’s up for debate what Gisele’s virtue is. Ostensibly she’s a free spirit, driven by nothing but her own deeply felt emotions. But I’d think a true free spirit would respond to Morgan’s advice by saying, “Forget the boys! I’ll do what I want!” — after which the two would exit the beauty salon in garish showgirl makeup, all smiles. But no.
- A woman’s primary value is as a homemaker, object and consumer
First day in a strange place, and Gisele cleans the house, sews a new dress, and cooks dinner. She’s the total package! Uncool girlfriend Nancy marvels at Patrick Dempsey’s clean house like an anthropologist on Mars. It’s so… wonderful! How could I ever live up to this standard?
Regarding a woman’s looks being her highest virtue — Giselle reconciles a couple in the middle of a divorce by pointing out how “sparkly” the woman’s eyes are. The husband later cites this as the reason they get back together. Patrick Dempsey warns them not to be persuaded out of their divorce by a brief warm spell, and given how nasty this couple fights it’s hard not to agree with him — was their divorce really grounded in the fact that he forgot he liked her looks? How insulting is that to her? And to *him*?
Oh — did I mention Morgan and Giselle were in a beauty shop? Their ultimate female bonding — far preferable to that with the uncool Nancy — consists of shopping with daddy’s credit card and getting their hair done. Ew.
Role model to and beloved by Morgan, Gisele does a lot of cleaning, sewing, cooking, and getting prettied up. What she doesn’t do — ever — is problem-solving. Or reading. Or even simple deduction. She mostly just stumbles from circumstance to circumstance, waits for her prince and cries.
All of the above makes her way cooler than Rosa Parks, or that big French lame-O Marie Curie. Radium? More like LAME-IUM!
In the interest of full disclosure, there is a throwaway closing montage moment where we see Gisele in her new line of work. Can you guess what Gisele’s profession is? If cleaning as a profession is too depressing, and cooking too demanding, that leaves — you guessed it — fashion! Big pink plastic fashion! Gisele has her own line of clothing and a great big store in New York City. How fun/marketable/not-implausible!
Other random notes:
- Wicked Queen’s character animation is lifted directly from Emperor’s New Groove‘s Yzma. But you know what’s wrong with too much Yzma? Not a damn thing.
- But Wicked Queen can stop traffic and transform into a forty-foot flying dragon, but all it takes to stop her is Timothy Spall putting a sword up to her neck? There isn’t even someone behind her — she could just *step backward*.
Abbey Road + Gozer = so good it makes me dizzy
- Giselle approaches a black female stranger, touches her hair and comments on how beautiful it is. The exchange is super-uncomfortable. I mean, everyone knows white people are supposed to ask *permission* first!
- Why would you have Idina Menzel in your musical and not let her sing?
- James Marsters is officially underrated.
Nicest kids in town