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Strong mixture of romance, comedy and drama for unconventional Disney musical
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2007 Walt Disney Records; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
Ancient and modern meet in Disney's Enchanted in which a fairytale princess finds herself thrust into modern day New York City. Part-animated, part-live action, it's directed by Tarzan director Kevin Lima, and the great news for fans of Disney music is that making a return to the film musical is the brilliant Alan Menken, whose string of wonderful songs for the studio through the 1990s was nothing short of remarkable. His lyricist this time is Stephen Schwartz - hardly a slouch (and the pair previously worked together on the excellent songs for Pocahontas) - and the film would seem to be fertile territory for Menken.
Indeed, the songs are mostly excellent. "True Love's Kiss" is an old-fashioned love song with big orchestra and children's choir which will no doubt repel those who aren't in to this sort of thing, but it's a good Broadway-style number. "Happy Working Song" sounds like it might be from Mary Poppins or The Sound of Music - it's that kind of happy, catchy tune. "That's How You Know" is more unusual, a strange mixture of a kind of scat style with more typical Menken - it takes a bit of getting used to, but has a great tune. All of those are sung by Amy Adams, who plays the princess in the movie. The other songs are more standard pop songs - far better than most equivalents which hit the charts, but not quite the substantial feast of which Menken and Schwartz are capable - Jon McLaughlin sings the ballad "So Close" and it's lovely, a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination (probably win) if it weren't for "Ever Ever After" sung by Carrie Underwood, like a teeny girl group song but with a bit of extra class. I've no idea who Carrie Underwood is, but she's got the kind of bland voice which tends to do well in those karaoke talent shows on tv.
So the character songs are very good, the pop songs decent but probably nothing special; that much is predictable enough. Probably less predictable is quite how engaging - indeed, enchanting - Menken's score is, and a surprisingly generous 35 minutes of it is presented on the album. The composer's songs have been wonderful since he first started with Disney, but his actual underscore came on in leaps and bounds as the years went by; and this is probably the best yet. It opens with "Andalasia", a charming little piece with a lovely theme that's a little similar perhaps to Beauty and the Beast, but feels less raw. He captures the romance and the humour perfectly - sweet, lovely music.
"Into the Well" is where the dramatic meat first appears, with a touch of grand adventure music complete with choir and fearsome brass - the tumbling piano solo may give away the composer's Broadway day job, but it's substantial stuff. There's a neat little interpolation of Menken's own theme from Beauty and the Beast - in a twisted arrangement - in "Nathaniel and Pip" which is nice, before the cue takes a darker turn. "Prince Edward's Search" is a funny regal parody, before "Girls Go Shopping" sees the music take a much more modern twist with a light pop ensemble temporarily replacing the orchestra for an instrumental take on "Ever Ever After".
Where Menken really comes into his own is in the outstanding eleven-minute finale "Storybook Ending", preceded by the briefer "Narissa Arrives", with choral action music of apocalyptic proportions dominating. It's wonderfully rich, colourful stuff easily on a par with Menken's previous best "straight" scoring, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. After this there's still time for a nice orchestral summary of the themes from the five songs in a short suite - bringing an end to a fine album which ought to delight all fans of both Menken and the classic Disney musicals of the past.