Sunday, February 14, 2010

Underrated, Part 6: Elf and Enchanted

On some level, neither Elf nor Enchanted needs inclusion on this list: both performed exceptionally well in the theaters and both were critically acclaimed.  However, after much debate, we decided to include them in our series, as they are underrated in our community.

It is unfortunate, but there remains a number of geeks who have yet to embrace these films.

When we decided to feature them, we chose to do them together, because they are, on some level, the same movie.  Or, more accurately, they both seem to be reflections of the same Platonic ideal movie.

The plot of that film is this: a character who does not belong in the magical realm where they grew up (based on animated works from decades before) voyages to the city of New York, itself portrayed as a magic kingdom which is, in some ways, a reflection of the place they know.  But it is in truth a dark reflection: they are not prepared for the level of mistrust they find around them.  Compounding this, no one believes them when they describe their home.  Such a fantasy world, they are told, does not exist.  They are assumed mad by those around them.

But this character has a core of goodness that cannot be ignored, as well as powers that can't be denied.  The truth of their story is demonstrated in the final act, when those they've touched must have faith to save them.  And then, finally, they must reconcile the two halves of themselves in order to find happiness in New York City.

Truly, it is a heartwarming tale, regardless of whether it's told with a Christmas Elf or a Disney Princess.  In addition to having the same plot and using many of the same locations, the movies are also alike in caring about their source material.

Despite being live action, Elf is unafraid to incorporate elements borrowed directly from the Rankin/Bass specials of yore.  The living snowman, the talking animals, and the candy cane forest all show a willingness to embrace a world of fantasy without embarrassment.

Likewise, the bizarre abilities and aspects of Disney's princesses are utilized to astonishing effect in Enchanted.  From talking to animals to compelling crowds to burst into song, Enchanted incorporates the impossible elements of its fantasy origins.

And that, more than anything else, brings up the common thread: both of these films are, above all else, fantasies.  And, regardless of origin, a good fantasy story brought to screen is something all geeks should see.

In this case, you have the chance to see that story twice.

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