If you want to learn how to make a terrible sequel to a terrific movie, just study Disenchanted. The original Enchanted existed because someone came up with a clever story to tell. This one exists because there's money to be made from a sequel. It ignores a perfect ending to suggest that Princess Giselle (Amy Adams) and husband Robert (Patrick Dempsey) did not, in fact, live happily ever after. The film therefore has to devise a plot to justify its own existence. What it concocts completely lacks the charm that was pervasive in its predecessor.

Ten years have gone by, and Giselle is no longer happy living in New York City. She and Robert move to the suburbs, to the dismay of his teenage daughter Morgan (Gabriella Baldacchino). Almost immediately after arriving in the town of Monroeville, Giselle meets that creakiest of clichés, the snooty "perfect" mother, Malvina (Maya Rudolph), and her requisite two minions, Rosaleen (Yvette Nicole Brown) and Ruby (Jayma Mays). Yes, the movie hauls out that old chestnut. Malvina's son Tyson (Kolton Stewart) is the most popular boy in school, and if you guessed he and Morgan develop a mutual crush, pat yourself on the back for recognizing another creaky cliche.

Giselle, who has apparently become hard to please, isn't happy in Monroeville, either. She makes a wish for her family's life to be like a fairy tale, just as it was in her native Andalasia. The next day, Morgan is bopping around the house singing, Robert is a warrior who has to fight a giant, and Malvina is this picture's equivalent of Maleficent. Most distressingly, since Morgan is her daughter via marriage, Giselle starts morphing into a "wicked stepmother." Because everyone is mandated to return, Prince Edward (James Marsden) and Nancy (Idina Menzel) arrive on cue to help attempt to restore normalcy before it's too late.

Enchanted is the movie that catapulted Amy Adams onto the A-list, thanks to her spot-on performance as a cartoon princess-turned-human. Disenchanted makes the fatal mistake of fundamentally changing her personality. Who wants to see Giselle as a mean stepmother? Sure, Adams does the imitation well, but it's still a misguided choice, one that robs the film of the very element that made its predecessor popular. When you take away the character's sense of wonder at the real world, the bottom falls out. Robbing her of that is akin to taking away Superman's powers or having E.T. move back to Earth.

Plunking Giselle down in a plot that's painfully contrived only makes matters worse. None of the wit or sweetness of the original are present this time. Disenchanted ties itself into a pretzel attempting to find things for the characters to do. The first movie was built from the solid fish-out-of-water premise of a cartoon princess entering Manhattan. It was designed to spoof the very nature of Disney princesses, while simultaneously giving audiences an awesome new one. Having already expended that idea, this sequel is left with nothing organic to do. That means relying on tired old conventions to create artificial drama and keeping Giselle and Robert apart most of the time (a second fatal mistake).

The story is lame, the jokes don't spring forth naturally from the material, and even the songs are unmemorable. Exactly zero approach the magic of “Happy Working Song.” Only one makes any kind of impression, and it's a duet between “wicked” Giselle and Malvina, where they sing-argue about who can be more evil. Adams and Rudolph play it to the hilt, resulting in the sole part of the film that's even remotely fun to watch.

By and large, Disenchanted is a useless enterprise. There is nowhere left to go with Giselle's tale, yet the movie tries to go anyway. Everything about it has a cynical vibe, like the filmmakers are creating a sequel simply because doing so will drive up Disney+ subscriptions. To even begin working, a perspective on fairy tales was needed. Brigitte Hales' screenplay lacks one, causing the whole project to implode. What a massive, massive disappointment this film is.

out of four

Disenchanted is rated PG for mild peril and language. The running time is 1 hour and 58 minutes.