A young maiden in a land called Andalasia, who is prepared to be wed, is sent away to New York City by an evil queen, where she falls in love with a lawyer.
The beautiful princess Giselle is banished by an evil queen from her magical, musical animated land and finds herself in the gritty reality of the streets of modern-day Manhattan. Shocked by this strange new environment that doesn't operate on a "happily ever after" basis, Giselle is now adrift in a chaotic world badly in need of enchantment. But when Giselle begins to fall in love with a charmingly flawed divorce lawyer who has come to her aid - even though she is already promised to a perfect fairy tale prince back home - she has to wonder: Can a storybook view of romance survive in the real world?
Once upon a time in the kingdom of Andalasia, a beautiful young maiden named Giselle lives in a cottage in the forest. But before she can marry the dashing Prince Edward, Giselle is sent tumbling down a magical well - and finds herself in the non-animated, extremely disenchanted world of modern-day New York City. There, she befriends a cynical divorce lawyer, Robert, who isn't so sure that her prince is coming to rescue her. Giselle's spontaneous singing and fairy-tale demeanor enchant everyone around her as she waits for Prince Edward. But she's about to discover that love in the real world isn't always as easy as sharing a single True Love's Kiss - and that she'll need courage, spunk and maybe just a little enchantment if she's ever going to find her own happily-ever-after.
In the animated fairytale world of Andalasia lives the beautiful princess-in-waiting, Giselle. She is waiting for a prince to come so that the two can live happily ever after. Prince Edward hears her sweetly singing calls. They meet. They immediately fall in love and are to be married the next day. However, before the wedding, an old hag sends Giselle down a wishing well, which is really an abyss to her banishment to another world. The hag is Narissa, Edward's evil stepmother in disguise, she who does not want ever to relinquish her queendom. The other world is present day, live action, gritty New York City. Giselle does not understand her new environment and is not treated well until she meets six year old Morgan Philip, who like most girls her age loves fairy-tales and princesses. Morgan's father is cynical divorce lawyer Robert Philip, who because of his work and own failed marriage does not like to encourage his daughter to dream about fairy-tales. Meanwhile, Edward, with his trusty chipmunk sidekick Pip, comes down the abyss to look for his love. But Narissa has her own plans in light of Edward's action.
Princess Giselle, who lives in an animated land called Andalasia, dreams of true loves kiss. However, when dashing Prince Edward hears her song he declares they shall be married in the morning, evil queen Narissa feels threatened by the princess stealing her crown. She banishes her through a magic well to busy, non animated Manhattan, where a handsome, cynical divorce lawyer named Robert come to her aid. Becoming confused after falling in love with this man that helped her, can she realise that happiness in the real world is not as easy as just 'true love's kiss'? And can she choose between Robert and her Prince Edward?
In an animated fairy tale world, a young girl meets and falls in love with the handsome prince of her dreams. News of this romance upsets the prince's mother, the evil queen, who uses her black magic to send the girl hurtling out of the animated world into the one place in the universe where there is no true love: modern day Manhattan. The now-real girl has to survive in New York City and find her way home again to her true love.
- The movie begins with a narration (Julie Andrews) about the animated fairytale land of Andalasia. The Evil Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon) wants to keep her throne as long as she can so has tried to keep her step-son, Prince Edward (James Marsden) away from the fair maidens so he will not get married and she will not lose her throne. The scene shifts to a traditionally animated world, where Giselle (Amy Adams) is making a statue of the true love she has dreamed of. Her animal friends, including her best friend chipmunk Pip, help her make the statue and find the perfect pair of lips, as lips and true love's kiss is the most important thing in the world.
At the same time, we see Prince Edward (James Marsden) hunting ogres with servant Nathaniel and he hears Giselle's song. He starts towards Giselle's home, but Nathaniel (Timothy Spall), in fear that the Queen will be furious if Edward falls for Giselle, lets an ogre after Giselle. Giselle is chased out of her home into the trees, but is saved by Pip, who uses his surprisingly heavy weight to offset the balance of the ogre. Giselle tumbles from the trees right into Edward's lap. The two are smitten with each other and decide to wed the following day. Little do they know Narissa has been watching from her evil lair, and plans to stop the wedding for good.
Giselle arrives at the castle the next day and is met by Nathaniel who locks her animal friends out of the wedding. She is stopped by an old hag, who is actually a disguised Narissa, who tricks into going to a wishing well. When Giselle closes her eyes, Narissa pushes her into the well, and tells Nathaniel she's sent Giselle to "a place where there are no happily ever afters." Giselle falls for a long time, until she hits a manhole cover, at which point the movie suddenly changes to live action.
Giselle pushes open the manhole cover she has ended up under, climbs out, and finds herself in the middle of Times Square. Giselle tries to find the nearest castle in order to get home. After a series of misfortunes - first causing a minor traffic accident, getting caught up in a crowd heading into the subway, causing her to eventually end up at Bowery on the Lower East Side, and finally getting mugged of her tiara by a homeless man - she manages to find the castle she thinks she's looking for; specifically, a casino billboard.
At this point, we shift to Robert Phillip (Patrick Dempsey), a divorce lawyer dealing in a divorce settlement meeting. The couple in question is fighting over a Hank Aaron baseball card when his secretary (Jodi Benson) interrupts to tell him it is time to pick up his daughter, Morgan. She asks Robert if he has told Morgan about his plans to marry his girlfriend Nancy Tremaine (Idina Menzel), to which he says no. During the taxi ride home, Robert gives Morgan a present; not the fairy tale book she wanted, but instead a book on inspirational women including Madame Curie and Rosa Parks. He uses the book to explain his plan to marry Nancy, to which Morgan is a little uncertain of. By coincidence, the taxi happens to stop by the corner where the billboard Giselle is knocking on is located. Robert follows her and ends up catching Giselle when she falls off the sign. Morgan instantly believes she is a princess and wants to help her while Robert thinks she is absolutely crazy. They end up bringing her to their apartment where Giselle ends up falling asleep on the couch while Robert calls her a car. He lets her stay overnight when he sees she is sleeping, but tells Morgan to sleep in his room for the night.
Giselle wakes up the next morning and sees the unkept appearance of the apartment. She goes to the window and uses her call to summon all of the vermin in the area (all the roaches, flies, rats, and pigeons) to help her clean the house (momentarily causing commotion as rats scurry out of a sewer). A one-legged pigeon drops a plate while cleaning, which wakes up Morgan and Robert. The two attempt to get rid of the animals and Robert talks to Giselle as she is about to get into the shower. At the same time, Nancy arrives to bring Morgan to school and gets the wrong idea when she sees Giselle in a towel with Robert and leaves. Robert follows her, but by the time he gets to the street, she's already climbed into a taxi.
Back in the animated Andalasia, Pip tells Edward what has happened to Giselle. Edward and Pip dive down the well to New York, having an incident when Edward holds a sewer worker named Artie at swordpoint before running off into traffic, and Pip realizing he can now only communicate with chipmunk squeaks. Queen Narissa is upset about this and flirts with Nathaniel in order to convince him that he must go as well to stop Edward from finding Giselle. Nathaniel then goes to Times Square as well.
Robert comes back to see that Giselle has cut up his curtains to make a new dress. He gets angry with her, an emotion she has never seen, and the two take Morgan to school. Robert brings Giselle to work and leaves her with the secretary while he meets with the same divorcing couple as the day before. Narissa sees Robert trying to help Giselle through the fish tank in the office (she pops up all over the place, wherever water is available) and is clearly not happy.
Nathaniel arrives in New York, where he immediately spots Edward - riding on the roof of an MTA bus under the delusion that it is a great steel beast. He stabs his sword through the roof of the bus, ripping open an old lady's bag. After being told off by the short-tempered bus driver (who goes nuts when Pip lands on her head, leading her to think he's a rat), Edward leaves with Pip. They go to lunch at a food court, where Nathaniel disguises himself as a chef to go into a kitchen to communicate with Narissa through a boiling pot of soup. Narissa produces three poisoned apples, and tells Nathaniel to make sure Giselle takes a bite of one to kill her. Pip hears this and tries to explain through charades to Edward (involving ice cubes for the apples) the evil plan, as he cannot speak in the real world. Unfortunately, Edward is a little bit dense and does not understand. Nathaniel tells Edward they should split up to look for Giselle and they go their separate ways.
At the close of his meeting, Robert comes to see Giselle and the secretary tells Robert about how crazy Giselle is. Meanwhile, Giselle begins talking to the divorcing couple and cries about the fate of their marriage when she finds out they are separating.
Robert sees she is ruining his case and brings her to Central Park where he plans to leave her. He gives her money and says goodbye, but she gives the money away and he catches up to her and walks with her. He asks about her prince and she explains they have only known each other for a day, which surprises him because he has known Nancy for five years. He explains the concept of dating to her, which she has never heard of before this. At that point, they run into Nathaniel, disguised as an apple cart vendor, and sells Giselle the first of his poisoned apples in the form of a caramel apple on a stick. This one fails to work because Giselle accidentally throws it when passionately talking about love, and it lodges in a passing bicyclist's helmet - burning through his helmet and hair, leaving a bald spot on his scalp. Giselle, meanwhile, explains how she knows that she is in love and that true love's kiss is the most powerful thing in the world and she wouldn't want to wait any longer for that. This culminates in a blown up dance number that involves basically every performer in Central Park ("That's How You Know"). Edward hears her singing again and tries to chase her down, but gets run over by the bicyclists, including the one who got the poisoned apple in his hair.
Giselle helps Robert make up with Nancy by sending her flowers and getting him to invite her to a ball, which is far more romantic or spontaneous than he usually is. He explains to her that he only wants to help Giselle and a happy Nancy forgives him. We see Edward and Nathaniel have checked into a motel in Brooklyn to rest. While Edward flips through channels on the TV (which he thinks is a magic mirror), Nathaniel traps Pip in the closet and goes after Giselle.
We catch up with Giselle and Robert at a pizza place where she asks if they are on a date. He says that people dont bring their children on dates and we then see Morgan is there as well. He talks to Giselle about his wife, who left him and Morgan for no real reason, which makes him very emotional. Giselle explains to him that his dreams still can come true and then Nathaniel appears, disguised as a waiter, to deliver Giselle the second poisoned apple, this time ground up into a martini. Robert jokes that those are poisonous and Pip shows up trying to stop Giselle from drinking the martini. People in the restaurant panic when they see Pip on the table, but he manages to communicate to Giselle that Edward is in New York. Nathaniel spots him, and a chase between the two ensues. Pip tries to hide under a pizza, but Nathaniel takes the pizza and flings it into the oven. Pip is swung free at the last second and goes flying into a nearby glass jar, but Giselle thinks he is killed in the oven and is heartbroken.
Back at the hotel room, Edward sees Giselle being interviewed about the rodent attack on TV and leaves the hotel room to find her. Upon finding the correct building he knocks on every single door in the building, finding a bunch of interesting people at each door.
We see Giselle then telling Morgan a bedtime story while Robert watches and smiles. She leaves the room and Robert begins trying to tell her that perhaps Edward will not come for her after all, which she gets angry about, saying that all he ever says is no. The two share a special moment as she is excited about feeling angry, and Robert leaves, though both of them clearly feel a connection to one another.
We cut to Nathaniel in the pizza place at the bar where he is talking to Narissa, who is in his drink, and she is very disappointed in him. She tells him that she is now coming to New York to get Giselle herself, and in anger breaks all the glass at the bar including the one Pip is stuck in.
The next morning Robert awakes to see that Giselle has made herself another dress and smiles at this. The three sit down to breakfast when Prince Edward knocks on the door. He and Giselle are reunited, though it is not the same between them, not that Prince Edward would notice. She tells him that she wants to go on a date with him before they leave for Andalasia and he agrees. She leaves Robert and Morgan, who are very sad to see her go.
At work Robert meets with the divorce clients who were touched by Giselle and have decided to stay together. Meanwhile, Giselle and Edward are on their date, but Giselle seems reluctant to leave New York. Edward offers to take her to a ball being held that evening, but only if they can return to Andalasia after. Giselle goes back to Morgan and tells her that she is going to the ball, to which Morgan takes Roberts emergency credit card and the two go shopping. They stop for a haircut and pedicure, where the two bond over not having mothers, but enjoying their shopping time together.
Night falls and Narissa arrives and heads towards the ball. Nancy and Robert have already arrived as Giselle and Edward make their entrance. Robert and Giselle see each other and the couples meet and greet. Edward introduces Giselle as the love of his life, to which an impressed Nancy says is so bold and romantic. A dance is announced where you dance with someone other than your date. Edward asks Nancy to dance, leaving Robert and Giselle together. The two engage in a very passionate and romantic dance that reaffirms their feelings for one another.
At the end of this dance, Edward and Giselle plan to leave and he goes to get her wrap. Narissa, in her old hag disguise, shows up as Giselle is sadly watching Nancy and Robert and offers her an apple that will make her forget all the bad memories. Terrified, but wanting to forget the pain she feels, she bites the apple and promptly collapses, unconscious. Narissa drags her into an elevator that she creates and turns back into Narissa just as Edward stops the elevator door from closing. Narissa feigns ignorance when Nathaniel, whose opinion of Narissa has changed ever since he watched a soap opera a few days earlier, shows up and explains her evil plan. Narissa explains Giselle will die at midnight and Robert remembers what Giselle said about true love's kiss being powerful and tells Edward to kiss her.
He attempts kissing her several times, but it does not wake her. Robert then knows that he is the true love and doesn't know if he should kiss her. Nancy realizes that he truly loves Giselle and allows him to kiss her. He kisses Giselle just as the clock strikes midnight, but it works and Giselle is revived. They embrace as the dancers applaud. Furious at how the tables have turned, Narissa refuses to give up the throne, and explodes into a fiery purple dragon. She threatens to end Giselle first, but when Robert stands in her way, she picks him up instead and carries him out the window and up the building. Giselle runs after them, leaving her shoe behind.
Narissa climbs to the highest point of the building with Robert in hand. Giselle arrives and distracts Narissa with Edward's sword, but it does little damage. Pip, who had been stuck in a gerbil ball, is released by Edward and once again uses his weight to throw Narissa off balance. She drops Robert and tumbles off the bulding to her death, exploding into sparkles. Robert manages to hold on to the building, but slips and drops into Giselle's arms. Once out of danger, the two reaffirm their love for each other and kiss.
After the fact, Nancy is in the ballroom and sees Giselle's missing shoe. Edward comes and asks if she could try it on for him. In a homage to Cinderella, Nancy puts the shoe on and it fits perfectly. Edward and Nancy leave New York together and head home to Andalasia.
Every character has their own happy ending. Nancy and Edward get married, Nathaniel writes a best-seller about his personal struggles (as does Pip back in Andalasia), and Giselle begins a clothing line. Robert, Giselle, and Morgan now live happily together as a perfect family.
"And so, they all lived happily ever after."