repeatedly seeing the trailer and various TV spots for Disney’s
latest CG-animated feature, I found myself increasingly
uninterested. It seemed like Disney was scraping the barrel.
desperate for another (yawn) princess movie with a specific
target audience that was clearly not me. Even taking the
story of Rapunzel, who only had extra long hair going for
her, seemed like a stretch and a snore fest. There was no
possible way this could be interesting to me, much less
provide anything unique or remotely exciting. Boy, do I
ever love it when I’m wrong about a movie.
is a wonderfully entertaining motion picture, executed with
flawless artistic style that is, for a change, effectively
enhanced by the use of 3D. Filled with voice acting that
provides impeccable comic timing and solid singing chops,
resulting in a delightful surprise. For a fable steeped
in familiarity, there are many reasons why this story shouldn’t
work, but directors Byron Howard and Richard Greno are confidently
earnest as they deliver a fun yarn that successfully balances
madcap irreverence with a traditional storybook approach.
Dan Fogelman loosely bases the story on the classic Grimm
fairy tale and this approach is to the benefit of the audience.
Yes, there’s a beautiful girl with 70 feet of hair
and she lives in a tower, but thankfully there is much more
to take in here. The story has come up in pop culture for
decades, but rarely has it ever been this exciting and fun.
infant, Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) was stolen from her royal
parents by the villainous old hag, Mother Gothel (Donna
Murphy), who was determined to keep the girl and her flowing
magical locks all to her self. For eighteen years, Gothel
has kept Rapunzel in a secluded tower surrounded by the
forest, using the girl’s restorative locks to maintain
her youthful appearance.
her situation, Rapunzel has grown into a joyful and creative
young woman with a resilient spirit. After all, she really
hasn’t known anything else. Her pet chameleon Pascal
is great company, but she longs for something more out of
life. She may have been taught that the outside world is
an unforgiving, selfish, and cruel place, she has watched
from her window with restless curiosity.
year on the evening of her birth, Rapunzel is enraptured
by the night sky that is mysteriously set ablaze by dancing
lights. She makes it her dream to find the source of this
tantalizing sight, unknowing that it is actually her parents
and their kingdom releasing floating lanterns into the air
in her memory, hoping that their stolen princess will return.
comes handsome Flynn Rider (Chuck’s Zachary
Levi), a dashing and cocky young thief who stumbles upon
Rapunzel’s tower while running away from his betrayed
criminal cohorts (including Ron Perlman), a determined palace
horse named Maximus, and a handful of armed palace guards.
shelter in the tower, he stumbles upon a curious Rapunzel,
they tangle, and soon he is coerced into escorting her out
into the great wide open, to follow her dream. It doesn’t
take long for Gothel to realize what has transpired and
most of all…. that her vanity is at stake! Manipulating
anyone in her way, she seeks to return Rapunzel as she was,
before the truth is revealed.
the tower may be the main location in the Grimm tale, the
movie really takes off when Rapunzel and Flynn begin their
journey. The interior of the tower has artistic flair due
to Rapunzel’s savvy arts and crafts touch, but seeing
Rapunzel express such wonder, amazement, even guilt is far
imagine how it is to experience a blade of grass or a stream
of water for the first time. The filmmakers, along with
Moore, portray this in both an amusing and natural way.
hard for Flynn and viewers to not be taken, or tangled,
with this Rapunzel. Considering I’ve always felt the
character was dull, it is commendable and refreshing how
bright and alive she is here.
this is contemporary and comical update to a familiar tale,
there are still some apparent Disney conventions intact
here. Disney made fun of characters breaking into song in
a hilarious way in Enchanted and while I have for
some time now rolled my eyes whenever it happens in animated
films, I didn’t mind it here. Maybe it was due to
the involvement of multiple Oscar-winning composer Alan
Menken (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin) and lyricist
Glenn Slater or maybe I was already so smitten by the dazzling
art direction, that I didn’t mind watching the tunes
(many quite jubilant and fun) incorporate into the picture.
their singing backgrounds, Moore and Murphy effortlessly
deliver their songs, but the real news here is that Levi
can sing. Yes, that’s actually his voice in a duet
with Moore and his vocals are just another addition to the
surprises to the film.
rest of the actors provide some musical laughs, particularly
in a hilarious sequence outside a seedy pub (the kind where
you’d find Aragorn) where a slew of burly barbarians
(prominently Brad Garrett and Jeffrey Tambor) sing “I’ve
Got a Dream” with Moore and Levi. It’s a song
that offers up some silly characterization and great physical
comedy, while naturally progressing the story. So, something
familiar, done right.
as no surprise to learn that producer Gary Kearns had in
mind a painterly approach here, citing the painting ”The
Swing”, by French Rococo artist Jean-Honore Fragonard
as a primary influence. The character designs, atmospheres
and tone reminded me of a cross between Sleeping Beauty
and The Emperor’s New Groove, both in terms of style
and madcap silliness, respectively.
it genuinely does feel like a painting come to life, carefully
enhanced in-depth and perception by a non-gimmicky 3D. Sure
every animated film is now released in 3D and it often barely
does much for the film, yet the best use of 3D this year
has been in animated films and this is one of them. The
detail and articulation displayed is an undeniable achievement.
the film begins, Disney takes a moment to note that this
is their 50th animated feature (not counting their work
with Pixar), and this is a film they can be proud of. Like
many Disney films before it, Tangled derives from
a fairy tale, adds songs to the story as well as animal
shenanigans, but all those elements seem to line-up in just
the right way.
its villains are not as dark as other Disney films and,
for a change, neither of the two leads are ever annoying.
How ironic and appropriate for the House of Mouse to deliver
a return to form in such a successful way. Packed with broad
comedy, a variety of delightful supporting characters and
absorbing environments, this is a charming winner for Disney.
we have here is an enjoyable film that will surprise anyone
who had any reservations whatsoever about seeing something
that would seem overdone. That’s how I had felt at
first about Tangled and it’s a rare delight
that I wound up feeling completely satisfied.
review also appears on David's own website,
Keeping It Reel.)