Tangled: This Rapunzel Flick Is Not A Let Down

From start to finish, this is a vintage Disney animated feature. You’ve got your princess who longs for more from life, your cute roguish prince, your hilarious and wildly marketable animal sidekicks, and your big lively musical numbers. For a movie that is computer-animated and 3D, it feels remarkably old-fashioned, and some of the sequences are among the most gorgeous scenes of the year. It never reaches the heights of Disney’s best, but it ranks easily with last year’s The Princess and The Frog as one of the best of the post-Lion King era. Tangled doesn’t really take a misstep– it’s exciting, funny, and succeeds in the ultimate goal of a Disney movie: it makes you feel like a kid again.

The movie begins with Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) narrating the story of Rapunzel (Mandy Moore), prefacing it by saying this is the tale of how he dies. The narration, somewhat extraneous and a bit obnoxious, is the worst thing about the movie– didn’t they learn from Up that music and pictures can tell a story better than voiceover?– and it ends after the first couple of minutes. She is a kidnapped princess, taken by Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy), because her hair contains magic that keeps her young. Flynn has stolen the crown from the kingdom with the vicious Stabbington Brothers (both voiced by Ron Perlman), but Flynn betrays them and lets them get captured by the guard while he hides in Rapunzel’s tower. Rapunzel knocks him out and hides the crown, telling Flynn he can get it back if he takes her out of her tower to explore the kingdom– in particular a festival of floating lanterns which happens on her birthday every year. When Mother Gothel finds out her magic hair is gone, she is… displeased.

I was very concerned heading into this when veteran Broadway actors Kristen Chenowith and Dan Fogler were replaced by a pop singer and TV star. Usually Dreamworks animated features cast their roles based on celebrity status, not voice talent, and it’s a big part of why their movies suffer in comparison to Disney flicks. Zach Levi didn’t do much for me as Flynn Rider, but he nailed the earnestness of the character, and in retrospect, Fogler voicing the role would have potentially gotten obnoxious. Same for Chenowith– Moore has a very sweet and youthful sound for the 18-year-old character which I thought fit the role perfectly. Her very open pop vocals make her songs quite appealing. The music, as written by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater, is great if not classic. There’s a thug number in a bar that brings to mind the Gaston song from Beauty and the Beast– it’s a showstopper– and the main love ballad is a gorgeous duet with beautiful romantic visuals surrounding it, not unlike A Whole New World.

Even though they never reach the heights of those moments, even being mentioned in the same breath should tell you the level on which Tangled is working. A slightly lesser Disney classic is still more enjoyable than most animated films. There’s a formula at play, yet the film still surprises. There hasn’t been a cute animal sidekick this effective since Abu– both Pascal the chameleon and Maximus the horse are witty and beautifully executed. Even the cynic who only sees cute Disney characters as marketing ploys should appreciate the characterization and precision with which these characters appear and entertain. The villains aren’t exactly all-time greats, but Mother Gothel is within the vein of evil hag witches that Disney used to employ in his first films–any Disney fan can guess what happens to Mother Gothel at the end.

And honestly, the fact that I can sit here and say that some of these moments feel like homages to other Disney films makes Tangled a celebration of all things Disney. The new animation maintains a familiar Disney character design while also being gorgeously executed by computers. An escape involving a bursting dam is as exciting as some of the best Disney action sequences, and the big love duet is as beautiful as some of Disney’s loveliest moments– Pixar’s too, for that matter. Everything within the film feels like a throwback despite the computer animation, which I think was exactly the point. Enough people (myself included) are angry at the demise of 2D animation within Disney studios that it was going to take a high-quality product in order to convert us to the thought process that computer animated musical features aren’t necessarily a step in the wrong direction. They’ve delivered. While they can never replace the 2D look, Tangled will leave the skeptics tongue-tied.

~ by russellhainline on December 3, 2010.

One Response to “Tangled: This Rapunzel Flick Is Not A Let Down”

  1. […] Picture: 25. Tangled 24. Cyrus 23. The Town 22. Terribly Happy 21. Shutter Island 20. The Karate Kid 19. Another Year […]

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