Classic Disney musicals inspire beautifully animated film’s tone, quality.
Finally! With the release of Tangled, hair fetishists now have a Disney movie just for them … and any other moviegoer that happens to enjoy beautiful animation, a script with plenty of laughs and a charming story that’s a throwback to the ‘90s era of Disney that saw the release of some of the studio’s most popular animated musicals.
Mandy Moore stars as Rapunzel, the Brothers Grimm fairy tale heroine and envy of prematurely balding women everywhere. Stolen from her biological family as a child, Rapunzel has been locked in a tower her entire life. Because of the fact that Rapunzel’s hair contains magical restorative powers, she has been the captive of Mother Gothel, a Joan Crawford-esque elderly woman obsessed with staying young thanks to her adoptive daughter’s gift.
Played by Donna Murphy, Mother Gothel is the same sort of manipulative, sort-of-sympathetic villain that Disney has been churning out for the last seventy years. The fact that Gothel is, in many ways, a shadow puppet to other Disney villains that have come before is only appropriate due to the fact that Tangled is cut very much from the same cloth as other Disney cartoons such as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and The Princess and the Frog. Thankfully, Tangled is very close to being just as entertaining as the movies it’s inspired by.
Tangled is one hair’s width away from achieving the same exulted status of the previously mentioned Disney animated musicals. Thankfully lacking in the pop culture references that DreamWorks insists on force-feeding down its animated movies’ throats, Tangled is a movie that audiences will only grow in appreciation for as it remains timeless in its humor and romance. As they wait for the film to age like a fine cheese or wine, though, moviegoers can still enjoy a highly entertaining fairy tale designed to appeal to most every member of the family.
The star of Tangled is the film’s lush animation. Designed to give CGI animation the look and feel of hand-drawn cell art, Tangled looks like the love child of a Renaissance painting and a Pixar film. Every frame glows with a warmth and bubbly sheen that recalls a rich oil painting or the Little Golden Books of our youth.
Instead of the borderline realism of motion capture films or the detail packed precision of a Pixar film, the world of Tangled is heavily stylized and almost plump and juicy in its texture. There’s just a bit of the look of a claymation film in some of the movie’s scenes — a look that helps to set the film apart from the downpour of CGI animated movies that have been released in recent years.
Tangled isn’t just a pretty picture to look at though. The movie is heavy on action and humor — providing ample entertainment to those members of the audience that aren’t inherently obsessed with everything princess related.
For the boys, Zachary Levi co-stars as Flynn Rider, a boisterous rouge who could be a brother to Captain Jack Sparrow of the Pirates of the Caribbean films. On the run from the Captain of the Guard after stealing a prized crown from the royal family, Rider finds himself taking sanctuary in the tower Rapuznel has been held captive her entire life.
Desperate to see the outside world, Rapunzel seizes on her newfound acquaintance’s street savvy to help her navigate life outside her tower.
Greedy, selfish and just a little antiheroic, Rider is the perfect compliment to the wide-eyed Amy Adams look-alike that is Rapunzel. The young woman’s naïveté, emotional exuberance and patient romanticism help to coax out the hero that has been hiding within Rider for most of his life.
Most of the humor of the film comes from the movie’s breakout character, Maximus the horse cop. A four-legged enforcer in the Royal Guard, Maximus is as driven and obsessed in his pursuit of Rider as Tommy Lee Jones’ character in The Fugitive. Every scene with Maximus is an absolute winner and the character might just have become my favorite non-talking Disney cartoon animal. Surprisingly, Pascal, the chameleon sidekick to Rapunzel and a character that just smacks of intended toy tie-ins, is a real hoot, too.
There’s a lot to laugh about in Tangled — unfortunately, there’s not too much to sing about.
While Alan Menken’s score for Tangled is a sweeping success and a worthy successor to any of his previous contributions to the Disney music library, Glenn Slater’s lyrics fail to properly match the quality of Menkin’s music. Besides “I’ve Got a Dream,” a rousing musical number set in a den of thieves, and “Mother Knows Best,” a sassy serenade performed by Donna Murphy as Mother Gothel, there’s nary a song from the film that manages to join the rank of memorable Disney tunes from years past. All the tunes sound far to reminiscent of previous Disney songs.
While previous films influence much of Tangled and the movie succeeds in large part due to the fact that co-directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard took what had come before and gave it a fresh twist, the songs in Tangled feel like generic sound-alikes. There’s nothing new and enticing about the lyrics and Menkin’s winning score suffers just slightly due to the association with Slater’s words.
Despite its few shortcomings, Tangled remains a movie well worth seeing. Don’t feel pressured to spring for the extra bucks to see it in 3D, though. Besides a few beautiful scenic shots, much of the movies fails to use 3D for anything but a shallow depth to the actions. 3D does not make the film any more immersive and fails to rise above a simple gimmick. And this is coming from a guy who loves 3D.
What does make the movie immersive, though, are the likable characters and the nostalgic tint to the movie’s tone. Tangled feels like a film that could have been released in the years between Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. In any case, it’s a film that definitely deserves a spot in the Disney pantheon and a trip to the theater this Thanksgiving.
Director: Nathan Greno and Byron Howard Notable Cast: Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy, Brad Garrett, Ron Perlman and Jeffrey Tambor. Writer(s): Dan Fogelman
Robert Saucedo is an avid movie watcher with seriously poor sleeping habits. The Mikey from Life cereal of film fans, Robert will watch just about anything — good, bad or ugly. He has written about film for newspapers, radio and online for the last 10 years. This has taken a toll on his sanity — of that you can be sure. Follow him on Twitter at @robsaucedo2500.