Wed 24 Nov 2010
Although it’s been some time since one could really say that Disney animation got it right, I’m very happy to say that “Tangled” is a modern throwback to films like “The Lion King” and “Beauty and the Beast”.
We once again get a classic fairy tale given the updated twist, this time in the form of Rapunzel – you know, the girl with the long hair that’s trapped in a tower and waiting for rescue. In this version, our heroine’s hair is imbued with some magic powers which an evil woman covets for the ability to keep her young. Along comes a dashing thief, with a heart of gold, who escorts Rapunzel on a journey to discover what the outside world is really like.
There are a number of things that go right for the film and I’ll start with the music. Going into this, I was hoping not to endure another round of “The Princess and the Frog“, with lackluster songs and a low dose of fun. I was a little worried when one of the first songs in “Tangled” feels like “The Little Mermaid’s” ‘Part of Your World”, only with Rapunzel’s name thrown in, but that comes as no surprise since Alan Menken was at the musical helm for both (and most of Disney’s other triumphs in the ’90s). So while I was a bit snarky about such an obvious callback to prior work, the bottom line was that this song, and all of those that followed, not only told a story but also sounded beautiful and melodic.
Now, it also doesn’t hurt that when casting the lead, directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard went with Mandy Moore. Her acting is better than many of the projects she’s chosen and she has an extremely lovely singing voice (as evidenced by the successful music career). Donna Murphy’s inclusion as the woman keeping Rapunzel captive paid off as well, giving just the right amount of attitude and hitting all the right notes. Even Zachary Levi (playing the love interest) gets to croon during one song and he sounded remarkably better than I had expected after watching “Chuck” these last few years.
While the lead actors and music choices were all spot on, the best part about “Tangled” may lie in two supporting characters who don’t talk at all: Maximus the horse and Pascal the chameleon. Each convey every emotion via body language and simple grunts or squeals. Whether the animators were looking at “WALL·E” or some of the more classic Disney films as inspiration, it worked beautifully. These two characters kept the laughs coming and the fun factor at a high level.
It’s clear that having one of the Pixar forefathers, John Lasseter, heading up Disney animation these days is paying off. What had once been a stagnant pool of direct to video dreck is now taking the house that Walt built back into the spotlight. While “Tangled” lacks the originality of most Pixar features, relying on the fairy tale for its base, there’s a tangible sense that everyone was on the same page when making this feature and I’m inclined to think much of that is due to Lasseter’s influence.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention whether you should shell out some more dough for those 3D glasses. The simple answer is: No, you should not. What depth there was to the feature was minimal for the most part and nearly all of the objects flung/dangled/dropped for obvious 3D effect seemed thrown in merely to make you think the glasses were worth the extra cash. More to the point, certain elements were a bit painful, forcing me to look away or remove the glasses for a second to avoid going completely cross-eyed. And while not quite as bad as other films have been, the continuing problem of having a bright color palette dulled by wearing tinted lenses occurs here as well, so I’ll be happy to see this in 2D at a later time to get the full visual effect.
Still, I’ve been looking for an animated film to truly wow me all year, and so far only have “Despicable Me” to show for it. Well, move over Gru because Rapunzel and her crew have set a new high water mark for 2010. “Tangled” is a fun, and funny, animated feature parents can happily enjoy with their kids and not feel so cheated about in their wallets. A 4.5 out of 5, I had some minor issues with elements of resolving the story but will happily add this to my Blu-ray collection when it becomes available and this is the safest bet of any film over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend (assuming you’ve already gotten your “Harry Potter” fix of course).