Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Long Beautiful Hair - Tangled - Movie Review

Disney's Tangled = A
Written by Dan Fogelman based on the fairy tale Rapunzel by the Brothers Grimm, Directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard
Opens November 24th 2010

All I remember from the fairy tale Rapunzel is when the prince calls out "Rapunzel Rapunzel, please let down your hair", before he climbs her hair to save her from being locked up in a tower. So I'm not sure what Disney has changed, added, lightened, and rounded out the darkness in these usually grim fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm, but I'm okay with the Disneyfication. Tangled is a a wonderful return to the classic fairy tale animated musicals Disney had excelled at, and while some of the morals and tendency to promote a Princess attitude can be questionable, they tell the story so well in such an entertaining fashion that I fell in love with Disney's modernized version of Rapunzel.

Don't get me wrong, it's still with the medieval town, the castle, a princess, animals as best friends, and other animated Disney goodness, and to top it off, a return of Alan Menken writing the score and music for the songs. The whole movie is like a trip to some childhood nostalgic memory of going to a Disney theme park, and as the 50th Animated Motion Picture by Disney, it's quite a hark back to the fairy tale classics they've become famous for, while a nice move forward in modern spirit and attitude, along with beautiful 3D computer animation with a hand-drawn colour palate. Add in some amazing action sequences and tons of swooping camera shots that only make this fairy tale land seem all the more reachable, and Disney has managed to balance their Princess story with a exciting and hilarious films that even the boys will love.

To shift the narrative of the trapped Princess with long golden (and magical hair), Tangled is told via a handsome and suave thief named Flynn Ryder (superbly voiced by Zachary Levi, Chuck, Less Than Perfect), who accidentally discovers the tower Mother Gothel (Broadway Tony winner Donna Murphy, in perfect creepy evil Disney mode) has entrapped the kidnapped Rapunzel, who has grown up thinking the selfish evil Mother Gothel as her own real mother.

Meanwhile, Rapunzel (Mandy Moore, in perfectly sweet and crystal voiced innocence) sings songs about spending her days in a trapped tower, looking optimistically at the small world around her with her best friend, Pascal the chameleon. The wonderful new songs from Alan Menken and Glenn Slater are tuneful, catchy, and mostly move the story along in perfect musical bliss, and if there's only one flaw, it's that there weren't enough songs to make it a full fledged musical (I could have enjoyed at least 2 more in the film). While the new songs still aren't quite on par to Alan Menken's golden years with Howard Ashman (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast), they are a nice return to the soaring Disney musical melodies of Disney's animated renaissance.

With narration by Zachary Levi's Flynn Ryder, we get some nice sarcastic streetwise humour to counter Rapunzel's naive look at the world, giving Tangled a zippy humorous feel. Add a reluctant ally in a dog-like horse named Maximus, who without any lines, still manages to convey more laughs, more character, and more depth than any Adam Sandler film, and Tangled charms its way all the way through the full length film from a story about a girl with long hair.

At times, if you really think about it, the morals in the fairy tale are sometimes questionable. While Mother Gothel is labeled as evil for keeping the magic flower for herself, somehow the Royal Family is allowed to take it for their own use for good? And in the end, it's not okay for the Princess to ask the Prince to marry him? Yet despite this, Tangled so delightfully gets the movie tone right that the antiquated morals seem only to add to the medieval theme park charm of it all.

The story stretches the story by having Rapunzel make Flynn Ryder take her on a journey to see the floating lanterns, an annual event the kingdom does in search of their lost princess. Can you see where this is going? We all do, and we all know how it's going to end, but boy does Disney make it fun along the whole way, including a set of scary looking thieves, including one who wants to be a mime! (A hilarious background character amongst a bunch of hilarious background characters).

But of course, there's a love story thrown in for good measure, and with a lovely song (in a absolutely stunning scene with the floating lanterns), it's easy to get caught up, leading to a misty eyed finale that surprisingly caught me off guard considering how funny and action packed the rest of the movie had been.

I've already seen the film twice, and to be honest, while it doesn't have the epic feeling of Beauty and the Beast, or the crispness of The Little Mermaid, Tangled will easily fit into Disney's Classics vault and I will happily watch it again, whether it's by myself, or with the next set of kids.

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Unknown said...

Tangled could have been a disaster. Directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard really pushed for something different by attempting to modernize a classic tale for contemporary audiences while combining the classic storylines and imagery of Disney’s illustrious past. All of that experimentation can unbalance a film by leaning too heavily on one side or the other, but Tangled does a remarkable job at harmonizing the past and present. Gorgeous CG, an involving and up-tempo score, and some of the best sidekicks seen on screen propel this take on the character of Rapunzel. There is a sense of contemporary fun throughout the film, and yet the heart remains where it should; right in the middle.

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Kenney said...

I found it odd that the androgynous side kick Pascal got to kill the witch. Thats a little dark in my book.

Also, I sniggered when Rapunzel gave Flynn her flower. It was a cheeky subtext.

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