Tangled(2010) Rated PG, for brief mild violence. Dir: Nathan Greno, Byron Howard
This film is currently playing in theaters.
Tangled is the latest Disney animation that flawlessly captures the whole “Disney Princess” genre from its traditional cell animation in full computer graphics (also shown in stereoscopic 3-D format). In this retelling of the Rapunzel story, Princess Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) is kidnapped from the palace as a baby by Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy) and raised as her own due to Rapunzel’s magical hair. Rapunzel has since been imprisoned in a tower until her 18th birthday, when she strikes a deal with a bandit named Flynn Ryder (Zachary Levi) to escape and see up close the strange floating lights that she sees every year on her birthday from her tower. Meanwhile, Gothel, a group of bandits, and the King’s guards are in hot pursuit.
Finally Disney nearly gets everything right. Almost. Visually, this film is right up there with Pixar’s work…actually, it even manages to surpass in that arena. This is saying A LOT. Still, the real strength of Pixar’s work is how each of their films all work as a whole package, hanging on the strength of its storytelling, characterization, and high concept. It is in these last three points that Disney’s Tangled comes very close but not quite reach, yet, that’s understandable given that it’s based on a well-known fairy tale, and let’s face it, when it comes to Disney animation, it has certain rules–repetitive ones at that. There’s the recurring cute non-speaking sidekick, the music numbers, the evil stepmother, and couple other rules which will become clear when you see it. Their concept and stories are quite similar to each other, but Tangled does make some novel changes that work well quite dramatically and humorously. The characters have a modern edge to them that makes them fun, yet not derivative. The visual jokes are quite sophisticated and the film never overdoes it.
The characters all closely mimic the traditional 2-D Disney character style. Rapunzel beautifully shines in this film. Her expressions, the facial structure, the cute nose, the perfect skin tones, and the big eyes look amazingly alive. The movements of her and all the characters here are spot on. They move just like 2-D animation, yet realistically. The action scenes are breath-taking. I could just watch Rapunzel move around and simply be amazed at the artistry. Likewise, Flynn Ryder and Mother Gothel are well-crafted, humorously and carefully animated. However, if there was one character that steals the show every moment that he appears on screen, that would have to be a certain horse named Maximus. Truly, if there’s an Oscar for a CG character, he’d win hands down. If I ever meet the guy who animated this character, I’d love to shake his hand.
Mandy Moore is flawless as the voice of Rapunzel. I really can’t add anything else to say without being redundant. Zachary Levi brings much personality and fun as Flynn Ryder with his expressive voice and perfect timing, which sound strangely like Steve Carell. Yeah, try listening to him with your eyes closed and tell me if you disagree.
Now, the film is not without some flaws. The music numbers can be a tad distracting-admittedly, they weren’t particularly memorable. The film would have been just fine without them, but they’re not bad. Second, there’s a rather predicable nature in the way this film follows a common, worn Disney formula-it’s hard to elaborate without spoilers. There’s also an underlying meanness in this film that Pixar films tend not to have (yet Pixar films manage to be more mature and thought-provoking than many live-action films). This film is here to entertain and in that way, it succeeds. Disney films are meant to make you want to believe in love and magic, not heady subjects like family relations (Finding Nemo, Incredibles, Up), loyalty (Ratatouille), community (Bug’s Life), mortality (Toy Story series), and problems of pride (Cars).
Whatever flaws one may look for, they are actually quite trivial compared to the rest of this film. There’s no doubt that this film is a great technical leap forward in almost every way, successfully duplicating the beauty, creativity, and imagination of its traditional, animated roots. Disney has done it quite marvelously here. Bravo!
My Rating: *** ½ out of **** stars