Monday, November 29, 2010

Movie Review: Tangled

Tangled ***
Directed By:
Nathan Greno & Byron Howard.
Written By: Dan Fogelman based on the Grimm Brothers Fairy Tale.
Starring: Mandy Moore (Rapunzel), Zachary Levi (Flynn Ryder), Donna Murphy (Mother Gothel), Ron Perlman (Stabbington Brother), M.C. Gainey (Captain of the Guard), Jeffrey Tambor (Big Nose Thug), Brad Garrett (Hook Hand Thug), Paul F. Tompkins (Short Thug), Richard Kiel (Vlad), Delaney Rose Stein (Young Rapunzel / Little Girl).

I have mixed feelings about Tangled – although perhaps it’s not fair to blame the movie for them. On one hand, Tangled is an animated movie in the best tradition of Disney – a beautiful princess, a roguish hero, an evil “stepmother”, lovable animals and cheery songs (although it must be said that this time, the songs are mostly forgettable, even if they work in the movie). On the other hand though, I really do think Tangled should have been a traditionally animated Disney movie. The animators do a decent job at recreating the classic character designs we have seen in the Disney animated movies, but the fact that this time it is all computer generated means for me something was lacking. Comparing Tangled to The Princess and the Frog from last year, which maintained that traditional feel, I preferred The Princess and the Frog. That is just something not quite right about this type of animation applied to the Disney formula. The kids won’t care though – they’ll have a blast at Tangled – but for adults raised on Disney cartoons like myself, it just didn’t seem right.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t like Tangled –once I got past my hesitation about the animation, and just let the movie work on its own terms, I really quite enjoyed it. Tangled does what Disney movies have done for decades – take an existing fairy tale, and made a highly enjoyable movie out of it. This time, it is the story of Rapunzel – that princess with the really long hair, locked away in a tower for her whole life by an evil stepmother Gothel (great name by the way), who wants the healing power her hair possesses all for herself. She has told Rapunzel, who is really the long lost daughter of the King and Queen, that she is her mother and that the world is a mean and evil place and that she could never survive by herself. But Rapunzel has dreams of getting out in the world. Every year on her birthday, she sees floating lights in the sky, and wants to see them up close. She doesn’t know of course that those lights are released by her parents and their subjects as a tribute to her. When a thief named Flynn Ryder shows up at her tower, on the run both from his cohorts and the King’s guard for stealing the Princess’ crown, she makes him a deal. She will let him leave with the crown, if she’ll take her to see those lights on her birthday in a few days. She thinks she has dispatched with Gothel for a few days, and what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her. Of course, things never work out as simply as Rapunzel thinks they will.

I enjoyed Tangled for what it is. This is a fairy tale, although one with a little bit more of a modern feel to it, I enjoyed the voice work by Zachery Levi (from TV’s Chuck) as Flynn, and really quite liked Mandy Moore who does a wonderful job with Rapunzel – making her lovingly na├»ve and sweet. Donna Murphy has the appropriate evil dripping out of her voice as Gothel, and the rest of the cast is fine as well.

And even if I think it should have been traditionally animated, I did like a lot of the animated touches to the movie as well. I loved Rapunzel’s chameleon friend Padel, who changes colors to fit in everywhere, and I really loved the horse Maximus, who acts like a hound dog, and has a series of wonderful facial expressions. The human characters aren’t quite as well done, but they are acceptable, and the settings are fine. There really are some wonderful touches here. I generally dislike 3-D immensely, so I saw it in 2-D, and the colors were bright and sunny, and worked wonderfully well.

Kids, especially little girls, are going to love Tangled. My niece loves all of those Disney Princesses, and Rapunzel fits in right alongside them quite well. Perhaps when Disney does another of their more traditional animated films in this style, I will simply accept it and move on. This time though, seeing the classic Disney story fitted into computer animation felt a little disconcerting at times. Not enough for me not to like Tangled – but enough for me not to love it.

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