REVIEW: Tangled [2010]

Score: 8/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: PG | Runtime: 100 minutes | Release Date: November 24th, 2010 (USA)
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Director(s): Nathan Greno & Byron Howard
Writer(s): Dan Fogelman / Jacob Grimm & Wilhelm Grimm (fairy tale Rapunzel)

“Goldie, look at all the blood in his mustache”

How long does it take to grow your hair so that you can use it with a pulley system to lift a person up a good hundred feet? Well, if Disney’s Tangled is to be believed, eighteen years. I don’t think it hurts having the golden locks also be magical; the whole ability to heal living creatures does lead you to believe it will constantly heal itself and not get dry, brittle, or manifest loose ends. But then that’s what happens in fairy tales, especially ones where a pregnant dying queen is saved by a magical flower found by her loyal subjects, the combination of its powers and a song sung allowing her to live and give birth to the princess who, as a result, now possesses the same magic inside. Like every great Brothers Grimm yarn, though, an evil witch—Mother Gothel isn’t quite a witch per se, but she’s got the evil in excess—enters the fray, becomes enamored by the prospect of eternal youth, and steals the child for herself. Raised as her own, Rapunzel grows up fearing the outside world, never knowing of her birthright or having the strength to find out.

Disney has dabbled with computer animation for a few years now, at first in competition with and as a lifeline beyond Pixar, before the studios merged and cannibalized each other. Tangled started production when the relationship future of the two was still up in the air, but by the time it was released, I’m not quite so sure you can separate it completely from Luxo Jr.’s home. In fact, I’d say screenwriter Dan Fogelman was able to capture the best of both worlds, mixing the wonderful humor from the likes of Meet the Robinsons and his own Bolt with the heart and humanity Pixar has branded itself on. The story is a familiar one, but the inclusion of modernized characterizations and an infusion of more action and adventure than I remember the old Rapunzel containing really allows this film to stand on its own. And that is a very welcome fact for me because, no matter how much I love the yearly output from Pixar, there really has been a void in quality family animation where characters aren’t afraid to break out into song.

The Princes and the Frog showed the world that the Mouse House wasn’t dead—it could still craft entertaining stories for all ages and make talking animals and musical constructs bring a smile to viewers’ faces as opposed to winces and headshaking. A Disney princess or princess-equivalent belting out lyrics to surround us into her film’s magic is an American staple and I for one am glad it seems to have been rejuvenated to mirror the classic heyday of the 90s and its consistent string of successes. In fact, the only thing that surprises me when looking back is how it took so long to finally cast actors who could also carry a tune. All those movies from my childhood had lead characters voiced by two separate stars, one for speech and one for song. We all know Mandy Moore can sing, so her being the heroine Rapunzel is a no-brainer, but how about “Chuck’s” own Zachary Levi lending some vocal stylings for the not so pristine prince? Flynn Rider excels due to Levi’s impeccable comedic timing and expressive voice, but there’s also something to say about consistency when hearing his voice carry on through the music too.

The humor really does lend itself well to this thief/hero’s human counterpart. That amalgam of insecurity masked by sarcasm with overt confidence masking stupidity is exactly what Rider needs. He has to be equal parts charming man, to woe an unsuspecting princess, and criminal, to feed into Mother Gothel’s lies and deceit, brainwashing Rapunzel into thinking the world was full of selfish ruffians out to steal her hair. What’s great is that Levi isn’t even the best at delivering the duplicitous retorts; that victory goes to Donna Murphy’s portrayal of Gothel. She has the power to belt orders and unpleasantries when coupled with the sunken cheeks and Queen Narissa looks, but also the wonderful cadence to pull off candy-coated derision with every opening of her mouth. The script gives her gem after gem of wordplay to instill fear in the mind of her captive as well as a healthy portion of self-satisfying remarks like looking into a mirror with her ‘daughter’, adoring the beautiful young woman looking back with an, ‘Oh look, Rapunzel! You’re there too”. I’ll say it now, those words would be funny coming from anyone—Murphy makes them hilarious.

The rest of the voice cast is stellar with great villainy from Ron Perlman and awesome thugs with heart by Jeffrey Tambor and Brad Garrett; the latter allowed the rare opportunity to show off his voice. And in a surprising twist, the personified animals don’t actually have voices here, so I can only praise the animation and direction for their success at emoting through body language and expressive faces. Max the horse and Pascal the chameleon are both a treat, their roles just as important as the human characters, helping steer attitudes and events to move along the course towards ‘happily ever after’. Tangled is, after all, a fairy tale steeped in true love and finding the hero locked within. The unlikely pairing of a thief and a naïve girl never seeing the outside world is one ripe for laughter and moments of serious clarity. Two lost souls must find each other before they are able to let destiny find them. There’s singing, there’s kinetic action, and, of course, there’s suspense, romance, and drama. We’re just lucky they had a frying pan for the journey. Really, who knew that thing could come in so handy as a weapon of choice for thugs?

[1] Flynn Rider (voiced by Zachary Levi) with Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore) stars in animation family Walt Disney Pictures’ Tangled.
[2] Center: MOTHER GOTHEL (voiced by Donna Murphy), the villainess in the upcoming film “Tangled,” is already a favorite of John Lasseter, chief creative officer for Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios.
[3] Flynn Rider (voiced by Zachary Levi) with Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore) stars in animation family Walt Disney Pictures’ Tangled.

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