Disney once owned the animation genre during the 90s and deservedly so, although there was little to no competition back then. The last decade proved that hand drawn motion pictures were too old school to contend with the likes of Pixar and Dreamworks computer animated films.
After 2009’s Princess and the Frog failed to make an impact, Disney decided to ditch their previous efforts in favor of the new market to showcase their 50th animated feature. For such a historic event, they made the second most expensive movie of all time (it’s true), employing every CGI technique in the book to create the best looking animated film ever, while also being released in 3D. The result is Tangled, an incredibly vibrant visual showcase that resembles Disney’s traditional fairy tales with a modern sense of humor and terrific vocal performances.
The story revolves around Rapunzel, voiced by Mandy Moore, a kidnapped princess baby with long magical hair, who’s raised by the villainous Mother Gothel in a hidden tower deep within a forest, where she yearns to explore the world outside her bedroom window. Like Pocahontas, Belle and Arielle before her, Rapunzel is a heroine that is typical in fashion, but different in nature. Her relationship with the devious Gothel (a show stopping Donna Murphy) is the story’s center, while also giving the antagonist an almost human quality compared to Disney’s gallery of black-hearted rogues.
On the male side of things lies the hero, Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi), a charming criminal on the run by local authorities for stealing the royal crown. He hides in the tower thinking it’s empty until he meets a very hostile but curious Rapunzel. The two make a deal that requires Rider to escort Rapunzel inside the city to witness an annual celebration, and along the way they run into inevitable trouble along the likes of a pub full of misunderstood thugs and a pair of brutes called the Stabbington Brothers.
Of course, being a Disney movie and all, lovable animal sidekicks are present in the form of Pascal, a chameleon, and Maximus, the royal guard’s head horse. Pascal changes color of course and his gags are obvious and not much of an excitement either. Maximus on the other hand, is a riot, who borders on being a full-fledged character himself. Determined to catch Rider at all costs, the white stallion is a strong physical presence that constantly does things no animal is capable of. The unwavering duel between Rider and Maximus, never really gets old because it’s such a joy watching a horse act like a human and Robocop at the same time.
As usual, the best character is the villain and Mother Gothel is a wonder. Her evilness is equally matched by her well-intentioned devotion to Rapunzel. Murphy voices her Gothel as a theatrical selfish old soul, obsessed with living in the body of a young female. She loves Rapunzel like a daughter, even if her flowing blonde hair is the real object of her affection. Gothel has dimensions beyond anyone in the film and her intentions are wildly jumbled, making her unpredictably mischievous.
As Rapunzel, Moore voices her as a strong self taught woman with a zest for adventure, remaining an appealing heroine who has emotionally grown beyond the appearance and innocence of past Disney princesses. Levi also does a commendable job as the reluctant hero who relishes in his alluring scandalous image, and eventually peels back layers of his true self. Both do an excellent job with their musical sequences, and pull of the hard aspect of chemistry which is even more difficult to attain in animated form. The songs themselves, aside from one or two, aren’t exactly memorable or inspired enough to stand the test of time like Disney’s previous films.
For those who haven’t seen Tangled, you should definitely give the film a look. Even if Disney movies aren’t your cup of tea, you’ll be surprised at the witty and pleasant approach Tangled exudes. The story may play it safe by sticking with its formulaic design, but the characters make you remember how good Disney is at crafting films for all ages. Tangled is a treat, honoring Disney as its 50th animated film, mixing the old and the new to create a film that is as vintage as it is contemporary.
Even if Disney movies aren’t your cup of tea, you’ll be surprised at the witty and pleasant approach Tangled exudes.