Tangled

Cast:
Mandy Moore as Rapunzel (voice)
Zachary Levi as Flynn Ryder (voice)
Donna Murphy as Mother Gothel (voice)
Ron Perlman as Stabbington Brother (voice)
M.C. Gainey as Captain of the Guard (voice)
Jeffrey Tambor as Big Nose Thug (voice)
Brad Garrett as Hook Hand Thug (voice)
Paul F. Tompkins as Short Thug (voice)
Richard Kiel as Vlad (voice)
Delaney Rose Stein as Young Rapunzel/Little Girl (voice)

Directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard

Summary:
Fun performances by Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi and a healthy dose of comedy make “Tangled” a fun merging of the old Disney princess musical formula and the new CG 3D animation. Kids and adults will both find something to enjoy in this.

Story:
This film is based on the “Rapunzel” fairy tale.

Once upon a time, a drop of sunlight fell on the earth and turned into a flower with magical properties. When it was found by Mother Gothel, she discovered it was capable of healing people and giving her eternal youth. Gothel jealously hid the flower for herself, but when the Queen of the nearby kingdom fell ill during her pregnancy, the King took the flower to save her. In the process, the magical properties of the flower were transferred to the newborn princess, Rapunzel.

Desperate to regain her eternal youth, Gothel kidnapped the infant Rapunzel and hid her in a secret tower. There, she raised the young girl as her own daughter and never let her visit the outside world. Over the years her magical hair grew incredibly long and continued to rejuvenate Gothel with its powers. However at age 18, Rapunzel was desperate to see the outside world but didn’t dare defy her supposed mother by leaving. That is, until a charming rogue named Flynn Ryder stumbled across the tower and Rapunzel.

“Tangled” is rated PG for brief mild violence.

What Worked:
If you were a fan of the Disney animated musicals from the ’90s, then “Tangled” is a film you’re going to enjoy. It has all the required elements – a princess, a charming would-be prince, a fairytale setting, and characters that spontaneously break into Broadway songs. It’s an old formula wrapped in the new CG and 3D package. It’s an interesting merging of both worlds.

While the princess musical formula seems a bit worn out, “Tangled” offsets it with quite a bit of humor that makes the whole thing a lot more palatable if it isn’t your cup of tea. There’s a lot of physical humor as characters are smashed in the face with frying pans, the unconscious Flynn is comically stuffed inside a wardrobe, and we get a cute chameleon that provides a lot of comic relief. The topper is a group of vicious looking barbarians who have secret dreams that aren’t quite in character. They provide a lot of laughs, too. It’s not quite a “Shrek” level of humor, but it’s still enough to make “Tangled” a bit of fun.

A big portion of the fun is the performances by Mandy Moore as Rapunzel and Zachary Levi as Flynn Ryder. Both have surprisingly strong voices for animation and their personalities really shine through the characters. Levi lays on the charming rogue-ishness and provides a lot of laughs with his mix of ego and brashness. Meanwhile, Mandy Moore perfectly portrays the wide-eyed enthusiasm of Rapunzel. There’s a hilarious moment when she enthusiastically revels in her newfound freedom, then the scene immediately cuts to her beating herself up for defying her mother. It’s a perfectly executed moment that makes her more realistic than a lot of the Disney princesses and more endearing to the audience. The two are backed up by a manly cast including Ron Perlman, M.C. Gainey, Jeffrey Tambor, and Brad Garrett. Donna Murphy is also impressively evil as Mother Gothel despite the fact that she has no magical powers. Her power is that of psychological manipulation… and a strong singing voice.

“Tangled” is presented in theaters in 3D. I don’t think it really helped this movie, but it certainly didn’t hurt it either. The 3D makes you appreciate little flower bushes in the foreground in some scenes, the height of the tower, and the detail of Rapunzel’s hair. A scene where a dam breaks has some impressively animated water that rushes out of the screen. Then a scene where thousands of lanterns float in the air is quite impressive with the 3D effect. So while the 3D doesn’t make or break the movie, I’d still choose to see it in that format in the theaters.

I have to admit that none of my kids wanted to see this movie. My 11-year-old daughter thought she was too old for it while my 5 and 9-year-old boys thought it was a girly film. I literally dragged them all to it, but by the end we all enjoyed it. It was a family movie the whole family enjoyed and that makes it a success in my book. If you need to entertain kids over Thanksgiving, this would be a good choice.

What Didn’t Work:
As an adult, one unsettling thing about “Tangled” is the fact that Rapunzel is a kidnapped child being raised by her kidnapper. The first time she calls Gothel ‘mother’, it’s really creepy. With things like the Elizabeth Smart case currently playing out in the news, this makes it even more unsettling. I can think of few things more horrific for a parent to have happen to a child. Admittedly, the Brothers Grimm and other fairy tale creators had lots of horrific things happen in their stories (witches attempting to eat kids, witches poisoning young girls, etc.) but this is still a tad unsettling plot point of “Tangled.”

And while “Tangled” follows the old Disney musical formula to the point that it hired Alan Menken to do the music, few of the songs really stand out in this film. They’re all mostly forgettable and you’d be hard pressed to sing them once you left the theater. The main love song, “I See The Light,” is pretty good and will likely get Academy Award nominations. There’s a nice duet in it and Mandy Moore gets to show off her singing talents. “I’ve Got A Dream” is also memorable for the silly barbarians, but otherwise I can’t say I’ve found myself humming the tunes after seeing the movie.

Finally, the Broadway musical formula felt a tad antiquated to me. I think “Tangled” played it pretty safe on that front. Maybe if the plot had been a little more daring or if the songs had been more memorable it wouldn’t have felt so antiquated. But without the comedy to offset it, this would have been a very bland film. They even went so far as to have the oft-parodied bluebirds flying around Rapunzel at one point. I kept waiting for the punchline when they did it, but it never happened. But, admittedly, they didn’t make this movie for cynical adults like myself who are familiar with this formula. They made it primarily for little girls born after 2000 who want to play princess. They definitely know their audience.

The Bottom Line:
While this isn’t one of the best Disney animated films, it’s not a bad one either. Kids and adults should both get a kick out of it.

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