Starring the Voices Of: Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, and Donna Murphy
Directed By: Nathan Greno and Byron Howard
Written By: Dan Fogelman (Based on “Rapunzel” by The Brothers Grimm)
I have made no secret on this blog about my love for Disney movies in general. With a few missteps here and there aside, they are simply some of the best films to ever be made and include some of the best music and songs you’ll ever hear. In general, Disney’s best work come down to the fabled “Princesses.” From Snow White and Cinderella to Ariel and Belle, these are the movies that stand the test of time. There’s also a lot of added pressure for any new Princess story to come out: they have to meet a certain standard. After the good (but not great) The Princess and the Frog, Disney tries their hand at the “Rapunzel” story in what is said to be it’s last Princess animated feature. Let’s see if Tangled belongs to be mentioned with the classics.
The story is centered around Rapunzel, the newly born princess of the Kingdom. There were some complications, however, and her mother was struggling to live late in the pregnancy. Cue a search for a magical flower with healing properties to help the mother and Rapunzel enters the world with much celebration. Unfortunately for all of them, an old lady (Murphy’s Mother Gothel) had been using said flower to maintain her youth and breaks into the castle looking for her flower. After noticing that Rapunzel’s hair now has healing powers (and that the hair loses it’s power if it’s cut), Gothel kidnaps the baby and raises it as her own, locked away in a tower, never to leave.
We skip ahead 18 years and Rapunzel (Moore) is still stuck in the tower. It’s for her own good, mind you, as the world is an awfully scary place that’s full of dangers. Thanks “Mother.” While her mother goes off and about, Rapunzel is stuck doing chores and doing the same routine every day (painting, reading the same books every day) with her only friend being a chameleon named Pascal to keep her company. She is a dreamer, as one would expect, and is especially fascinated over the lights that appear every year on her birthday (little does she know that it’s the Kingdom releasing lanterns to memory of her, the kidnapped princess). She wants nothing more than to see the lights in person, an idea that her mother shoots down for obvious reasons.
That’s is where Flynn Rider (Levi) comes in, a swashbuckling rogue on the run for stealing, coincidentally, the lost princess’ crown. To escape the supercop horse Maximus (it’s Disney, after all, and relax, he doesn’t talk), Flynn climbs the tower and is promptly knocked out by Rapunzel, who hides the crown away. In order to get the crown back, Flynn must take her to see the lights and return her back safely. With that, the two set off on Rapunzel’s first great adventure. Don’t worry, I didn’t actually give much away. There’s still plenty of movie left to watch for yourself, not to mention the obvious questions: does Rapunzel find out her back story? Does she escape from her mother? Does she fall in love with Flynn and vice versa? Well, what do you think?
Originally, what was to become Tangled was the basis for a sequel to the live action Enchanted (which put Amy Adams on the map). However, that idea was scrapped when it was determined that the story would work best as a stand-alone animated feature. Glen Keane, the animation supervisor and an executive producer saying that, “we should not be embarrassed or make excuses for doing a fairytale.” He’s absolutely right. Tangled is very much in the style of the Disney Renaissance (more on that later) and it’s a perfect story to animate, which allowed them to do more imaginative things than live action would.
The themes involved should sound very familiar: they’re the basis of all the great Disney movies of the past. Tangled has them all: the girl who wants more than the world has given her, the dashing leading male character that has to grow up, a wicked female villain, animal friends, and so on. As stated before, it draws heavily from Disney Renaissance of the late ’80s/early ’90s. Rapunzel is straight out of the mold that gave us The Little Mermaid‘s Ariel and Beauty and the Beast‘s Belle. She’s every bit as optimistic and strong(not to mention naive) as those two are. There’s even a romantic moment that recalls a similar situation in The Little Mermaid as you can see in the picture below. I should also note that Flynn’s twin partners in the beginning look VERY much like Sir Kay in The Sword in the Stone.
It would be a mistake to suggest that this is a bad thing. It’s not. While it does follow the tried and true formula, it’s the characters that make the movie so memorable. Rapunzel is a great heroine and we root for her every step of the way. Plus, she does some outstanding things with that insanely long hair of her’s. The animal friends are cute and funny, but are never annoying. Maximus in particular is great, who even sword fights Flynn with a gladius at one point (history nerds will love this bit). There are some great small roles found in the thugs (voiced by the likes of Brad Garrett and Jeffry Tambor) Rapunzel meets in a shady tavern. Mother Gothel is a great villain, as well. To me, she exemplifies the scariest kind of villain of them all: the evil parent figure. She’s supposed to have the child’s best interest in heart, yet clearly does not. This is why the Stepmother in Cinderella works so well and Gothel is very much in that style.
That said, the character that resonated with me the most was the dashing Flynn. Based on Errol Flynn, he is charming and daring, but most important, he’s our anchor (and narrator) in this strange world. This is where the movie diverts from the formula. Normally, once our main characters get over the initial shock of everything, they just go with the flow. Not the case with Flynn. Instead, he reacts (if given time to) to each new happening very much as we would. Find a girl with the longest hair ever? We’d find it odd. We find out that said hair glows and has healing properties? We’d freak out a tad. We somehow find ourselves in a sword fight with an horse? “You should know this is the strangest thing I’ve ever done!” More than that, he’s the one dynamic character in the film. He has to grow up, overcome his materialistic desires in order to do the right things (not to mention notice a good thing when he sees it in Rapunzel).
The animation itself is very well done. While it was obviously done in a computer, the pictures on the screen has much more of a hand drawn feel to them than other movies of it’s kind. This is because the decision was made to let the artists do what they do best: draw. It was Disney’s belief that too often in CG animation, they allow the computer to dictate the boundaries to the artists rather than the artists telling the computer what to do. One can see the 260 million dollar budget (the most for any animated movie) and see just how much was spent. It paid off in spades, I must say, as the results are simply beautiful and at times are very lifelike. And just wait until you see the Michael Bay homage. You’ll know it when you see it.
The songs are a bit lacking, but not by much. It’s not that they’re bad by any stretch of the imagination, they just aren’t very memorable. Moore does a lovely job on “When Will My Life Begin,” a nice song that I think we all can relate to. The thugs sing “I’ve Got a Dream” and it’s hilarious. Murphy is downright evil in the most subtlest of ways in “Mother Knows Best.” The best one is the award nominated “I See the Light,” a nice little ballad that’s showcased in the film’s most romantic scene. The issue is simply that you won’t go home humming any of the songs like we all did after seeing, say, Aladdin and we were all singing “Friend Like Me,” for example. The actual music by composer Alan Menken is wonderful as it’s a fusion of medieval music with ’60s rock. It works.
You can’t ask for much more when considering the voice actors. As stated before, Murphy has the evil thing down. She sounds sympathetic to Rapunzel, enough for the young woman to believe in her mother. Of course, we know different. Moore adds all the bright-eyed wonder to the lead role which is required. She sounds innocent and sweet, but when things go wrong, we can hear it in her voice just fine. Levi does a spectacular job. Being a big fan of “Chuck,” it’s always a good thing to see him do other things. You can tell that he was having an absolute blast voicing Flynn and he brought all the charisma needed for the part.
Bottom Line: A step up from the previous The Princess and the Frog, Tangled a great viewing experience that reminds us just how good Disney can be. While the songs aren’t particularly memorable, the characters are; especially the optimistically sweet Rapunzel and the dashingly charming Flynn Rider. The animation is lovely and is rather flawless for what it’s trying to be. Is it as good as some of the Disney movies released in the past? In a word: no. However, it’s still a very fun movie that Disney lovers will embrace worldwide and it’s not that much of a drop below something like Beauty and the Beast. If this is truly the end of an era and the last of the “Princess” films, it’s one heck of a way to go out.
8.5/10 (Highly Recommended)
And to answer the coming question, it’s not quite up there with How to Train Your Dragon or Toy Story 3. Those are both superior movies, but Tangled is every bit as fun. I am biased. I do love Disney.