Movie Review: Tangled

I had the priviledge of attending D23's special advanced screening of Tangled at the Walt Disney Studios tonight. I have to admit that I've been nervous about this film because of the Walt Disney Company's strange handling of the film. First there was the change of the name from the traditional fairy tale name of Rapunzel to the more modern Tangled. Then, the marketing seemed to make you wonder if Rapunzel was in the film at all with Flynn Rider being pushed as the hero of the film. Then, there was an article in the Los Angeles Times that reported Disney will not have fairy tales in development for the foreseeable future. It almost seemed like Disney didn't really have faith in this film and it started making me really sad and worried.

Before I go any further, I should warn that there might be spoilers throughout this review. So, if you don't want to know anything about the film, wait until afterward to read this.



I will admit that I'm not a big fan of The Princess and the Frog. I really wanted to love that film, but I just felt it was bland. I also didn't get why Tiana and Naveen fell in love. I started to wonder if Disney could do a princess film again.

Let me tell you that Tangled shows me that they can and that they can do it well. Sometimes, it is hard to give up on tradition and Tangled does many things that defies tradition. But, at the same time, it embraces it. Some might find the use of modern reference and comedy off putting, but, after a bit of adjustment and surrending to this new kind of storytelling, it actually works. In fact, this might be the model of the telling of a fairy tale in modern times.

Admittedly, the prologue takes some getting used to. I am used to something of a more dramatic flair that tells the backstory. In Tangled, the prologue is narrated by Zach Levi's Flynn Rider in a comedic way. While humorous and made me laugh, I do think that, if I could rework anything in this movie, it would be this narration. But, thankfully, this ends up being a minor point for me.

Tangled, for the most part, follows the story of Rapunzel with the traditional Disney twist that brings a happy ending to the proceedings (in the original story, Rapunzel is thrown out of the tower to fend for herself and the prince, in the despair of losing Rapunzel, plunges his body into a bed of thorns and becomes blind). And, instead of Rapunzel being the daughter of commoners to be rescued by a prince, in Tangled, Rapunzel is a kidnapped princess being helped by a commoner (a thief to be exact).

For me, Tangled is the first princess film not packaged entirely in pink. There's lots of action, adventure and comedy to keep boys attention, but, at the heart of this story, for me, is a princess that any girl (or boy for that matter) could dream to be. She is extremely appealing. She is strong, but has a sweet vulnerability that neither makes her bland nor weak. Mandy Moore does a wonderful job in bringing vocal life to this character, but it is a testament to the animators' skill to breathe true life into Rapunzel. Twenty years ago this year, Disney released Beauty and the Beast which, while a triumph in storytelling and song, still had something to be desired in constitency in animation. Now, this being Disney's 50th Animated Feature, we see the nuanced beauty of acting in animation at its best.

The same can be said of Flynn Rider who is truly a different kind of hero that we've seen. As I mentioned, he delivers a comedic narration of the prologue and continues the comedy throughout the film. Where as Rapunzel represents the heart of a fairy tale, Flynn Rider represents the heart of a modern action hero. It sounds like an odd combination, but it just works. Zach Levi does a great job in delivering the constant zingers, yet, brings to Flynn a level of three dimensionality. It's wonderful seeing the journey of this character going from smarmy thief to selfless individual. And I see the natural progression of their love story.


Mother Gothel, voiced by Broadway veteran Donna Murphy, was a fantastic villain. She is one part Wicked Queen, one part Lady Tremaine and two parts Piper Laurie's character Margaret in Stephen King's Carrie. She goes from sugar sweet to vain and cruelly selfish in the blink of an eye. You can see why she was able to hold Rapunzel captive and manipulate her for years.

The film is absolutely beautiful with every bit of it seeming so well thought out. The splendor of the kingdom conjurs up images of Fantasyland at Disneyland while managing to carve out its own personality. I kept thinking how much even I would like to visit this magical land. And, the sea of lanterns that fill the skies on the birthday of the princess is quite amazing to behold. No wonder Rapunzel yearned to see them up close.

I've also talked about my indifference to the soundtrack upon initial listening, but I am happy to say that, in the context of the film, I enjoyed the music quite a bit. In fact, the 3rd reprise of "When Will My Life Begin?" gave me absolute goosebumps. It felt like a true Disney moment.

It makes me sad that Disney won't be planning any more fairy tales for now because I truly think they're finally getting it right. While some might be unwilling to let traditional Disney storytelling go, I think that Tangled is a triumph. I am looking forward to seeing it again tomorrow night!

Comments

  1. I so can't wait to see this film!
    I'm hoping to hell and back that they'll release it in original version and not just in dubbed in Belgium. Because I point blank refuse to see it dubbed and then I'll have to wait even longer to be able to see it.

    I did love Princess and the Frog but for me Louis, Mama Odie and Dr Facilier just made that entire movie :)

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  2. I think you will really like Tangled, Hilde. And, I hope they release the original version there, too. I, like you, prefer non-dubbed versions because you don't get the true way lines were supposed to be spoken.

    Also, in regards to Princess and the Frog, I should say that I did like the film, I was just not a big fan. I agree that characters such as Louis, Mama Odie and Dr. Facilier (and Ray!) made the movie. I was just disappointed as to how bland Tiana and Naveen were. I felt they played it too safe with them and they never gained the true three dimensionaity they could have had.

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