Wednesday, November 24, 2010


During it's heyday, Disney made a name for itself by turning out classic tales about princes and princesses, true love, and triumph over evil (usually with a few songs and cute creatures thrown in). With the studio's 50th animated film, Disney goes back to the well with Tangled, based on the fairy tale Rapunzel by the Brothers Grimm.

To save the life of their unborn daughter, the King and Queen steal a magical flower from the evil witch Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy). As revenge, the witch kidnaps the young baby whose hair had captured the healing powers of the flower which has kept Gothel alive for years. Her hair holds the power as long as it allowed to grow.

As the story opens, Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) who has grown up in a secluded tower her whole life believing the old witch to be her mother, convinces a young thief, Flynn Ryder (Zachary Levi), who breaks into her tower while fleeing the palace guards, to help her sneak out and see the world on her birthday.

Despite her mother's warnings of the danger in the outside world, Rapunzel hopes to see a little of what has been denied her and discover the meaning of the beautiful lanterns which she feels a connection to (as well she should since they are sent into the night by her real parents every year in remembrance of their missing daughter).

Being a Disney flick, we get the usual trappings of course: several Alan Mencken songs (nice, but mostly forgettable), and a fun animal character - Maximus, the Captain of Arms' horse - who befriends Rapunzel while chasing Ryder for his theft of the crown. Of all the princess films Disney has done over the years, this is perhaps the silliest; I mean that in good way. The film feels much closer to the tone of a Muppet adventure than that of Snow White or Sleeping Beauty. It's also the first since The Emperor's New Groove that Disney has embraced the zany quite so completely. And, you know what? It works.

Levi is well-cast as the cad with a buried heart of gold, and Mandy Moore turns in a good vocal performance as the sheltered girl who only wants to see the world. Throw in the horse and you've got three strong, vibrant characters to base the story around. Although Mother Gothel doesn't rank high compared to classic Disney villains, her sly maneuvering behind the scenes to crush the dreams of Rapunzel for her own ends are exactly what the story calls for.

The screening I attended was not 3D, but the movie didn't suffer from being constrained to two dimensions. Tangled is an easy recommendation and following up last year's The Princess and the Frog, another step in the right direction for Disney honoring their past and providing something new as well. The magic may not be all the way back, but Walt Disney's legacy looks to be in good hands.

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