Directed by Nathan Grano, Byron Howard
Starring the voices of Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy, Brad Garrett, Ron Perlman
Written by Dan Fogelman, based on the story “Rapunzel” by The Brothers Grimm
When I first heard about the Disney update of “Rapunzel” being the first classic redone digitally, like all the classic Pixar
films, I liked what I heard and saw. Then, amidst the less than stellar, yet still respectable returns of what is likely going to be their last traditional paint film, The Princess and The Frog, they changed the title of the film to Tangled, and released commercials that emphasized Flynn, the main male character in the film. This was a shot across the bow of artistry, and it was alarming for anyone looking for a smooth transition from the classic Disney look to the new generation. While my wife and daughters were looking ahead with no concerns, I was expecting a tangled mess of “boy” scenes inserted into a princess movie.
By the time we get to the first scene with Rapunzel and her mother, however, my fears were vanquished and replaced with wonder. The collective efforts of the filmmakers is astounding in its completeness. Everything is first rate. The vocal work, lead by the effortless charm of Levi, the sincere sweetness of Mandy Moore, and the delicious deceptive beauty of Donna Murphy, is some of the best since Mulan, or perhaps even Beauty and The Beast. Brad Garrett and Ron Perlman are perfectly placed among the scum and villainy.
The story is perfectly balanced between charming innocence, dashing thievery and pursuing menace. The tone is consistent throughout. It is whimsical, but takes itself as a serious tale. Flynn Rider’s (Levi) quest for a jeweled tiara is leveraged with Rapunzel’s (Moore) desire to see the lights that take the sky once a year on her birthday. This is countered by Mother Gothel (Murphy), who kidnapped Rapunzel as a child to obtain its regenerative powers and keep her young. The Brothers Stabbington (both played by the incredible Perlman) pursue Flynn, who double crossed them for the tiara. Add to this a cacophony of Royal Guards and otherwise indecent folk with a soft spot for our heroine, and you have an interwoven fantasy with incredible depth and feeling.
Tangled is, beyond a doubt, the most beautiful of all the Disney Princess films, and it’s not even close. A perfect marriage of the Pixar digitization and the Disney watercolor effects, everything in this movie looks real and with its own source of light. This is most remarkable in the flood scene, the flying lanterns and when you look into the depth of the character’s eyes.
Instead of the dead vacuousness of the characters in the Zmeckis animated features, Beowulf and The Polar Express, you are seeing characters full of life, hopes and dreams. It is hard to look into the eyes of Rapunzel and not fear for her, or look into the eyes of the vile Mother Gothel and be filled with fear. Then there is the smolder in Flynn Rider’s eyes…
The music, with score written by Menken and lyrics simply and beautifully drawn by Glenn Slater, is as good as anything since Beauty and the Beast.
Ample are the symbols woven throughout the story of Tangled. The sunlight within each Rapunzel’s paintings, the flying lanterns, a pair of tiny unicorns in the hands of a behemoth. There is beauty to behold, and things to genuinely fear. There is death that does not just involve falling from a high place for once (although they come close). The thing that brings me most to the side of the makers of Tangled is the effect it has upon my littlest daughter, 4 years old. Her eyes are alight when she watches the film. Her heart sings with the songs of Rapunzel, and she dreams of Flynn Rider. She stays in the family room throughout the film, even if she gets up and dances like Rapunzel freed now and again. For a kid that’s never made it past the opening credits of most movies and shows without being forced to do so, this is high praise. High praise indeed. The dreams of the characters are not the only ones that come true by story’s end.
(***** out of *****)