REVIEW: Tangled

This Thanksgiving, I got to see Tangled, Disney’s latest computer animated feature and a movie I had been keeping an eye on since early concept art appeared a couple years back.  I’ve always had a soft spot for the tale of the girl with the long hair, having been a girl with hair past her waist up until very recent years!  I’ve done my own rendition in comic strip format which is a far cry from this vibrantly colored movie!  I was a-flutter with excitement (and a little trepidation) at the prospect of Disney adapting this tale for the big screen.

Would Disney keep true to the compelling images of lost innocence that the original tale had, or would they sanitize it the way they’re famous for?  With happy endings and villainous deaths in off camera silhouettes?  The short answer is YES (to the sanitizing), but that is not to say that I didn’t enjoy it either! Read on for my rambly thoughts on the matter…

The Synopsis:  In a medievalesque kingdom far far away, a king and queen rejoice in the coming birth of their child, but their joy is ruined when the queen falls ill.  To cure her, they employ a potion made from the magic of a flower imbued with the healing properties of the sun.  The queen is restored to health and gives birth to a baby girl whose hair has the same power as the flower that saved her mother.  However, Mother Gothel, who had been greedily hoarding the flower’s power, finds out the child has the same abilities and spirits her away to a tower, where she uses the child’s magic hair to keep herself young.

Of course, when Rapunzel comes of age, she’s no longer happy staying in the tower and wishes to leave so she can find out what the strange lights are she views from her window once a year.  The opportunity to escape arrives in the form of Flynn Ryder, a thief who takes refuge in her tower after a heist.

The Good:  Early concept art leaks talked about how this movie was meant to emulate the tone and atmosphere of The Swing, a painting by French rococo artist, Jean-HonorĂ© Fragonard.  This movie definitely delivers in that respect! From luscious green valleys, waterfalls, and countless flowers growing in every nook, Tangled never ceases to amaze with its charming stylization, true to its original intent of emulating the palette of lush oils.  The character animation and settings are a testament to the continued progress of computer animation with the many various ways Rapunzel utilizes her hair for daily tasks.  Gone are the days when hair looked like a texture map plastered around a character’s head with cow spit.

Looks aside, Flynn Ryder proved, as I knew he would, to be the other most enjoyable aspect of this movie for me. Voiced by Zachary Levi of Chuck fame, I felt Disney’s come yet another progressive step away from the flat and perfectly noble Princes of films past.  Then again, I have known biases towards the thiefy rogue types.  His delightful sarcasm versus Rapunzel’s naive, but sassy wit made for interesting quipping throughout.

I was also pleased to see Mother Gothel depicted true to form as a controlling, overbearing mother, and not the old hag of most depictions (for the most part). She sported a rather sexy red velvet dress and dark locks (not unlike my own depiction of Gothel, to my amusement).

But that is where things go south, for this fan.

The Bad:  I commend Disney for really trying to do something different with Prince type characters, but like the Princess and the Frog, I still felt like things moved too fast.  Suddenly Flynn and Rapunzel are singing in a boat together about how they have new meaning in life? After only knowing each other for a few days?  For a thief who had been extremely vain and smug until that point in the movie, this was a hard pill to swallow.  Just like Prince Naveen who goes from womanizing layabout to dedicated husband, it felt rushed and contrived.  The second half of the movie offers no surprises, twists, or even dialog that I hadn’t heard a thousand times before in a thousand other movies.

But no, Angela, this is Disney! They’re supposed to fall in love! Sorry, but I just cannot accept ‘this is Disney’ as an excuse for pushing characters together and fastening them with the cement glue of ‘contrived plot points’ for a happy ending.  Beauty & The Beast, which remains ever my favorite Disney movie, gradually drew The Beast and Belle together only after experiencing the worst of each other’s personalities.  Even Aladdin and Jasmine had their bumps because of her reputation as a cheeky shrew and Aladdin’s deception about his Princehood.  Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Beauty & The Beast – these Disney movies were memorable because they gave us more tension, more development, and less candy-coating.  Characters lied, deceived, and did things they shouldn’t because they were afraid, unsure, or rebellious.  There’s a touch of that in Tangled, but I don’t think it was pushed enough. (Not to mention the musical scores for these movies are still leagues beyond Tangled, which was mediocre at best.)

My other beef – a den full of bad guys who suddenly all ‘have a dream’ and become their bestest of friends.  This happened at the end of Shrek 3. Suddenly every villain EVAR was secretly a nice guy with a secretly good and beneficial hobby who would end up being your ally for life because you shared a dream with them!  I really don’t like this pattern in kids movies. Not only does it candy coat moral expectations in life, but it really just tosses older fans like me out of the story and into sugary kiddie ridiculousness.

Should we have to dumb everything down just for kids to learn a lesson about Goodness? Wouldn’t they learn a lesson more effectively if the heroes had some real and dangerous hardships to overcome?  I look to other movies (like Guardians of G’Hoole and Coraline) for an example of how putting our heroes in real danger can help them discover their own strengths in a way that drowning the story in the viscous honey of Pure Goodness can’t.

I suppose I’m being too harsh on this movie, considering it was made to please a younger audience (despite a PG rating, buh?). It WAS enjoyable and the sort of film you can take kids of all ages too.  I just hope that in the future Disney returns to the types of daring characters that made their greatest movies great in the first place.

I, for one, am highly looking forward to Brave (formerly The Bear and the Bow) which promises a more meaningful tale about a defiant Scottish princess who unwittingly releases woe on her parents’ kingdom and must suffer the consequences of her actions.  Now that sounds like a story (and a main character) I can sink my teeth into!

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