What follows (don’t worry, no spoilers) is an adventure of mishaps, pitfalls, peril, comic sidekicks (Pascal the chameleon and Maximus the horse provide great comic relief), romance, and beauty that makes Tangled a near-perfect addition to the Disney canon. It is arguable the studio’s best animated feature in recent years, and the best Disney fairy-tale since Beauty and the Beast. It is to the credit of animation supervisor and Disney veteran Glen Keane (also the film's co-executive producer with John Lasseter), and directors Byron Howard and Nathan Greno (who also made the entertaining Bolt), that the film recalls and sustains the classic Disney magic while staying true to contemporary audiences. At the same time, I’m respectfully glad they didn’t go the Shrek route, even though the tone and quality have been modernized slightly. Part of this essence lies in the strength and authenticity of the film’s lead characters. Mandy Moore (in what is probably her work in a while) beautifully embodies the innocence and spirit of Rupunzel that makes us thoroughly cheer for her. Zachary Levi (TV’s Chuck) is engaging and comically swashbuckling as Flynn Rider, exceeding any expectations of being a lame leading male and, in fact, becoming quite convincing. Donna Murphy’s bedazzling and often frightening Mother Gothel proves to be one of the most effective Disney villainesses in recent years, standing alongside the Queen from Snow White, Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, and Ursula from The Little Mermaid. These characters are perfect and well-developed overall. In addition, it's a relief in how to see how much screen time is devoted to each character and to each of their stories. And Rupunzel's is one of the most convincing, along with her developing affections and love fro Flynn (and vice versa).
The other high point of the film lies in how it uses the computer technology to carry a hand-drawn quality that many other CGI films lack. One might wonder is this film would have been better or just as great in 2D. I can’t really say myself, because after seeing the film, I can honestly say that you don’t really mind that much. Tangled is a beautifully visual experience with wonderful set pieces from Rupunzel’s tower to the surrounding forest, to the tavern, to the kingdom, and to the floating lanterns over the lake. Best of all, like all the great animated features, the technology is used very wisely and effectively and helps tell the story without drawing attention to itself. It’s simply breathtaking and irresistible.
Composer Alan Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater’s score and songs (while not memorable) fit the story nicely, combining elements of folk, rock, and fantasy. The “I’ve Got A Dream” number recalls the wit and hilarity of “Gaston” from Beauty and the Beast, and Gothel’s number, “Mother Knows Best,” along with its reprise, is a creepy and controlling addition to such villainess songs as, say, Ursula’s “Poor Unfortunate Souls” from The Little Mermaid. The Oscar-nominated song “I See the Light” may have my winning vote this year, simply because it’s such a beautiful song in a beautiful highlight scene (no pun intended) involving the floating lanterns. I’m a little disappointed, though, that the Academy didn’t nominate five animated films instead of three. Tangled certainly was one of the best of 2010, alongside Toy Story 3 and How to Train Your Dragon.
Tangled is another great example of a film that should not merely be defined by its medium or technology, but simply by the fact (and by use of said technology) that it’s a wonderful story with endearing characters, heart, humor, adventure, and love. As Time Magazine’s Richard Corliss quotes, it “gradually achieves the complex mix of romance, comedy, adventure and heart that defines the best Disney features,” and Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times notes it’s “a gorgeous computer-animated look that features rich landscapes and characters that look fuller and more lifelike than they have in the past.” And considering how much Disney has been progressing over the last five years, I couldn’t agree more.
Overall: 4.5/5 stars (Highly recommended without reservation!)
Written February 3, 2011