With more than six years of production and an estimated $260 million spent, Walt Disney Animation Studios brings us Tangled to mark its 50th release. Was it a successful venture? I think so, and I’m sure that it’ll feel that way to a lot of other people as well, both children and parent alike. It’s the kind of film that’s incredibly easy to enjoy regardless of age because they’re made to appeal to everyone.
This time around, our tale focuses on a slightly skewed version of “Rapunzel.” Here, Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore) is born thanks to a magical flower that allows her ill mother to get better. As a result, she gains some of the magical power; her hair, if she sings, will heal whatever it touches. It can fix any injury or even reverse age. What a gift, she has, although it’s not explained if her powers will work on her, or if she’s destined to grow old and eventually die while she keeps everyone else young. Remember, this is a Disney film, so you know it won’t get that morbid.
She’s captured by a woman (Donna Murphy) who had been using the flower’s powers before it was harvested to save Rapunzel’s mother. This woman, who is only really referred to as “mother” throughout the film, uses her powers almost daily, and also keeps Rapunzel locked away in a tower so that (1) she can use and continue to be the sole user of these powers, and (2) so that no harm can come to Rapunzel’s hair. We learn that if the hair gets cut off, it won’t grow back and it will lose its magical properties (Rapunzel is actually a brunette).
Fast forward somewhere around 18 years, and it’s just about time for Rapunzel to have another birthday. This year, she wants just once to leave her tower and see the lanterns that the kingdom releases on her special day (she was royalty, after all, although she’s unaware of that). Adoptive mother says no, citing that Rapunzel won’t be able to handle herself out there. This charade has been held for 18 years now, so I guess she doesn’t want to break it. After mother leaves for the day, a thief named Flynn (Zachary Levi) enters the tower, but is captured by Rapunzel. They make a pact: He’ll take her to see the lanterns, and she’ll give him back his stolen goods. You see, she’s quite well-adjusted despite having no human contact except with her “mother” for the first 18 years of her life.
What results is a mixture of a generic action/adventure film, as well as a musical. Yes, characters break into song quite frequently, and yes, I found it annoying after a while. There are a few decent songs, but I found that they took more away from the story than they added, especially when they came at times which didn’t seem appropriate to me. I suppose that comes with the territory here, though, so I’ll let that slide because it’ll appeal to some of the audience, and they did get me tapping my foot a couple of times.
Accompanying the duo is a chameleon, whose facial expressions probably provide the most laughs throughout the film. There are many characters who chase this group, like a super-intelligent horse, a couple of brothers both voiced by Ron Perlman, what seems like the entire kingdom because Flynn stole a crown worth a lot of money, and, of course, Rapunzel’s mother, who might be scheming something evil and dastardly because, well, nobody else is doing it and someone has to.
The entire film is computer animated, and while that might sound like Disney is making too large of a departure from its classic roots, I had no problem with it. Granted, Disney has made other fully computer animated films before, but fans of 2009’s The Princess and the Frog might have hoped that they would go back to a hand-drawn animation style.
Honestly, I think that the film might not have worked as well if it was drawn with pencils. See, when you give animators 6 years and $260 million, assuming you’re working with talented people, you’re going to get a superb looking product. That’s what we get here. Not just in the awe-inspiring aesthetic of the film, but also in how clean the animations are and in how well everything sinks up with the voice work. It almost seemed like these characters would overact at times, just because of how easy it was to notice everything they were doing thanks to how clean Tangled looked.
The only major problem I have with this film is how simple and predictable the story is. Now, I didn’t go in expecting a twist-filled plot, especially since I, and I’m assuming many others, know the story of “Rapunzel,” but I was disappointed by the plot. It mostly just goes from set-piece to set-piece — all of which look great, in case I haven’t established yet how amazing the film looks — but they serve to satisfy in the moment and nothing else. These characters can’t evolve while they’re constantly fighting for their lives, and even the one or two major quiet scenes they get are spent having them explain back story.
Regardless, Tangled is one of those “fun for the whole family” type of films, and if you have kids, a date, a younger brother or sister, or just really want to see a good computer animated film that isn’t from Pixar, then Tangled will probably fill that void in your heart. It takes a simple story and doesn’t complicate it, although that keeps its appeal as wide as possible. It’s an absolutely gorgeous film, though, and I can’t say I had a bad time while watching it, even if some of the singing did begin to annoy me.
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