Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tangled (2010)


When deriving the formula for a Disney 'Princess' film, it's often easy to forget the real factors that make them work time and time again. The way in which music, creation, and drama can be woven into our basic desires - our dreams. Disney knows better than most that the product of a great (family friendly) fantasy tale involves people rising beyond the monotony of their life. Those at the bottom realizing their dream and helping those on the top to understand theirs. In that respect Disney's 2010 offering, Tangled, knows what it's doing.

Tangled is not a unique experience. It's characters carry with them many allusions to Disney's classic - Aladdin, for example. A thief who dreams big. A princess who seeks to know and love. Cute animal sidekicks that are as defiant, as they are helpful. However, to end any analysis of Tangled there would be to sell the film short. At every turn, Tangled finds a way create something new with old Disney lore and formulate a fresh perspective on life.

It's unfortunate that Tangled doesn't start off strong. The opening is a solid setup narration, but it leads into a handful of musical numbers that are, let's be honest, dreadful. These opening musical numbers are bland, crammed together, and repetitive. Right from the start I was ready to repel the rest of Tangled, and write it off as another film I don't understand the praise for. Rapunzel's (Mandy Moore) depth felt fragile, and frustratingly trite. Her 'adventures' involve a lot of hair flying around, which makes for great CGI but not hilarious moments. Well, not as hilarious as the directors want them to be. With the introduction of Flynn Rider (Zachery Levi), everything changes.

The Rock called, he wants his eyebrow back... oh and a career if you've got it.
Flynn is your made to order thief on the run, with a somber enough back story to tie it all together. He stumbles across the tower which enslaves Rapunzel while on the run following his latest 'job,' and the rest, as they say, is history. Flynn and Rapunzel's scenes together are perfect. They compliment each other in the most dynamic of ways, delivering quality laughs and plot progression. In these moments you can really see writer Fogelman (Cars, Bolt) open up his bag of tricks and let Levi take care of the rest. Levi's portrayal of Flynn as cool, vain, and cunning keeps you guessing on his real motives, while opening your heart to his amusing ways. Fogelman perfectly swaps the straight man and comic moments between Flynn and Rapunzel, allowing both to shine. When Maximus, the royal guard horse and Flynn's mortal enemy, comes into the picture the rest of the film becomes pure Disney magic.

Directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard weave in and out of Disney norms flawlessly. They balance the pleasure with the pain, the love with the loss, and when it comes time to make us fear for the character's lives, they deliver. Intelligently using 3D sparingly, Tangled is a movie that can be revisited without worry on home systems. The 3D here accentuates, not defines, the film. It highlights the visual strengths, such as Rapunzel's hair and the lamp scene by the lake, without resorting to cheap gags (yes I'm looking at you awful Yogi Bear commercial).

The only real downside to Tangled is the lack of character exposition. Donna Murphy is fine as the evil Mother Gothel, but beyond some vanity and cinematic evilness her motivations are left entirely blank. The romantic aspect of Flynn and Rapunzel's relationship seems to grow in leaps and bounds, without solid transition moments to justify some of their sudden changes. During the middle, Tangled sprints on, requesting the audience to keep up as best they can.

By the end, Tangled does enough to leave the audience with a smile on their face, but lacks the depth to impose on them a long lasting connection. They'll remember the highs as it tries desperately to sweep past the lows, but that's a given. The best thing an aspiring audience member can do is to approach Tangled with an awareness of what it isn't (deep) and a desire for what it is (lighthearted fun). At best, it's a high quality imitation that escapes the cliche label through sheer charisma and determination. The characters may lack the fine tuning to make them Disney greats, but they do plenty for one solid outing.

Film Credits:
Directed By: Nathan Greno, Byron Howard
Written By: Dan Fogelman
Based on the Fairy Tale By: Jacob & William Grimm

6 better thoughts:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I thought it was one of the best movies of the year and enjoyed every aspect. Yes, even the singing.

Robert said...

Oh, great review, since I didn't love it you're helping me to understand why. The pacing was definitely off, and those beginning musical numbers were....not too bad, but not very good either. haha

Yojimbo_5 said...

Geez, I had the opposite reaction. I found the blandly handsome hero...blandly handsome, but knew he'd be Han Solo in the long run. The songs weren't bad...and Donna Murphy's way of bending a motherly phrase into guilt-raps is extraordinary. Oh...and her motivation? Uh...she wants to stay young...not so tough to understand.

But, no mention of the transition from Disney 2-D cell animation to 3-D CGI? You didn't find that slightly amazing?

Univarn said...

@Alex I know my lukewarm feelings are a bit in the minority, but I understand. I think my viewing experience could have been dulled by a rather bland audience. I was one of the oldest people in there, and I laughed more than most.

@Robert Good to hear I could help.

@Yojimbo I think all the 3D CGI transitioning has left me rather numb to the effect, even if it is a solid transition. My issue with the Mother's songs was that I felt they lacked the punch necessary to make them standout hits. Oh, and yes, I understand her desire for youth, and that she's incredibly vain because of it, but enough to kidnap and kill for it? I would have liked more depth, or back story on that. Perhaps she lost the love of her life because of her age (in a Streetcar Named Desire kind of spin) or something else. I like some back story on my villains to make them either sentimental or admirably sinister.

Candice Frederick said...

yeah you know i'm not expecting groundbreaking cinema here but it does look like an enjoyable film. gotta see this one rental.

download movies for free said...

Tangled could have been a disaster. Directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard really pushed for something different by attempting to modernize a classic tale for contemporary audiences while combining the classic storylines and imagery of Disney’s illustrious past. All of that experimentation can unbalance a film by leaning too heavily on one side or the other, but Tangled does a remarkable job at harmonizing the past and present. Gorgeous CG, an involving and up-tempo score, and some of the best sidekicks seen on screen propel this take on the character of Rapunzel. There is a sense of contemporary fun throughout the film, and yet the heart remains where it should; right in the middle.

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