Wednesday, February 9

Disney's Tangled Review

Disney's 50th animated film takes the Rapunzel fable to unheard-of lengths.

I haven't had the pleasure of watching many good movies lately, so it was quite refreshing to finally have a movie tug at all the right strings with Disney's Tangled. This film has had a lot of baggage heaped upon it from development up to it's release, about everything from the film's name change from simply being named 'Rapunzel' from the source fairy tale, to the marketing of the movie to boys by building up sidekick character Flynn Rider, to the fact that this is Disney's 50th animated feature and supposedly, it's last 'Princess' animated feature. Well, pooh-pooh to all that. If you ask me, it's no biggie that this isn't entitled Rapunzel (though I wouldn't mind that, given how awesome this latest Disney Princess is), since it's an adaptation and quite far from the original source material anyways. And that rumor of this being the last Disney animated flick? Apparently not true. Well, after the positive response to Tangled after it's showing in theaters, I don't think it is anymore, if ever.

Anyway, looooong story short, all that baggage shouldn't get in the way of you getting your butt into a theater, recommended with a really nice date, to see Tangled, arguably one of the most refreshing and beautiful animated films I've ever seen, and perhaps my new all-time favorite Disney flick. There's a wonderful, modern energy to this- thankfully perhaps due to the Pixar influence from John Lasseter. Directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard (BRAVO!) have crafted a tale full of earnest energy, action-adventure, drama, humor and heartfelt emotion from beginning to end. Everything comes together, from the design of the picture-perfect animated fairy tale world to the utterly believable, gorgeously animated characters and the wonderful script, performances and music.

Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) is a lovely young woman with 70 feet of golden, magical hair who has lived most of her 18 years inside a hidden tower. Though without bars or locks, she is kept there for fear of the outside world, impressed upon her by her single parent, Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy). Unknown to Rapunzel, she is a princess from the nearby kingdom, kidnapped when she was a baby and hidden away since her hair now holds a magical healing power which allows Gothel to retain her youth indefinitely. However, all these years, Rapunzel's curiosity of a mysterious night phenomenon- beautiful lights that fill the sky far off in the distance once every year on her birthday- is about to make the timid heroine step out of her comfort zone.

When a dashing rogue named Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) bungles upon the tower while trying to escape after stealing a tiara from the royal palace (ironically it's Rapunzel's own tiara). Rapunzel knocks the intruder out but then later realizes that the thief is her one and only chance to see the lights that have fascinated her all these years. And so begins an adventure that will take a lost princess on a road trip and adventure of a lifetime.

What works so well in this film at the very least are the characters- Rapunzel herself is utterly adorable; a modern young woman, creative, determined, courageous and kind, yet limited and shackled by her own moral code of loyalty and misplaced love in the only parent she's ever known. It's this hold that Gothel has over Rapunzel which is more potent than any spell or magic in past fairy tales that makes the tale more mature and modern than most. Mandy Moore gives a wonderful vocal performance in both speaking and singing parts, and the animation for this adorable, barefoot blonde heroine makes her a truly convincing and lovable character to root for. It is no stretch for me to say that thanks to how more involved and expressive Rapunzel is portrayed and shown, she is easily the best Disney heroine for me so far. Literally... Best. Disney Princess. EVER!

Zachary Levi's smooth-talking Flynn is a great match to Rapunzel, though sometimes his jokes are so fast if you blink you'll miss them. Wonderfully though, his transformation from rascal to hero is effectively portrayed. Backing up Rapunzel and Flynn with humor and action are two characters who ironically do not speak at all- Pascal the obligatory (but welcome) chameleon pet sidekick and the pretty awesome Maximus, a royal guard horse who could probably star in his own detective action series. Stealing the show though whenever she appears is villainess Gothel, thanks to an amazing performance by the sultry tones of Donna Murphy. She may not be the most scary or powerful Disney villainess, but she's definitely one of the most sinister and easily the most realistic, and lethal (perhaps she's a Level 32 assassin).

There are moments in this film that made me laugh out loud, and some brought my eyes to the verge of tears, thanks to the convincing emotion coming from these CG characters (again, another mark of Pixar). But they're not from big drama scenes either- it's the quiet scenes like the wordless exchange between the grief-stricken King and Queenl, and that moment when rogue and princess finally connect and start to become a couple. Oh, and aside from that there's an AWESOME action scene with a freakin' amazing waterfall.

On the film's music and songs- there have been reviews saying that the songs by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater are not as memorable as those in previous Disney musicals. In my opinion, the songs are perfect matches to the story being told, and well that they should- Tangled is more of a straight adventure with some musical moments, not an animated musical play (like the earlier Disney classics were). That all said, songs like Mother Gothel's Mother Knows Best, the Thuggy theme I've Got a Dream and the climactic love song I've Seen the Light are wonderful pieces that go with the amazing visuals perfectly.

But probably the one great thing about Tangled as a whole is, that despite being a thoroughly updated, modern take on the source fable, it's NOT a cop-out, jaded pandering of pop culture references or throwaway slapstick- this is still a Disney classic through and through and a very fitting 50th Anniversary offering.

If you haven't watched this gem of an animated masterpiece yet in the theater (better in 3D), do yourself a favor and wait for this on DVD or Blu-ray. Don't get any crappy cam vid or bootleg off some street corner. This is a quality film that should be seen the way it's meant to be. Get a mate, or a date, watch and enjoy.

Disney's Tangled is now showing in theaters all over Metro Manila (in both 2D and 3D).