Disney apparently wanted to go back to its roots with its 50th animated feature, and so, a la Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, took yet another dark children’s story about a girl in trouble and turned it into Tangled, a sprightly and thoroughly entertaining family flick full of beautiful animation and bouncy musical numbers.
Said story, of course, is “Rapunzel,” the Brothers Grimm fairy tale about a girl with really long hair locked away in a tower by an evil enchantress. Here the girl, a princess kidnapped as a baby by a vain woman who wants the kid’s hair for its magical healing properties, is made into a relatable teenager who manages to escape the tower thanks to the arrival of a roguish thief.
Unlike her classic brethren, Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore), while certainly innocent and naïve of the world, is a spirited girl here, wielding a cast iron frying pan (an object turned into an amusing running joke) and tying people up with her lengthy locks. So she makes for a better role model for girls, and, in a nice gender-reversal touch, especially for Disney, essentially gets to save the day.
The thief is voiced by Zachary Levi (TV’s Chuck), who makes the guy both smooth and vain to a hilarious degree. His funniest scenes usually involve a white palace horse named Maximus, whose behavior and facial expressions help make him the film’s funniest character. There’s also Rapunzel’s pet chameleon, who sticks his tongue in Levi’s ear and shows emotion by changing color.
As well directors Byron Howard (who also made Bolt) and Nathan Greno render the film beautifully, wholly succeeding in their stated aim of making it sometimes resemble an oil painting, in particular the wondrous scene in which hundreds of lighted lanterns are released into the air. They also wring some genuine emotion from the story, like when the queen gently wipes a tear from the king’s eye.
Granted, the characters don’t look perfectly real (their eyes are a little too big), and the demise of Rapunzel’s captor (voiced with perfect wickedness by Donna Murphy) might prove a bit intense for some tots. But such darkness, which is present in the best of Disney’s animated films, is easily balanced out here by the sight of a tavern full of brutes singing about having dreams.- [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 3/29/11