Unlike the other 3D animated films that Disney made this decade, Tangled is the only one that truly feels a lot like I'm watching a 2D film. It's a musical fairy tale, the animation feels like I'm watching a moving painting, the designs are reminiscent of the classic hand-drawn films, it's basically a traditionally animated film in the guise of computer-generated images. From what I hear, this is the most expensive animated film ever made, adjusting inflation, costing over $260 million to make. It made more than double back, which did far better at the box office than the last Disney fairy tale movie, The Princess and the Frog. I have an idea why that is, but I'll get to that later. I know it's not fair to compare Tangled with The Princess and the Frog, but when you think about it both films were released around the same time and one only did okay while the other did much better. So in that context, it kind of makes sense to compare the two. So I'll do that around the end of the review. And I'll admit that I was a little skeptical of the movie at first (I'll explain why later), so I originally wanted to pass it. But I got talked in into going to see it with my friend and honestly, it was not at all what I expected! I enjoyed it a lot! Well, time to see what I got wrapped up in Tangled.
Once upon a time, a magic flower that has healing powers and provides eternal youth blooms in a kingdom. An old woman named Gothel (Donna Murphy) figures out that the only way to use its powers is to sing a certain song to it and she keeps it to herself to restore her youth. But the queen falls ill, so the royal guards find the flower and grind it up to herbs to heal the queen. The flower's magic is transferred to her baby Rapunzel’s long blonde hair. Gothel finds out that the magic is still in the baby’s hair so she kidnaps her to use her hair’s flower-power keep her youth. To keep her concealed from the world, Gothel hides Rapunzel in a tower for 18 years and in order to let Gothel live longer, she grows Rapunzel . But every year, there’s a lantern ceremony that happens every time Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) has a birthday. This is held by the king and queen in the hopes that the lost princess will one day find her way home. She wants to go see it for herself but is forbidden by her “mother”. Rapunzel later finds that a thief named Flynn Ryder (Zachary Levi) has climbed up her tower to escape from the royal guards and one of the horses there. She knocks him out and later tries to get some information out of him. He agrees to take her there if she lets him go. Here on in, they set off for adventure with sword fights, epic discoveries, magic, love, and much more. That is until Flynn is framed and Gothel finds and takes Rapunzel "home". She realizes she's the lost princess and tries to escape Gothel. Flynn arrives in time to save her, but ends up losing his life. To save Rapunzel, he cuts her hair, removing her magic powers and vanquishing the villain. They make it back to the palace, Flynn is pardoned, and the two marry eventually.
It's rare that I ever say this, but the story to this film is brilliant. It has a fantastic setup and makes the transition to film perfectly, just like what Disney did in it's heyday. All throughout this introduction, I was shouting "Brilliant! Brilliant!" There's a reason why she's in the tower! There's a reason why the hair is so long! There's a reason to incorporate music into it! It was just wonderful! So just from this ingenious setup, you'd think this would be one of the top 5 Disney films, right? Well... not exactly.
|But to be fair, it comes so close!|
One issue I have is the voice acting. Not that it's bad or that the actors did a horrible job. I couldn't get invested in them. Like when I heard Rapunzel's voice I thought, "Wait.. that sounds like someone familiar". Turns out it was! The same goes for Flynn. I know he's trying too, but he shares the same problem. now to clear things up: the main characters aren't bad. They're well written, are animated nice, and have compelling back stories. I just think it's the voice work that's the issue. I'm always aware that there's just someone behind a microphone. But it doesn't destroy the movie. I'm behind it enough.
My other issue is the songs. Again, not that they're godawful, in fact it's nice to know Alan Menkin came back to write good songs again, but they feel rushed and didn't always match with the movie. With The Princess and the Frog, they fit in because that music was New Orleans jazz. It fit with the rest of the story. Here, that sort of guitar pop song/Broadway/Top 40 billboard style seem a little out of place. Those are my only two problems, but the're kind of big ones. It's funny because with The Princess and the Frog, the story was my only problem but everything else was great. In Tangled, it's the story that's great but everything else is kind of "been-done".
There are a few standout moments in the film, though. One is this horse. This guy is so friggin' hilarious! He's one of the great movie horses! I could watch him all day, he just cracks me up! The other is the animation in the entire movie. It looks fantastic, as you'd expect for Disney. It just has this style that reminds me of early Rococco paintings and it looks wonderful. The best animation in the whole film is surprisingly with Rapunzel's parents. They don;t even have a line in this movie but they convey so much. You can just feel how torn apart they are!
So why did Tangled outperform The Princess and the Frog? Is it race? Slim chance, but maybe. Is it that the music here appeals more to the general public than New Orleans ragtime? It could be. But again, I think it's because the film was animated in 3D. The advertising for this movie played it up like there were going to be more adult jokes in this movie and it felt like we were going to get a road trip comedy (which was why I was skeptical at first.). But it turned out the complete opposite. There wasn't that many adult jokes in the movie, the story was much simpler than in The Princess and the Frog, and the fact that since it was a 3D film, adults thought it was going to be for them too.
|Oh, and frying pans are hilarious weapons!|
Do I like it? Yes. It's a good flick. While the voice acting and songs can be distracting, there's still fantastic backgrounds and animation, the side characters are fun, there's genuine soft moments, and like I said over and over, the story is great. One of the best alone for that setup. But personally, I think I liked the updates on the classic fairy tale in The Princess and the Frog more than I did Tangled. There's a purely brilliant movie here somewhere. I bet if you combined the characters and animation of the Princess and the Frog with the story of Tangled, we could have a film as brilliant as Beauty and the Beast! In in there, I know it! But if you want to watch a good fantasy adventure, Tangled isn't a bad choice to consider. Give it a rent and see what you can get invested in.