Tangled Brings Back Some Disney Magic
- Wednesday, November 24, 2010
DVD Release Date: March 29, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: November 24, 2010
Rating: PG (for brief mild violence)
Genre: Animation, Family, Comedy
Run Time: 101 min.
Director: Nathan Greno and Byron Howard
Actors: Voices of Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy, Ron Perlman, Jeffrey Tambor, Brad Garrett, M.C. Gainey
Rumors of the death of Disney animation have been greatly exaggerated. The Mouse House, which pioneered animated films, fell victim to creative decline a few decades ago when it strayed from its early success with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio and Fantasia and emphasized live-action films like Swiss Family Robinson and the Love Bug movies.
The studio's first renaissance came with The Little Mermaid (1989), which restored the studio's reputation for animating family-friendly, classic stories. Mermaid was followed by Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King. But Jeffrey Katzenberg, the creative genius behind Disney's resurrection as a pillar of stories for all ages, left Disney to start Dreamworks, and Disney's output began to falter.
Dreamworks grabbed up the animated-film torch with its hugely successful Shrek in 2001. The popular Ice Age films, distributed by 20th Century Fox, underlined the new reality: Other studios had unlocked the key to successful animated entertainment. Disney, perhaps realizing that it was unlikely to return to glory with then-upcoming films like Treasure Planet (2002) and Home on the Range (2004), associated itself with the cream of the crop in animated entertainment by partnering with Pixar (Finding Nemo, Ratatouille) and the films of Hayao Miyazaki (Howl's Moving Castle).
Last year's The Princess and the Frog announced that Walt Disney was back in fine form, the film's middling box-office performance notwithstanding. Tangled, the studio's update of the Rapunzel story, confirms that the studio isn't ready to completely cede its reputation as a maker of solid family-oriented films. The vocal performances are fun, the songs (from Alan Menken, who wrote the music for both Disney's most memorable and most forgettable recent films) include a couple of winners and the story doesn't drag. If it's not the home run that Disney's classic films from the 1980s and 1990s were, it's a solid double.
When a magic flower restores the health of a queen, she gives birth to Rapunzel (the voice of Mandy Moore), a daughter who shares the flower's restorative powers—as long as the girl's hair is never cut. The evil Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy), in a quest to remain forever young, steals the infant and raises her as her own. The king and queen honor the memory of Rapunzel by annually sending hundreds of lanterns into the air, letting the people of their kingdom know that they haven't forgotten her.
When wanted thief Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) stumbles onto the tower in which Mother Gothel has imprisoned the innocent Rapunzel, he awakens in her a desire to know more about her past. She leaves the tower for the first time, accompanied by a friendly chameleon and a temperamental horse. Surely romance, danger, humor and a happy ending will follow, won't they?
Tangled's big strength is a witty script from Dan Fogelman (Bolt, Cars) that doesn't strain too hard to be hip but doesn't skimp on biting remarks (Murphy's Mother Gothel is a passive/aggressive manipulator) and a few flip but well-timed comments ("I don't do back story," Flynn tells Rapunzel when she presses him for personal information). Menken's music ranges from bouncy to sappy, with a couple of memorable choruses. The animal sidekicks provide their share of laughs, but the key to the film's comic success is a group of imposing thugs who turn out be sensitive souls. Scenes involving that crew are the comic highlight of this pleasant, and at times delightful, tale.
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