Voices of Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy
Directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard
The road to “Tangled” has had just about as many twists and split ends as seventy feet of hair would. But for me, it is the end of a long, yet inevitable journey. The first time I heard about this movie was four years ago when I was studying for my degree in art history. While researching Eighteenth Century French Rococo paintings, I discovered an interview with Disney animator Glen Keane who was attracted to the lush romantic tone of this particular style of art and wanted to use computer animation to create the look of a moving painting.
I’ve always admired Disney Animation’s appreciation for art by referencing classic works in their movies. Whether it be Ariel admiring “Magdalene with the Smoking Flame” in “The Little Mermaid”, or homage to N.C. Wyeth’s paintings in “Treasure Planet”, or even the bizarre appearance of “American Gothic” in “Mulan”. So I made a mental note to follow the development of this feature, and it certainly took some interesting turns. After Glen Keane suffered heart conditions that forced him to distance himself from the project, it was handed off to quite a number of other people who all wanted to do something different from it. There was a phase in which is was called “Unbraided”, and tried to capitalize on the success of “Shrek”’s style of fractured fairy tales before changing hands again and again each bringing creative changes, which is usually the kiss of death for a movie. The process became a mess, but eventually, after nine years in production (three times the length of an animated feature takes to make) it was released in November as Disney’s 50th Animated Feature Film.
The story adapts the classic fairy tale of Rapunzel. The wicked Mother Gothel kidnaps and confines Princess Rapunzel to a hidden tower, using Rapunzel’s magic hair to stay eternally young. When a criminal on the run, Flynn Rider, stumbles across Rapunzel and her tower. She begs him to take her out to see the mystetious floating lights that appear in the night sky on her birthday each year. He reluctantly agrees and from there we have the “Romantic Road Trip” story, immortalized by the movie “It Happened One Night” but probably more familiar to younger audiences as the plot for “The Princess and The Frog”.
This movie has lot more snappy physical slapstick humor mixed with a number of quick reaction cuts and pokes fun at some of the trappings of a typical Disney film such as destiny and true love. This seems more in keeping with a Dreamworks or Warner Brothers film than a Disney animated feature, though there is still a classic Disney influence. The reveal of Rapunzel’s tower reminisenct of the reveal of the castle in “Beauty and the Beast”. Rapunzel also runs through a clearing in the forest, animals attracted to sound of her voice a la “Sleeping Beauty”. Then the camera swings over head before spinning around her during the course which has been done in too many Disney movies to get an accurate count. The musical numbers are also written by Alan Menken, who songs for “Aladdin”, “The Little Mermaid”, and “Beauty and the Beast”. The film's Academy-Awarded Nominated song "I See the Light", is very reminiscent of "Aladdin"'s "A Whole New World", with our two leads on a form of transportation (a boat, a la "Kiss the Girl" from "The Little Mermaid), admiring the beautiful scenery, falling in love while performing a duet.
The visuals are strong with hearty laughs and quality moments for good family entertainment. The formula may seem a bit familiar, but it is still interesting to watch. If they had pushed certain elements of the story I think it could have been a perfect 5. But after so much time and money were invested into this project, its likely the executives pushed it into a familiar direction. With that in mind, its probably a miracle we got something as good as we did.
4 out of 5. Enjoyable.