Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Movie Review: Tangled

They never do get his nose right.

Some of you seem to be under the impression that I hate joy, due to such articles as this, and that disappoints and saddens me. A little. I do not, in fact, hate joy (well, not always). Actually, there are occasions where I can get in touch with my inner child, and watching Tangled was one of those times. Tangled was a Disney movie that managed to actually pull off the hardest kind of movie to do well: a children’s movie.

Now, that being said, this is still a Disney movie, and you have to know what you’re getting into. The movie’s humor can get a little silly, in an animals-act-like-people kind of way. It stays away from cheap or immature laughs, but the funniest scenes involve Maximus, a horse with a clear sense of justice who will stop at nothing to hunt down main character Flynn Rider, or else a band of ruffians with mysteriously golden hearts. Reality is rarely ever flirted with, but that seems fair from a movie based on a fairy tale, and the tale of Tangled still manages to be delightful even with the fairy aspects.

Who wouldn't fall for that scraggly beard?
The movie is a retelling of Rapunzel, minus the horrifying ending, and plus a snarky, dashing thief to take Rapunzel (played by Mandy Moore) to find her parents. The plot of the movie very rarely follows the plot of the actual fairy tale itself, with Rapunzel’s hair also being magic, and her desire to leave the castle stemming from her dream to see the floating lights that appear in the sky every year on her birthday. The floating lights are floating lanterns released by the citizens of a nearby kingdom in honor of their missing princess (Rapunzel, of course), who was stolen when she was a baby by the requisite evil witch (played so well by Donna Murphy that you will never be able to look at your mother the same way). Of course she falls in love with the charming thief Flynn Rider (played by Zachary Levi, aka Chuck) who bumbles his way into her castle after being chased by Maximus (incidentally the best character in the movie) and ends up taking her to see the lights. The story certainly is nothing new, love story, follow your dreams, people are really good on the inside (except the bad guys), so on and so forth, but it manages to do all the same old stuff RIGHT. The humor is child-like not childish, the plotline is classic not tired, and the message is optimistic and encouraging, not unrealistic and heavy-handed.

If you kids don't stop fighting, so help me I will
drive this car off a bridge!
The animation is also surprisingly excellent, done with almost Pixar-like skill (there, I said it). The hair especially (for what would a Rapunzel movie be without improbable amounts of hair) is incredibly well-animated, with individual hairs discernable and incredibly realistic movements, even more impressive given that hair is notoriously hard to animate. The scene with the floating lanterns is also visually gorgeous, but the most impressive achievement is the animals: Rapunzel’s pet chameleon and the horse Maximus. Both end up being just as much characters as the humans, despite the fact that they never talk, which is a deceptively difficult feat to pull off. The animals also make for some entertaining visual gags, such as Maximus sword-fighting with Flynn, or fighting like children with him to get to a satchel first.

My parents fast-forwarded through this scene.
The soundtrack is fantastic, with several original songs sung by Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi that are surprisingly not bad, as well as excellent orchestral numbers. Of course, in the spirit of “Be Prepared” from the Lion King soundtrack, they can also manage to be scary: the song “Mother Knows Best” is spine-tingling in a creepily psychological way.

Perhaps oddest of all, the film was shockingly feminist for a Disney film. Sure, you may say, you still have the familiar princess in a tower and the handsome prince, but in this case the princess seems to be the only one who can get anything done. The prince (or thief in this case) is the useless extra baggage who needs to get rescued most of the time (because the whole kingdom's after him for one of his heists) and is also the more emotionally insecure one. In fact, Rapunzel knocks him out with a frying pan the first time he walks into her castle (which is hilarious if you like cartoon violence (who doesn't?)), and forces him to take her to the floating lights against his will.

Overall the biggest reason I liked the film was that it seemed to somehow capture my childhood with its hilariously ludicrous ruffians (the most dastardly of which secretly collect ceramic unicorns and bake pastries), terrifyingly sugary villains, and child-like sense of humor. Maybe it’s just me, but the sight of a grown man and a horse punching each other in the shoulder like children is just hilarious. But even if your sense of joy is radically different than mine, Tangled is still an excellent choice for the young (or at least silly) of heart as well as for its beautiful visuals.

Overall Review: Like

Death and Glory,


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