The trailers and TV spots may have you believe Tangled is a snarky fairytale parody akin to Dreamworks, but don't let the sub-par marketing fool you; it is, in fact, an absolutely charming treat of a movie that keeps more in line with vintage Disney than its contemporary competitors.
As we learn in the film's prologue, Princess Rapunzel (voiced with convincing enthusiasm and naivety by Mandy Moore) has magical locks of golden hair with the power to heal and keep people eternally young as a result of the rare life-giving flower that saved her mother during pregnancy. No wonder the ancient Mother Gothel (witchily played by Broadway's Donna Murphy) burgles this flower child from her royal cradle and keeps her locked up in a tower where only she can exploit Rapunzel's gift. The poor dear is pretty cooped up, but days before her 18th birthday, professional thief Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) ducks into the stolen princess' tower to evade capture, and being no match for her frying pan or her flexible strands of hair, is coerced into escorting her across the land and to the city where floating lanterns are sent aloft each year on her birthday in the hopes that one day she might return.
I'd be lying if I didn't admit that the opening prologue, narrated by Flynn, had me worried that the whole picture would suffer from common self-aware humour, but it didn't take long for the film to get me smiling. Credit directors Nathan Greno, Byron Howard, and writer Dan Fogelman (all of 2008's Bolt) for managing a combination of traditional cartoon sight gags and modernized verbal jokes that almost always had me grinning and chuckling, and only rarely had me shaking my head. Still, they also ensure that heart is the driving force of the story, not simply need to amuse. The story itself is nothing new. It follows a formula to be sure, and is kinda skimpy on thematic meat, but it settles into a nice pace that's just right.
Kudos to all the voice talent involved, with special mention to Donna Murphy's sly comedic delivery each time her villainous character lies through the teeth in order to manipulate her blissful captive.
The real stars of this show, however, are the animators. The character animation is outstanding. All characters are given a unique physicality and terrific facial expressions that match the actors' every vocal inflection. I won't even get into how mind-boggling the animation of Rapunzel's hair is to fathom, other than to say it's incredible. Someone had better win an Annie Award for it!
I'd be remiss to say nothing about Alan Menken's music. With lyricist Glenn Slater, he's fashioned a number of catchy ditties that, while not equal to his best work, fit in nicely with the film. The best of them is “I See The Light”, sung by our two romantic leads during the utterly gorgeous floating lantern sequence, possibly the most beautiful scene you'll see on film this year.
An Oscar nod for Original Song should be assured. I'd venture multiple nominations there if it weren't for the fact that Disney is strategically submitting only "I See The Light" for consideration, so as to remove the threat of vote splitting. Smart move if you ask me. It's a darkhorse for Animated Feature as well, but with only three slots, and all of them presumably taken already, it'll probably be left out. Unfortunate, that, because I actually like it more than How to Train Your Dragon.
*** out of ****
Had a video for this one, but my computer crashed and I lost it. Sorry.