Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Movie Review: Disney Animation's Tangled

Disney Animation's latest CGI film came to us this Thanksgiving with the story of Rapunzel. As with all of the classic Fairytales, Tangled presents the story with a few Disney twists. This is also, reportedly, the final Disney Princess film according to recent articles quoting the Company's head - John Lassetter - as saying they were going to go in a different direction.

If Tangled is to be the final Princess film, well, then Disney did not disappoint. In a decade filled with hit or miss films, the company has ended on a high note with their latest animated films (Princess and the Frog, Bolt, and now Tangled). The story is timeless, the story seamless, and CGI animation -while not Pixar standards- is spot on.

The story itself is familiar. Rapunzel (voiced by singer-actress Mandy Moore), a princess, is wisked away by an evil old woman to live in a tower where her hair grows long and - as Disney tells it - has magical powers that keep her captor young and beautiful. Rapunzel knows not that her "mother" is really the villian, or that the lanterns she sees from her tower window every year on her birthday are for her.

Meanwhile, a local fugitive - Flynn Rider (voiced by "Chuck" actor Zachary Levi) - has a bit of trouble on his hands when he finds himself in possession of a stolen crown and is now persued by the King's army. While escaping, he finds himself facing a hidden tower deep within the forrest. Naturally he climbs said tower only to find himself face to face with... a frying pan. The frying pan, naturally, is wielded by our heroine who decides to "hire" Flynn to take her to the lanterns so that she can see them in person. This is her only birthday wish, and at age 18 she feels she is more than deserving. So she lies to her "mother" and sets off on an adventure.

The young duo find themselves at odds almost immediately. Rider is more interested in the crown - which Rapunzel has hidden in order to get him to take her to the lanterns - and tries to convince Rapunzel to give up the notion and go back and forget the whole thing. Rapunzel, herself, is at odds with her decision to leave - feeling guilty for lying to her "mother" - but curiousity wears out... as well as begins a love story.

By the end of their journey, our duo finds themselves completely infatuated with one another and with life lessons learned. Flynn reveals truths about himself that he's shared with no one else, and Rapunzel lets down her guard to share her hair's magical gift. This charming love story is easily believable and enjoyable to watch unfold. Even though the viewer pretty much knows it's going to happen, you're still pleasantly surprised to find that you were right in your assumption.

The plot quickly turns dark as Rapunzel's true identity is revealed to her, and the climax has a couple of twists you wouldn't expect from the Disney storyline. It departs dramatically from the original telling the further along you go in teh story, but is brought 'round right by the end.

Many Disney purists have been skeptical of the CGI films over the years. Some - including myself - believe that the medium should be left to Disney's partner company, Pixar. Other's don't seem to mind the medium so long as the story is good - which Disney has been hit or miss with since the early 90s. However with the change of command in Pixar's John Lassetter, Disney has seemingly made it's way back to the light with classic stories being told - and being told extremely well. The Disney Magic is fully evident in the 50th feature animation.

A couple of criticisms: the music was lacking, this is very disheartening considering Alan Meinken was at the helm and he's produced many classic scores over the years for the animated features. There were too many "small" songs that just seemed to be there because the director thought "it's a disney film we need a song here, and here, and one here, and oooo this is probably where one goes, too." The songs lacked a bit of heart, though some of that may be due to Mandy Moore.

Also, throughout the film I found myself wanting this movie to be done with the classic 2D animation that all other princess films had been done. Again, this goes back to personal preference, and the fact that compared to Pixar, the animation just doesn't come close, but no where in the film did the CGI seem to stand out as something that could only be done with computer graphics. You could possibly argue the lantern scene, but then they could have Beauty and Beast styled the movie and let that scene be part 2d and part CGI. Still, the computer animation was sound, and very few scenes seemed unfinished to my untrained eye.

Over all this was an enjoyable addition to the Disney family. It's a great family film - my nearly five year old neice enjoyed it - and surprisingly does not talk down to the audience at all (which I found even Princess and the Frog did). There's slapstick humor, very little potty humor (if any), and it is - of course - clean. Parents worried about the magic aspect will be happy to note that it's minimal and at the end is done away with entirely.

In true Disney form this story is a keeper.

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