Directed by: Nathan Greno, Byron Howard
Written by: Dan Fogelman (screenplay), Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (fairy tale)
Starring: Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy, and Ron Perlman
You’ve seen this place before. The polished forests, trickling streams, song birds chirping in a synchronized melody- you’re in Hell, only this time it looks more polished.
That may be a bit hyperbolic to describe Tangled, the latest Disney princess delusion to sweep children up on waves of fantasy and take them to a perfect world that will never exist. The images are distinctly old school, reminiscent of Sleeping Beauty or Snow White. These days, though, Pixar is the bulk of Disney animation, and their technical and story wizards work behind the scenes (the company’s John Lasseter serves as producer) to salvage this movie from destroying itself. It’s not a bad pairing at times, with beautiful images and story-telling subversion that are well above this movie’s call.
In taking the Brothers Grimm tale of Rapunzel and letting her (Mandy Moore) sing her song and swing her hair all the way to independence, Disney hasn’t done anything new. What really sets this movie apart are the melding of its old school and its new school. If nothing, it’s fascinating to watch the company struggle to stay in the past as its forced into the present. You’ll feel like you’re watching a remastered version of an old classic rather than a new movie.
Tangled starts off setting up the whole story via annoying narration done by the film’s second protagonist, Flynn Ryder (Zachary Levi). He chimes in at the beginning and the end to spout off snarky narration more suited to Kung Fu Panda. The real focus of this story is Rapunzel, snatched from the royal crib by a greedy old maiden (Donna Murphy) so that she can use her hair’s magical powers to stay young forever. She is a monster of a mother, cleverly boiled down to a passive-aggressive manipulator instead of outright evil. This innovation allows the story most of its welcome twists. Rapunzel has been kept in this tower, but goes back to it on her own accord.
It’s often the clever narrative twists that are the movie’s best moments, though they often lead right to all of the cliches. The image of Rapunzel, her hair sawed off as she clutches a dying person she cannot save, is much too poetic an image for what follows (typical Disney goo.)
Moments like these, of simple yet breathtaking beauty, save this movie from becoming forgettable against the throes of non-Pixar animated films. The song it sings in that overly-enchanted forest is one of familiarity, but the minor key changes still make it worth listening to.