After all I heard about this movie, I was afraid it would be good, but not great.
I’m happy to report, this is the best “Disney Princess” movie since “Beauty and the Beast”. Not quite as good as that one, but certainly better than “The Princess and The Frog”.
I’m not saying that TP&TF was bad, mind you- only that it didn’t quite feel the way a Disney fairy tale should. It was too modern, too self-aware. Oh sure, that’s how Disney is promoting Tangled to be too- but trust me, the only thing anachronical in this film is the characters’ modern form of speech- there are no pop culture references, or (especially) any take-thats at the fairy tale genre, the way Shrek had.
Not that THAT is bad, either- but there’s a place for everything; you expect the Shrek movies to be sarcastic, but the Disney movies? They had an actual innocent charm- once upon a time.
Now it’s back.
OK, let’s do the [STRIKE]dew[/STRIKE] review. Warning: there’s a LOT of spoilers ahead. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
The story: As in the original tale, a girl named Rapunzel (who has incredibly long hair) is kept inside a tower all her life by her mother, who uses Rap’s hair to climb all the way up; until some guy finds her. That’s where the resemblance ends; the rest is made up, but that’s typical of Disney (let’s not get into how they butchered historical facts in say, Pocahontas.) On the other hand, I wasn’t expecting them to include the part where Rapunzel gets pregnant anyway.
Turns out that Rapunzel’s hair has healing powers that the “mother” (actually a hag who kidnapped her as a baby) uses to keep herself young; if the hair is cut the magic goes away. She keeps her hidden because her parents (the king and queen, of course) have never stopped looking for her. The guy who finds her is not a prince, but a thief called Flynn Rider, who was just trying to hide from the authorities after stealing a crown (ironically, Rapunzel’s.) Rap hides the crown away and will only give it back if he agrees to take her to see the launching of the flying lanterns, which is done every year on the missing princess’ birthday. He agrees, despite having both the palace guards AND his two ex-partners in crime looking for him (and soon enough, Rap’s “mother” as well.) Naturally, the two of them grow closer along the way and, if you don’t know how it that ends, then you’ve never seen a romantic Disney movie in your life.
The plot isn’t really that original; for the most part, nothing really unexpected happens, and when it does, it’s usually because of some character who wasn’t in the original story, like the tavern full of hoods. In fact, there’s a couple of plot holes toward the end that had me wondering “what happened there?”
So what makes this story so good?
The interplay between the characters -ALL of them- is great, to the point that even those we see only for a few moments - like the King and the Queen- linger in the memory. There’s the way Flynn and Rap try to out-sass the other all the time; speaking of sass, Mother Gothel has to be hottest, most sassy Disney Villainess EVER; half of me wants to strangle her, the other [STRIKE]wants to sleep with her[/STRIKE] feels sorry for her. Hey, her very life was at stake here (she’s too old to survive without the magic); still, that doesn’t excuse the way she treats Rapunzel, mocking her to her face while pretending to be just teasing. I must admit I was disappointed that she didn’t have any magical powers of her own, but then again, she was SO wily she could get almost anybody to do what she wanted with just words! Fearsome bitch.
The other characters are memorable too. I just loved Maximus the horse, how obsessed it was with justice (being the horse of the Palace Guard’s Captain) to the point it would not eat apples if he knew they were stolen. Strangely, neither he nor Rap’s pet chameleon Pascal ever say a word in the movie, despite obviously being as smart as humans. That’s unusual for a Disney fairy tale, but it works, as their facial expressions were better than words.
But the REAL surprise were the Snuggly Duck Tavern Thugs. Since the trailers have already spoiled the fact, I will mention it: they’re a bunch of softies (though still though) who are taken immediately by Rap’s innocence. In fact I was wonderfully surprised that BIG SPOILER!! they were the ones who rescue Flynn in the end YA-HOOO!! Really, the whole ending sequence is wonderful, it keeps you at the edge of your seat even if you can guess what’s going to happen next. Especially the scene where Rapunzel finally meets her true parents… storywise it doesn’t make much sense but I’d be lying if I say I didn’t almost cry. sniff
The Animation: As usual I didn’t see the 3D-fx version so I’ll let some else comment on how good those were. But the movie doesn’t need them; it looks magical, as a Disney movie should- with the addition that the CGI effects were VERY realistic when conveying movement and body language- I wonder if motion-capture was used? Also it has what I feel are the most realistic-looking humans of any western CGI movie I’ve seen- no “uncanny valley” here, except maybe in Rapunzel’s huge eyes, but they were adorable so I don’t care.
The Music: Disney films like this need great songs, of course. However despite being written by the same guy who did The Little Mermaid’s here they were more like Chinese food- you know, tastes good but half an hour later you’re hungry again? The only two numbers that really stuck to my mind are “Rapunzel Knows Best!” (sung by Gothel to mock her “daughter’s” desire for freedom) and “I Have a Dream!” sung by the tavern thugs (because that whole sequence is just HILARIOUS, probably the funniest in the film.) Really, everybody’s voice work was spectacular, which only made the characters more enjoyable.
Overall: The movie is great. It could have been even better if the plot made a little more sense and the songs were a little better, but the important thing is, it was a WONDERFUL Disney Fairy Tale movie, and I hear it’s doing pretty well despite the fact that it came out next to Harry Potter (but then again, the two movies have only magic in common- the experiences of watching them are TOTALLY different.) So if you, like me, are unashamed to admit watching a movie “for little girls” go see [STRIKE]Rapunzel[/STRIKE] Tangled!