Nathan Greno's and Byron Howard's Tangled
Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:
Disney’s “Tangled” is a twist on the well-known fairy tale of Rapunzel. Sure they could have chosen to tell the tale that most people know about Rapunzel being trapped in a tower until a prince comes along to help set her free, but where would be the fun in that? Instead, they’ve made a few slight alterations such as adding more characters and changing the story into an adventure complete with thrills, romance, and even a few musical numbers.
The exposition of the story tells us of a drop of sunlight that created a magical flower with incredible healing powers. An old woman, Gothel (Voice of Donna Murphy) had been using the flower’s power to remain young until the queen of the kingdom required it after falling ill during delivery of her daughter. Because the flower was used during her delivery, the power of the flower was passed into her daughter’s hair. In order to continue using the healing power, Gothel breaks into the castle, steals the infant, and raises her in a tower where she can have her all to herself.
Around her 18th birthday, Rapunzel (Voice of Mandy Moore) wishes to see the lights that appear in the sky every year on her birthday, which she has no idea are floating lanterns released from the castle in hope of the lost princess’s return. Gothel, whom Rapunzel believes to be her mother, refuses to let her leave, telling her that the outside world is too dangerous. Meanwhile, a thief, Flynn (Voice of Zachary Levi), has successfully stolen a crown from the castle. Guards pursue him and his accomplices deep into the woods where Flynn happens upon Rapunzel’s abode. At first, Rapunzel believes him to be dangerous, but eventually, she strikes a deal with him in which he’ll take her to see the floating lanterns in return for the crown that she’s hidden from him. So begins their wild adventure.
As usual, Disney doesn’t disappoint with their excellent animation. Despite the fact that I only saw this in 2D, the visuals are still quite stunning. It makes you wonder what a third dimension could possibly add to a film that already looks as good as this. Certain scenes were particularly noteworthy for their animation and ranged from something grand, like a thrilling escape from multiple pursuers, to something simpler, like the design of Rapunzel’s prison.
The musical numbers are also pretty good, so it was no surprise to learn that they come from the talented Alan Menken, winner of eight Oscars for his excellent work on films like “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” and “The Little Mermaid.” The songs have the usual range that we’ve come to expect from films like this and include several upbeat numbers while sprinkling in a song or two that are more emotionally heavy. While they may not be as memorable as his previous work, they still show Menken’s talent quite well.
What makes “Tangled” work is the fascinating mix of characters. It includes some characters from the original tale while throwing in a few new faces. Rapunzel’s character hasn’t really changed all that much for this adaptation other than the fact that she’s a princess. She still has a desire to get out of the tower and is finally given the hope of doing so when she meets a man, who in this case is not a prince, but a thief. Their camaraderie is what drives much of the film. They are thrown into one situation after another that slowly brings them together. Then, of course, their relationship fully blooms and the two end up doing whatever they can to be together.
Other interesting characters include a group of thugs that our heroes meet at a dining establishment. To everyone’s surprise, they’re not as bad as they seem as they sing about their dreams and help the heroes escape some guards and a horse bent on tracking them down. The horse itself is actually one of the best characters in the film. Leave it to Disney to give a horse with no dialogue enough personality to make him as likable as the main characters.
The story is another main reason to check this film out. Most versions of the Rapunzel tale don’t go much beyond the usual confines of the story, but “Tangled” expands it quite a bit, adding in elements that will delight both children and adults. It doesn’t particularly try to pander to either group, and yet, it ends up delighting both. The level of humor was even enjoyable enough to garner a few laughs. All in all, it’s a fun, entertaining, and enjoyable way to spend 90 minutes. 3/4 stars.
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