Directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard have clearly studied what works and what doesn’t from Disney’s canon and include all the best aspects of delightful storytelling.
With Tangled, its 50th full-length animated feature, Disney has shown us that they can still make quality family films. After several stumbles, including The Princess and the Frog, their newest adventure is one that is reminiscent of animated movies such as Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast that have become Disney classics. With Tangled, Disney Studios has once again tapped into the type of fantasy adventures that audiences love to watch.
This re-telling of the Rapunzel tale is slightly different than the classic most are familiar with. Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore) lives in a tower hidden deep in a lush forest where her mother (Donna Murphy) has kept her for her entire life. Her mother says it is to protect her from the dangerous and ugly outside world, but Rapunzel dreams of nothing but seeing the world and finding the answers to so many questions that she has. Her mother’s real motivation, though, is Rapunzel’s magical hair, which is able to not only heal people but also keep them young forever.
One day when her mother has taken a leave for several days and Rapunzel is going through the routines she has completed thousands of times before, she has an unexpected visitor. Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi), a thief and bandit, is being chased through the forest by the King’s soldiers and uses Rapunzel’s tower as a hideout. After a less-than-stellar first impression of one another, the two come to an agreement that will serve both: she will give him the treasure he stole that she has hidden in the tower if he will show her the outside world and what lies beyond the forest.
The rest of the movie is a wonderful adventure full of terrific characters, exciting twists and turns and some of Disney’s best original songs since The Lion King. Directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard have clearly studied what works and what doesn’t from Disney’s canon and include all the best aspects of delightful storytelling. The movie is funny, touching and above all does not pander to the audience at any point.
The actors are all so perfectly cast as the characters. Moore is particularly superb as the innocent yet headstrong Rapunzel. She is able to be passive one moment and incredibly courageous at the next. Moore, who was a recording artist before turning to acting, lends her vocals to the soundtracks in several beautiful tracks that are destined to be hits.
Levi also gives a strong performance as the arrogant and brash Flynn Rider. His comedic timing, which has led to his success on the NBC show “Chuck,” comes across through his ability to reach hilarious heights of absurdity. He sounds like both a dashing, daring adventurer, and a big kid who is just seeking a thrill.
Murphy might be the best part of the movie as Rapunzel’s manipulative mother. The veteran Broadway actress flexes her vocal skills on the soundtrack, but what really stands out is her chameleon-like ability to match her tone to whatever evil deeds she is cooking up throughout the movie. Speaking of, one of the best characters in the film is Rapunzel’s pet and protector, Pascal. Though he doesn’t talk, he has some of the movie’s funniest moments and will be the one people will be laughing the hardest at after the movie.
Tangled is a terrific movie that kids will love because of the exciting story and music and adults will love because it will remind them of the Disney movies they watched as a kid. | Matthew F. Newlin