I gotta tell you, I get a kick when I hear kids laughing at the movies. There was a lot of that happening when I saw Disney’s 50th Animated Feature Film Tangled, which opens today. There’s some fierce competition at the box office, in the form of the penultimate Harry Potter film opening the weekend prior. But I’m fairly confident this updated retelling of the classic fairytale will win over audiences of all ages (boys included).
Once upon a time in an enchanting kingdom by the sea, tragedy befalls the beloved King and Queen when their only daughter is kidnapped from her cradle by a selfish old woman named Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy). Within the golden tresses of the princess’s hair lie magical powers of healing and youth. Mother Gothel locks the princess, who she names Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore), in a high tower, raises her as her own daughter and keeps the magic all to herself. Many years later a handsome rogue of a thief named Flynn Rider (Chuck’s Zach Levi) discovers the tower and uses it to hide from a posse of the King’s men on his trail. Rapunzel, who’s been taught to fear the outside world and all its inhabitants, decides to blackmail Flynn into taking her to the annual festival of lanterns, something she sees from her window each year on her birthday. Flynn’s immediate plans don’t include escorting a naive girl to the castle and back but in order to get back his stolen prize, he must comply. Now in addition to the King’s men he’s got a duty-bound steed, Rapunzel’s “Mother” and his former associates in hot pursuit. The even bigger danger is that Flynn is becoming romantically entangled with the lively and lovely Rapunzel.
There’s a clear formula to pretty much every Disney animated film: good-hearted albeit misguided hero meets perky and lovable heroine who has scene-stealing animal friends (in this case a chameleon and a horse). There is some kind of road trip or dangerous task to perform, usually set to music and in the end they all live happily ever after. This equation has worked for them time and time again so why stray from the path of success? Tangled offers little freshness in terms of story or characterization but that doesn’t make it completely stale. Writer Dan Fogelman (Cars and Bolt) takes what is at times a harrowing Grimm fairy tale and gives it a contemporary edge. And the edition of 3-D makes the visuals pop. There is a scene when Rapunzel and Flynn are in a boat surrounded by floating lanterns that is particularly breathtaking. Taken together, the tried and true formula once again equals an enjoyable outing to the movies.
One way Tangled is unique is that the guy carries most of the point of view of the story. Clearly there was talk about catering to the underserved boy population who were stuck seeing Princess-type movies with their sisters. The lovable thief Flynn (homage to Errol Flynn) is not as charming or clever as he likes to think he is and probably talks a little too much. I’m a big fan of actor Zach Levi and thought he was the perfect choice for the role. And he’s got a fantastic singing voice! Speaking of singing – pop star/actress Mandy Moore is the voice of Rapunzel. Not a typical princess, Mandy’s voice suits the modern dialogue and songs nicely. Gorgeous Tony Award winning actress Donna Murphy is the manipulative Mother Gothel. Those Broadway-style chops come in handy when she belt out “Mother Knows Best”.
If I have one criticism of Tangled it’s the music. Alan Menken once again takes the musical reigns, this time with lyricist Glen Slater. While the songs are clever, bouncy and fun, they’re largely forgettable. The one exception was the duet “I See the Light” which happens at the already mentioned visually stunning boat/lantern scene. I don’t know if it was the delight at hearing Zach Levi sing or the wonder of the floating lights but that was the one song I remember really liking. The rest, I really couldn’t be bothered.
I’ll admit, based on what I’d seen in the trailer for this film my expectations were pretty low. I was pleasantly surprised that for once they didn’t show the funniest bits in the commercials. I genuinely enjoyed Tangled and recommend it for the whole family.