Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tangled (2010)

Tangled is a fresh take on the classic Rapunzel tale, about a wayward princess trapped in a tower with nothing but her overbearing mother and her very long, very magical hair. Although it’s digitally animated and cleverly 21st century conscious, it is simulatenously a throwback to the Disney ways of old, to the days of Aladdins and mermaids and even Snow Whites, when all a good fairytale needed was bright young princess with dreams, a dashing young man to help make them come true.

Co-directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard (the men behind 2008’s little-seen, but generally respected Bolt), Tangled is a lighthearted affair, high on music and comedy, and low on stress. Former pop princess Mandy Moore voices damsel in distress Rapunzel, while Zachary Levi (TV’s Chuck) lends his talents to the swashbuckling Flynn Ryder, the thief who haphazardly steals her heart. Rapunzel, you see, is a stolen gem herself, whisked away from her sleeping parents by a witch-like loner who proceeded to lock her up in a tower and feed off her magical healing powers, presumably for eternity.

But the little girl grew up to be an adventurous young spirit, one capable of, upon her 18th birthday, tricking her mother into leaving town and bartering with Flynn Ryder for escort to the big city from which she came.

Thus the adventure begins, a stunt and music filled ordeal peppered with rom-com bickering and animal characture cuteness. There are killers and thieves and angry soldiers, but Tangled opts more often than not to skirt the drama and bounce off on the fun, with rebellious enthusiasm in its veins. Rapunzel herself is less a damsel in distress than a teenager repressed; her villain boasts not magical powers, but a sociopath’s degree in guilt giving and manipulation.

As a result, the film never feels as dangerous or emotionally powerful as its predecessors, which often worked with a rollercoaster of emotions. The folks behind Tangled (including writer Dan Fogelman – you’ll want to remember that name) never aims for such seriousness, instead focusing on the lighter aspects of its fairy tale theme. The animal characters are great, the bank-and-forth banter of the leads is infectious, and the film in general feels basked in a golden hopeful glow.

In short, Tangled is a lot of fun, and a sure bet to keep the kids entertained. It never feels as groundbreaking as its Pixar cousins, but there’s something to be said for the comfort found in its familiarity.

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