As with so many of the Disney classics Tangled involves a princess in peril. But true to the more modern notion of womanhood, this princess, Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore), is far from helpless, wielding a mean frying pan as well as 50 feet-plus of golden hair that frequently gets her out of jams in ingenious ways.
Rapunzel has been locked away in a tower by the conniving Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy), the woman pretending to be her mother. Mother Gothel is a centuries-old hag who has used a golden magic flower born of the sun to stay forever young. When that flower was picked and its power transferred to a newborn Rapunzel — the flower is the source of her lovely, long locks — Mother Gothel steals the infant away from the rightful parents, the King and Queen, and raises her as her own.
When Rapunzel sings, her hair glows and heals whoever it touches. But once cut, it withers and turns brunette, void of any magic, proving that blondes do indeed have more fun.
Mother Gothel wants Rapunzel and her magic power to herself.
To ensure she never runs away, Mother Gothel has locked Rapunzel in a tall tower hidden in a deep forest. Mother Gothel goes so far as to frighten Rapunzel of the outside world with tales of scheming thieves and murderous marauders.
Even with her head filled with such dangerous and dark images of life outside the tower, Rapunzel cannot help but dream of leaving her safe surroundings to see the mysterious lights that appear in the sky like bright stars every year on her birthday. The former princess has no idea that the lights are floating lanterns the King and Queen send aloft in memory of their lost daughter in hopes she will see them and return home.
The day before her 18th birthday, a handsome thief, Flynn Ryder (Zachary Levi), who has stolen a jeweled crown, climbs into Rapunzel's tower to escape pursuing castle guards.
Rapunzel, wary of strangers, makes quick work of Flynn, but she offers to give him back the crown if he will escort her safely to see the magical lights in the nearby kingdom. Mother Gothel learns of their plans and pursues the pair, plotting a way to rid Rapunzel of Flynn, while tricking her into going back to the tower and living there forever.
None of this is particularly original, but Tangled feels fresh with its lively story, impressive computer animation that brings an oil painting to life, and abundance of energy. The animation, by the way, sports some of the best 3D this side of Avatar. Consider this one film worth the surcharge for the 3D experience.
This being a Disney princess film at heart, despite the studio's marketing attempts otherwise, there are the requisite songs, most of which aren't particularly memorable, save a Murphy offering ("Mother Knows Best") as well as a song-and-dance number ("I've Got a Dream") by a tavern of thugs — Jeffrey Tambor and Brad Garrett provide two of the voices — that could have been ripped from Spamalot.
Tangled's voice cast is top-notch. Moore gives Rapunzel a lot of spunk, and Levi delivers laughs and fun as the impossible-to-resist rogue. As with most Disney films, the villain is often the strongest character and Mother Gothel is no exception; however, in a welcome change, powers of persuasion and treachery make Mother Gothel formidable rather than the usual dark magic.
Tangled was written by Dan Fogelman (co-writer on Disney's Bolt and Pixar's Cars), and co-directed by Nathan Greno (his first feature film) and Byron Howard (who co-directed Bolt). The film also marks a major milestone for Disney: its 50th animated release.
While Tangled isn't quite to the level of the elite Disney classics, this computer-animated gem does offer a rollicking good time for the holidays, for kids, and adults.
Contact Kirk Baird at
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