"Tangled" marks the first ever big-screen outing for the poor, isolated Rapunzel. I find it odd that the classical princess, cast from the minds of the famous Brothers Grimm in 1812, has taken so long to finally reach cinema screens. The story is so well-known, one would think that a dozen filmic retellings would have permeated the cultural wave by now. The only notable adaptation was the direct-to-DVD "Barbie as Rapunzel" in 2002, for the love of Christ.
But now, in 2010, Disney has ultimately taken up the challenge of bringing the fabled fairy tale to the silver screen -- and who better to do it some well-deserved justice than the studio who brought us "Bambi" and "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"? "Tangled" is entirely rendered in computer animation, it's being shown in 3D, and it's a musical -- it's also the first full-CG flick to be an all-out sing-a-thon.
Rapunzel (singer Mandy Moore, "Saved!") is a sheltered girl. She's been living in a tall tower with her pet chameleon ever since she was kidnapped from her royal parents as an infant by Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy, "The Nanny Diaries"). Unaware that the child-snatching witch is not her birth-parent, the 17-year-old is forced by her fake mommy to stay inside the tower so that Mother Gothel can use the youth-giving magical powers coating Rapunzel's long, flowing hair. Rapunzel has never left the secluded structure, but yearns to venture outside.
Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi, "Chuck") is a bandit who, along with two hulking twin thugs, manages to steal what should be Rapunzel's tiara from the royal castle. By pure coincidence, he just so happens to climb up Rapunzel's tower while hiding from chasing guards after deliberately losing his brutish companions.
Following being knocked unconscious with a frying pan, crammed into a closet and then tied up with Rapunzel's golden locks, he and The Lost Princess climb down the sky-high tower. Rapunzel wants to discover the reason why she sees floating lanterns burning amongst the stars on each of her birthdays -- her real father and mother send them into the night every year in the hope that their missing daughter follows them and returns home. In return for being Rapunzel's guide, Flynn will be given the stolen tiara, which Rapunzel has taken off him.
As they trek through the forest together, getting in all sorts of calamities, romance blossoms between the two mismatched misfits. Meanwhile, hundreds of guards are hunting Flynn, the two ditched sibling robbers are hunting Flynn, and Mother Gothel is hunting Rapunzel. I'm sure they'll be fine.
Disney's last feature was the brilliant New Orleans-set, 2D-animated "The Princess and the Frog" of 2009, and "Tangled" treads similar ground. Their latest is a traditional story of princesses, witches, dashing anti-heroes and enchanting incantations -- but with a more modern feel surrounding the proceedings.
"Tangled" is met with cartoonish comedy and whimsical music, both holding up well amongst the swashbuckling adventures of the two courageous leads. Directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard share a sharp eye for slapstick shenanigans, the physical humour a joyous highlight in this hair-raising comedy. The initial interaction between Flynn and the trapped princess is especially hilarious, peaking when Rapunzel makes several attempts to stuff Flynn's unconscious body in her closet.
The music, composed by Oscar-winner Alan Menken ("Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin"), is a cheerful listen, the lyrics giving a little more depth to the characters, as well as furthering the plot. While not particularly memorable, they're fun while they last -- "I've Got a Dream" is a delightfully silly entry in the original soundtrack, sung by supposed ruffians (one of whom is voiced by Brad Garrett of "Everybody Loves Raymond" fame) in a bar.
The voice-work is all top-notch, radiantly bringing the already-3D characters to wacky life and gloriously singing to their hearts' content. Moore's Rapunzel isn't the stereotypical damsel-in-distress, but an independent and strong young woman with a long-restrained sense of inquisitive adventure. She's a tad naive, but still a lovable, magical-haired lead who'll make a great role model for little girls sitting in the audience -- however, if you want your shins unharmed, I'd take the frying pans away from your daughter(s) after watching this.
Flynn is a grinning and clever-mouthed thief who thinks he can get himself out of any sticky situation by showing off his "smolder" to the ladies. Well practiced in narcissism, he's insulted when the land-scattered wanted posters picturing him get his nose wrong -- it's drawn as a bulbous bill. He's also shocked when Rapunzel doesn't fall for his charms, but the two share a conflicting chemistry on their risky exploits.
As the wicked queen to Rapunzel's Snow White, Mother Gothel is a right manipulative old bitch. Using the powers in Rapunzel's lengthy split-ends to sustain a youthful figure, she poses as the princess' over-protective mother, telling Rapunzel that she can't survive outside the tower, fearing that the curious blondie may escape her clutches. When Rapunzel finally spreads her wings and hops off with the handsome Flynn, Mother Gothel is both furious and desperate to get her once-willing captive back.
While it may not be hailed as a Disney classic anytime soon, "Tangled" is nonetheless an excellent addition to the studio's vast plethora of popular animations. It looks beautiful, the cast is magnificent, the musical numbers are kind to the ears, and the comedy works wonders. Both kids and adults will love it. I just wonder how Rapunzel manages to not trip over her hair all the time.