D50: Tangled

Tangled is Disney’s 50th animated motion picture (there are more, but most are propaganda films that they wish had never been made, but that’s beside the point). So, for such a momentous occasion, you’d think that they would go out and make their best film in a while. In some parts they do deliver, and in the end it is a really, really, really good movie. Had some parts been changed, it would have been great. But ultimately, the whole film didn’t wow me.

I can’t help but feel like I sound like I was disappointed. Truth be told, it actually surpassed my expectations because the trailers were god-awful. About 90% of the movie is really good. The animation is beautiful. The intent of the filmmakers was to capture the feel of a 2D movie but with CG, and for the most part they succeed. The best part of the animation is the hair. This movie has been in the works for many years (part of the reason the budget was $260 million), in both 2D and CG, but because of the hair they didn’t go forward. They finally got it with a brand new program, and it actually had to be animated separately. The results are outstanding. It’s so realistic that I actually felt like reaching in and touch it.

Another one of the great things is how well rounded the main characters are. Rapunze is not just a damsel in distress. She is given an entire background that makes her seem relatable and realistic. The same goes for Flynn Rider.  It was odd seeing characters so well developed in a modern Disney. And it also has what may be the best animal sidekicks ever: Pascal, the chameleon, and Max, the horse. Pascal is sarcastic, sassy, protective, and very cool. Max is a very loyal and extremely well trained horse that will do anything to catch Flynn. Both of these characters are freaking hilarious, and actually fit the story pretty well, and don’t seem like obvious comedy relief. And the best part: they don’t talk! Because of this, the animators and the sound designer were able to put more of themselves into these characters and to show how they alone can make a character great.

And the performances match the roles. Mandy Moore gives the best performance she will likely give as Rapunzel. Zachari Levi is as charming as he had to be and it turns out that he has a pretty good singing voice. Mother Gothel may not be the best villain, you’ll see why soon, but Donna Murphy kills it. She has a very motherly voice which makes the scenes with Rapunzel (who doesn’t know she’s evil) seem honest, and doesn’t make Gothel an obvious villain. And who’s better to play a thief with a vendetta than Ron Pearlman? No one.

And to conclude the positive aspects of the film, I have to point a scene in particular. The movie is all about Rapunzel dreaming of seeing the floating lights that her father and mother, the leaders of the land, release each year since Gothel kidnapped her. They talk and talk about it, so they had to make it perfect, and it was. The beautiful animation (of both the characters and the backgrounds) combined with the song “I See the Light” (which should have won the Oscar over the Toy Story 3 song), and the directors’ work makes this particular scene one of the best I’ve seen in any medium. I actually got teary-eyed even though it is not that kind of scene.

Now for the negatives of the film:

I don’t want to blame the plot for keeping the movie from being great, so I won’t especially since there is only so much you can do with the Rapunzel story. But I do have to point out that it is a weak point.

If a villain is included in the film, then there are certain expectations that come with Disney villains. Sadly, Gothel does not meet those expectations. A villain can be funny (Hades, Yzma), but the writers over do it. I guess they were trying to make her like a real mother, in that the things they think they are funny are not always funny. But this makes her seem like she’s not threatening, despite the fact that she kidnapped a baby. Gothel is not a terrible villain, mostly for Donna Murphy’s work, but the character could have been better. She does have a great death, though.

Another issue that I have that is rooted in the script is that the humor is sometimes out of place. But this is expected from Disney, so I won’t bother going into detail

The songs are also an issue of concert. Now, Alan Menke’s score is amazing, particularly the song that plays during their day at the kingdom before they see the lights. But the songs other than “I See the Light” are weak. “Mother Knows Best” is a fun tune made better by Donna Murphy’s legendary Broadway pipes, but it just doesn’t have a place among the pantheon of great villain songs. And “I’ve Got a Dream” is so completely unnecessary.

Now, all of these things do hurt the film but not to the point where they would bring down a great movie. What really didn’t do any favors to the film was the ending. (Spoiler warning). Yes, most people wanted Rapunze and Flynn to stay together, but Flynn sort of makes the ultimate sacrifice to give freedom to the love of his life. Hell, they set it up from the beginning. Had they kept it this way, and show Rapunzel become more mature as a result of this, show her going back to her kingdom and honor the life of the man who rescued her and showed her how to live it would have been a perfect ending. But instead, they used a deux ex machina and revived Flynn so that they could have the usual happy ending. (End of spoilers)

A little bit of tweaking and balls in part of the filmmakers could have made Tangled one of the best Disney films that would have been perfect for celebrating the studio’s 50th feature. But instead we got a very good movie that will always have a mark that says, “I could have been much better.”

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