Monday, January 17, 2011
But, as is the case for most of us, I'm lucky if I make to the theater at all and all I can do is add my voice to the chorus that has already chimed in their opinion on a certain movie. Most of the time I take a why bother attitude when I'm two months late to the party, but I will make an exception when a movie is just too good not to mention.
Like many Disney films Tangled is the story about a princess. But the princess in this case, Rapunzel, spends most of her life not knowing she was born to royalty. Gravely ill while pregnant with Rapunzel, the queen is given a broth made from a flower with the magical ability to heal. As a result the baby Rapunzel is born with golden hair that is infused with the magic of the flower.
The only person who knows the secret of Rapunzel's magic hair is an old witch named Gothel who had been using the magic of the flower to stay young. Realizing that Rapunzel is the key to her continued youth, Gothel steals the baby, stashes her in an isolated tower and raises her as her own daughter. Distraught at the loss of the baby the king and queen release thousands of floating lanterns every year on Rapunzel's birthday in hopes that she will see them and use them as a beacon home. Little do they know that the princess has spent eighteen years in her tower amusing herself by painting the walls with pictures of the lanterns she longs to see in person.
Rapunzel, whose hair cannot be cut or her magic will be lost, hauls Gothel up and down the tower with her impossibly long hair. But she never leaves because she has been raised to believe that the outside world is cruel and covets her magic. But as her eighteenth birthday approaches Rapunzel becomes increasingly determined to see the lanterns and when a thief known as Flynn Rider suddenly finds her tower, Rapunzel takes the opportunity to venture out into the world for the first time.
If there's one thing Disney does really well it's that they know how to tug on your heartstrings in the best way. "Tangled" follows in the vein of most of the "princess" movies in that our heroine finds her independence along with the love of her life in the course of her adventures. But Rapunzel is also a modern princess. She isn't singing "someday my prince will come"-- she's actually more likely to smack the male lead upside the head with a frying pan. The real theme of Rapunzel is the emotion prison that had held her captive for all of her young life. Like any child Rapunzel loves and trusts her "mother" but Gothel doesn't understand love; her selfishness knows no bounds and the manipulation she uses to keep Rapunzel isolated and compliant is both masterful and cruel. The effect this has had on Rapunzel is hilariously and adeptly illustrated in a sequence that shows her alternatively ecstatic and remorseful over leaving her tower.
There are also characters that fit the normal template of a Disney film, including animals of unusual intelligence-- though they do not talk in this particular case. And while Rapunzel's main companion, a chameleon named Pascal, is adorable-- it's a horse named Maximus who steals the show.
Rapunzel and Flynn, voiced by Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi, are immensely likable and Levi in particular has a voice with a wonderful range of emotions that comes through very well. The musical numbers don't have the same quality of instant classics like "Under the Sea" ("Little Mermaid") or "Beauty and the Beast" but Gothel has a memorable number titled "Mother Knows Best" that is excellently performed by Donna Murphy.
"Tangled" is one of those movies that hits all the right notes. It makes you laugh-- a lot-- but it also has a huge sentimental streak that might make your eyes well up, but it never dwells too long on the sad parts. The movie takes its tone from its leading lady. It has a wide-eyed innocence and utter sweetness that is bound to win anyone over. It's just a joy to watch.