Comedy, romance and adventure, Disney delivers all three mightily in their 50th animated feature Tangled. In November 2010, Disney announced that they would no longer be making princess-based fairy tale animated features. I wasn't overly shocked by the news since there hasn't been a great princess movie in quite sometime, but was sad at the same time since The Little Mermaid and Beauty and The Beast are on the list of my favorites movies of all times. The Princess and the Frog was enjoyable while I was watching it, but I doubt it would ever warrant a second viewing. Tangled is what I have been longing for, not only in an animated princess film but in a romantic comedy. It contains all of those elements that only Disney does so well, a beautiful princess worth rooting for, a charming and handsome prince, an interesting villain you love to hate, and an adorable animal sidekick.
Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) is living high in a tower, safe from the world according to who she believes to be her mother, Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy). Little does she know, that she is actually a princess being held hostage.
Many centuries before, a flower gained magical properties after receiving a drop of sunlight from the sun. It had the ability to heal and keep people young forever when a special song was sung. Mother Gothel found the flower and kept it for herself to stay young.
In the nearby kingdom, a King and Queen were about to give birth to their first child when the Queen became very ill. The people in the town went searching for the flower and found it. A potion was made from the flower, healing the Queen.
After the Queen gave birth to Rapunzel, Mother Gothel found her and discovered that when singing the special song Rapunzel's hair would glow and contained the special powers of the flower. However, when she tries to cut off a piece of the hair it would die and lose its special properties so Mother Gothel kidnapped her.
The King and Queen search for her and each year on the princess' birthday they release floating lanterns into the air. Rapunzel grows up intrigued by the floating lights and dreams of traveling to where they are but Mother Gothel will not let her leave the tower.
On the day before her 18th birthday, Rapunzel is surprised by a thief, Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi), looking for a place to hide in the tower. She takes him hostage and strikes a deal. If he will take her to the place of the lanterns, she will give him back his stolen goods. Together they set off for an adventure that will change both of their lives forever.
Tangled works on so many levels. Levi is perfectly cast as the voice of the irresistibly charismatic thief. The princess is vulnerable but yet contains an inner strength. Perhaps my favorite character of the film is Pascal, Rapunzel's chameleon sidekick. Only Disney can create a fully developed lovable character who never utters a single word. The villain also deserves some praise, in today's society where aging gracefully is mostly nonexistent you can relate to why the character does what she does. The songs add to the film as well, they assist in the character development while providing backstory.
The animation of Tangled is spectacular, and the 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer, displayed at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, enhances the vibrant colors and contributes to the picture's dreamy but real quality. I was struck particularly by the movement of the clothing and a water scene that is incredible. The attention to detail is impressive and well rendered. While every strand of hair is not always defined, it looks more realistic the way the animators blend them together at times. The wood and stone textures of Rapunzel's tower are palpable. The audio is available in DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 and makes good use of the surrounds. There is frequent activity due to music and ambient effects. The subwoofer supports the music and action sequences, such as the toppling of the water tower. Dialogue is centered and always understandable.
There are not many extras to speak of. The Blu-ray disc includes deleted scenes, two alternate versions of the storybook opening, extended songs and teasers. There are two additional extras worthy of special note. The first is "Untangled: The Making of a Fairy Tale", a behind the scenes look at the making of the movie featuring Levi and Moore who are both charming and entertaining. The second is a countdown of Disney's 50 animated features. Not only is it fun to take a look back at this impressive list of films, I only have nine that I need to still see, but it is set to the dance-inducing song "Dreams" by Brandi Carlile which is now on my iPod.
The non-animated rom-coms these days are formulaic, most often lack in chemistry and must contain the gross and disgusting male buddy. Even with animated characters, Tangled does what so many of these other recent films can't. Develop characters that you care about, root for and want to live happily ever after. Disney seems to think that princesses are no longer relevant, and while times have changed and the idea of a women waiting for a man to rescue her may not be appealing, some of the basic ideas of these fairy tales still holds true and can be inspiring. One of the overriding themes in this princess tale is to believe in your dreams and make them come true, how is that not relevant today? Being smart, falling in love, making sacrifices, and being brave enough to explore new places and things are all worthy aspirations no matter how old you are or how cool you want to be. I can't recommend Tangled strongly enough. It left me tearily happy, fully satisfied and wanting more. My only hope is that we haven't truly seen the end of Disney princess tales; when done right, there isn't much better.