Used sparingly, the two styles beautifully exaggerate the different worlds inhabited by clueless Rapunzel and swashbuckling Flynn Rider, setting the scene for a razor-sharp first act as the characters are thrown together. Credited as the most expensive animated movie ever made, however, is Tangled all it pertains to be?
Blessed with enchanted hair that can glow in the dark, heal all wounds and grant eternal youth, Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) is held prisoner by vain baby-snatcher, Gothel (Dona Murphy) – who has been exploiting Rapunzel’s magical locks for the past eighteen years. Unaware of her own childhood kidnapping, the unsuspecting princess has been raised to believe the ‘witch’ to be her true mother and the world beyond her window to be a dark and frightening place, unfit for her vulnerable self. Determined, nevertheless, to explore the outside world, Rapunzel escapes with thief-on-the-run Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) in order to make her dreams of freedom come true. Accompanied by her silent pet chameleon, and on the run from both of their numerous pursuers, the mismatched couple must learn to work as a team if they are ever to let true love conquer all.
Let it first be said that Tangled is a visual treat, beautifully marrying traditional Disney with the fluidity achievable through expertly rendered CGI. Combined with an unobtrusive use of 3D, Tangled takes place in a wonderfully immersive and compelling environment, full of handsome and charismatic characters, interacting with a wit and verve many live-action action-comedies would be jealous of.
A gender-divide bridging mix of Aladdin and The Little Mermaid, Tangled complements its trademark love story with just enough action and humour to disguise the ornate romance at play so that boys can enjoy without fear of cooties or what have you, abetted by a cunning name-change from Rapunzel to the more gender-neutral Tangled. Disney’s verve for show-stealing supporting players is similarly intact, a ruthless but ultimately loyal horse and trusty chameleon filling out the cast and Happy Meals alike.
Although spectacular, however, Tangled does suffer under the promise of its ambitious enterprise. While undoubtedly a Disney movie keen to reap the best of both worlds, Tangled never quite delivers on either its central romance or its action aspirations. Opening with a self-aware voice over that suggests we’re firmly in The Emperor’s New Groove territory (no bad thing), the characters take so long to establish themselves that their initial interactions do not seem to justify the ‘true love’ that we are supposed to invest in come the third act. Similarly, the central villain, overgenerously titled a witch, struggles to bring Maleficent-esque menace to what is essentially an overprotective mother. Should this movie find itself adapted for the stage a la The Lion King, Gothel will need a considerable shot off “boo-hiss” to appeal to experienced audiences. The second act, which in Disneyland is usually home to the obstacle which love must overcome, is dealt with too swiftly, each character deprived of their stand-out moment – to be immortalised on lunchboxes forever.
The soundtrack too seems somewhat half-baked, Tanged contains no truly show-stopping musical numbers. One of the elements that worked best in The Princess and the Frog, it is a shame that songs which are performed so competently fail to make a lasting impression. Although it is debatable whether Disney ever actually lost its mojo, Tangled never quite reaches greatness, leaving its great characters with little to do but play with their hair.
That is not to say, however, that Tangled is not enjoyable. It is, hugely so. It is impossible to predict whether this Rapunzel will prove such a birthday party mainstay as Belle or Cinderella, something that is entirely at the movie’s target audience’s liberty to decide. Igniting the U.S. box office over Thanksgiving and giving Harry Potter a run for his horcuxes at the box office, Tangled is certainly proving popular with the masses. However, as the most expensive animated production of all time, Tangled is living happily ever after before it ever really has a chance to begin. Due for release in the U.K. this January, Tangled may just escape unflattering comparisons to last years’ mighty Toy Story 3 and How to Train Your Dragon.
Ultimately, Tangled is an immensely entertaining addition to the Disney pantheon, making full use of the third dimension to deliver a fun-filled adventure filled with vivacious characters and thrilling set pieces. Letting their hair down after The Princess and the Frog, Disney have come through with another solid tale that transcends its amalgam of different animation techniques.