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Review: Tangled

Directed by Byron Howard and Nathan Greno.
Written by Dan Fogelman.
Starring Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy, Ron Perlman, M.C. Gainey, Jeffrey Tambor, and Brad Garrett.

I know, Tangled has been out for a while, but while I thought the trailers looked amusing, I didn’t really expect to see what I think of as the first Disney classic since the three-peat of Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. That statement will chafe fans of The Lion King or Lilo & Stitch (and I absolutely adore Lilo & Stitch); it’s not to say, necessarily, that Tangled is better than all of those films, just that something about those films lacked the fantastical, fairy tale setting that I associate with “classic Disney.” (To further qualify that statement, I’ve skipped several Disney animated features after the disappointing Pocahontas.)

It’s more than just setting, though: Tangled‘s songs are — for the first time since The Little Mermaid and Beauty & the Beast — truly good, not just serviceable. Composer Alan Menken has found a fantastic new collaborator in lyricist Glenn Slater; none of Menken’s Disney efforts since the death of Howard Ashman quite recaptured that same Disney magic like Slater and Menken do in Tangled.

The leads — Mandy Moore’s Rapunzel and Zachary Levi’s Flynn Rider — are endearing and memorable, and yet very much in the classic Disney mold. Moore (who impressed me in both Saved! and Dedication) is utterly irresistible as Rapunzel, played as an infectiously excitable almost-18 year old girl who seems very much like the classic Disney princess… hopped up on Red Bull. If she comes off a bit extreme, it’s only appropriate: where Ariel and Belle were girls confined by their parents or their “small provincial town” their whole lives, Rapunzel grew up in one building for as long as she can remember.

Despite all of this rekindling of the old Disney magic, though, Tangled manages to feel fresh and modern. Perhaps most impressively, it does it earnestly, without that grating snarky attitude of the Shrek movies — that feeling of superiority over its own subject matter — that has come to mean (at least with me) “we know this isn’t really that great, but if we pretend we’re just kidding around and stick in some fart jokes and pop songs, you might fall for it.”

I groaned (while smiling) at a couple of silly jokes, but the film simply never hits a false note. The handful of brief action sequences are tremendously fun, the pacing is fast and smooth, and it tugs at the heartstrings a couple of times — perhaps not so forcefully as either Toy Story 3 or How to Train Your Dragon did earlier this year, but with no less skill. Despite its middling performance at the box office, this Rapunzel will soon secure her place in Disney’s princess pantheon — and it will be well-deserved.

See it while you still can, or keep your eye out for the DVD.

I didn't mention it in my review, but the animation is gorgeous, and the 3D is very well-used.

Tangled is rated PG for “brief, mild violence,” apparently. I wouldn’t have guessed it, myself. It’s a totally kid-friendly flick.

14 Responses to “Review: Tangled”

  1. yusaku777 says:

    Oh man, this is amusing. I -just- finished reading a review where it said Tangled was a great movie, but stuck with the WORST songs in a Disney movie in the last 20 years. I’ll let you two duke it out over who is right, and when one of you emerges victorious, covered in the blood of your foe, I’ll go with their opinion of the movie.

  2. Sarah says:

    I have to say that I totally agree with you about the music! I couldn’t believe how terrible the lyrics were in all the songs of The Princess and The Frog, especially compared to films like Beauty & The Beast or even Tarzan. I was very pleasantly surprised by the broadway caliber of the lyrics and music if Tangled!

  3. I agree with @yusaku777’s comment about the music. I love Menken. I’ve met him, he’s a great guy, his father is hillarious, but “I See the Light” is honestly the only song I want to listen to again. “Mother Knows Best” is a bit of an ear worm, but not nearly as memorable has his older work. I agree with @Sarah that the music was better than Princess and the Frog (although Newman’s music fit well with New Orleans, it didn’t fit the princess story) but its not quite as memorable as Menken/Ashman.

    • Pretty much in agreement. “Mother knows best” was the only song I even remember, and the song itself wasn’t good so much as the performance surrounding it. I do think the music was better than Princess and the Frog though.

  4. Alexi Dollar says:

    I think I will see this. I still have misgivings, but I’m willing to try it. I like most of the old stuff, but that cooouuuuld be because I saw them when I was about six. Possibly. I always thought about seeing The Princess and the Frog, but then I would picture that singing alligator…. never even mind.

    But really? Shrek was bad? This coming from someone who like Kung Fu Panda?? I just don’t see it.

    • Shrek was mediocre. Shrek 2 was pretty good. Shrek 3 was fucking terrible.

      • Momsomniac says:

        Oh – thank you thank you thank you. I thought I was the only one. Shrek wasn’t a horrible romcom, but it was really just a romcom with (at the time) innovative CG. Why would I want sequels?

        I’ve been sitting out Disney for a very long time. Music in Aladdin was good. Beauty & the Beast was downright offensive (the story, the music was “meh”-worthy). Lion King had one TERRIFIC song (“I’m a Big Pig”) but it wasn’t on the soundtrack. None of my 3 boys is begging to see “Tangled” (go figure:) so I hadn’t thought about it. Now, I’m wondering if I should take myself out to see it…

        Thanks for your comprehensive reviews!

      • I thought Shrek was great. I do not think it need sequels and I don’t think EVERY CGI movie that came afterwards needed to follow the same snarky formula. But Shrek itself subverted its genre deliberately and intelligently.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I absolutely and utterly agree. Plus, you might not have noticed that Maximus the horse was a Roman Charger. :)

  6. Anonymous says:

    I absoultely and utterly agree. Also, you might have noticed that Maximus, the horse, was a Roman Charger. :)

  7. Anonymous says:

    I have to say that I disagree. I think this is fine movie but compared to the classics it doesn’t even come close. I found that the songs were actually the worst part of the movie. Half the time it seemed they were speaking instead of actually singing the songs and “I see the light” is the only song that didn’t make me wince. Also Rapunzel seemed like a less mature hyper version of the other princesses and while that reflects the trend of how young girls act now it really annoyed me.

    Oh well that my 2 cents, Love the Comic.

  8. Melissa says:

    It’s weird, on almost a lark my girlfriend and I saw it when she was visiting in November, and we totally fell for it. I said myself this is the first time I’ve actually liked the ROMANCE part of a Disney movie. I found the songs worked in the musical tradition, that it felt like people were singing because they couldn’t contain their emotions any longer, and a few weeks after she left I saw it again. I can’t watch 3D very much (I did for HTTYD and Avatar) because it doesn’t work for me so well, the stuff near me tends to phase out into two images, so I skipped it in 3D, but now I kinda wish I’d seen it. Now I’m leaning to seeing it a THIRD time before it leaves the theatres, something I haven’t done in a long time with a film (no $$$$)

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