31 January 2011


I make no secret of the fact that I heartily enjoyed last year's very traditional Disney outing The Princess and the Frog. I think it's great that John Lasseter is steering the company back towards its roots after Dreamworks and Shrek took up residence in the fairytale movie market. Adding more to the weight of my own anticipation for their new feature Tangled, it's Disney's 50th animated movie, and apparently the second most expensive movie ever made, somehow.

Anyhoo, this $260 million animation (no, really) is essentially the story of Rapunzel, as seen through the lens of the charismatic fugitive Flynn Rider. Flynn is wanted, dead or alive, and he hides out in Rapunzel's tower in order to escape the law. He doesn't count on the long-haired teen being so determined to get out of the tower for a while, and solve the mystery of the floating lanterns that fill the sky every year on her birthday.

Again, I really liked The Princess and the Frog, so this one is going to suffer slightly by comparison. As ever, this is my own opinion on the film, and so you could argue that it's for a much younger audience, my inclusion in which I've long since outgrown. I just don't think that Tangled measures up, especially after the promising reinvigoration seen in Disney's 49th feature. That film has a timeless quality that made it reminiscent of Disney's best. Aside from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, how many other films made in 1937 would your kids sit through just as happily as if it had been made today?

What Tangled goes for is more in the vein of the modern spin on fairytales, which Dreamworks has conflated to the millionth degree in their Shrek canon. For starters, it's trying to get boys as excited to see it as girls, hence the slightly ambiguous title. This attention to including its audience is probably more to do with the fact that it cost $260 million than any real desire to entertain young boys who are otherwise distracted by their XBoxes. If Cinderella had cost that much, they might have called it The Magic Pumpkin. A $260 million Sleeping Beauty might be The Dragon Witch. A hyper-expensive Bambi might have been Deers Get Shot, Ha Ha Ha Ha. And so on.

In the actual film, there are occasionally points where the all-inclusive approach actually does work. From a studio whose most profitable franchise features pirates, figures renowned for their raping, pillaging and stealing, it's not surprising that they have a roguish criminal like Flynn as a leading man, but slightly more surprising that he's so unlikeable. Audiences are more likely to be entertained by Maximus, a palace steed with more detective skills than any of the humans. This Inspector Horse figure is the best reason to see Tangled, and injects most of the film's humour whenever he appears. Similarly, I enjoyed the caricatured ruffians in the film, voiced by the likes of Ron Perlman, Richard Kiel and Brad Garrett.

I'd also give kudos for the villain, even if she doesn't get a badass Disney villain song in the tradition of her predecessors. Mother Gothel is a character with proper motivations, and when you get the villain right in a Disney fairytale, half the battle is already won. My disappointment at the lack of a good old villainous sing-song extends to the rest of Alan Menken's soundtrack too. Aside from the rather brilliant "I Have A Dream", which simultaneously subverts and conforms with the traditional Disney "here are my objectives" song, it's all very generic and poppy. It could come from any 90s Disney film, and with one particular song, I'm not convinced it wasn't from another film. It's a real comedown after Randy Newman's jazz-themed work on The Princess and the Frog.

From the perspective of a Disney fan who had every reason to really enjoy this one after last year's effort, I was slightly disappointed by Tangled. I can't help but think it might have charmed me more if it were a hand-drawn 2D feature rather than a polished CG piece that's closer to Dreamworks' output than anything else. The CG stuff looks nice and there are some very artful shots in here, but it somehow has less character than hand-drawn animation. That said, the family audience is under-served by January's releases, and this is never less than fun and cheerful. I'm sure those much touted younger audiences will lap it up, and all of my persnickety quibbles aside, I didn't dislike it either.

Tangled is now showing in 3D at cinemas nationwide, and at selected cinemas in 2D.
If you've seen Tangled, why not share your comments below?

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

1 comment:

Rachel May said...

You’re such a Miser :-P

It’s not a total return to form but The House of Mouse is heading in the right direction. The songs were a bit off but I liked the voices and I liked the character of Rapunzel.

And I’d like a Chameleon called Pascal please :-)