FLYNN: "Listen Blondie." RAPUNZEL: "Rapunzel!" FLYNN: "Gesundheit."
The movie follows the story of Rapunzel (a fairytale that most know only by: "she's the chick with the long hair". Yes, that was me as well). I can't say whether or not the picture pays the fairy-tale the proper tribute, but the story told is compelling and whimsical. Birthed with the help of a magical healing flower, young Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) is stolen away by an old woman (Donna Murphy) who is desperate to gain the child's youth-giving powers (that turn the old hag into an animated version of Cher). She hides the young blonde away in a high tower so that no one else can receive the healing in her hair.
Her hair is quite the monstrous growth! It's not until at least half the movie has passed before we finally see the entirety of Rapunzel's hair in one screen shot. Until then, we assume that she has an infinite supply of perfectly-flowing blonde locks. Her hair alone adds to the magic of the picture. It works as a plot device, as a tool, as a healing agent, as a source of conflict, as a burden, and even as a foil.
On another side of the kingdom, Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) is on the run from the law. He is a polished thief and refined criminal, dishonest and unashamed. Of course he accidentally escapes right into the foot of Rapunzel's tower. After a rough greeting from Rapunzel, they make a bargain and set off on an adventure together.
Now don't be fooled into thinking that our lead is just a damsel in distress, or a girl with lots of spunk and energy, or just a sweet girl with lots of cute songs. The one thing that Tangled REALLY does better than any of the other Disney pictures is what they do with the lead. There is a fantastic sequence midway in, after Rapunzel leaves the tower, where her initial reactions of leaving her tower kick in. A collage of scenes show Rapunzel dancing for joy, then crying with misery; squealing with delight, then fuming with regret. That sequence really defines her character. She is a complex character, not because she is written that way, but because she represents female adolescence--the undefined indecision over feelings and passions. The decisions and actions made in this picture reflect NOT the character's immediate mood (as so often is the case) but instead their true heart.
I'm a sucker for musical numbers, and Tangled is complete with two very solid numbers and two very awkward ones. The best ones ("Mother Knows Best"; "I See the Light") have a rising grandeur to them. They build, layer upon layer, until they send chills up your spine. The other two ("When Will My Life Begin"; "I've Got a Dream") seem more like sung dialogue or peppy soundtrack pieces, rather than true lyrical art.
Speaking of art, the animation is brilliant. Each character and landscape is knolled and rounded. Because the bodies lack finite detail, the eyes really have depth. The 3D is well-applied also. While it doesn't really add anything to the experience, I give it kudos for at least not detracting in any way. Everything looks bright and sharp enough even with the glasses.
My one big disappointment with the picture is the last ten minutes or so. Every fairytale should conclude with two things: a climactic battle of sorts (not necessarily with sword and dragon) and a euphoric feeling of accomplishment and completion. Unfortunately, Tangled seals everything up too quickly. Things fall too neatly into place. The climax is cut off too soon. The emotion in the finale works well, but the wrap-up is unconvincing. That general feeling of accomplishment is missing as well. By the end, I felt happy, but not ecstatic. Maybe it was the absence of that final musical number. Maybe it was the all-too-easy fulfillment of "dream come true". Whatever it was, it lessened the euphoria I felt towards the phenomenal, rising middle act.
Tangled is great holiday entertainment for the whole family. There's a lot of action, plenty of laughs (mostly from two adorable sidekicks: a feisty little chameleon and a stallion who thinks he's a hound-dog), and lots of emotional weight. The picture succeeds in reminding of us of every Disney movie we've ever loved, while also securing a worthy spot of its own right up there with the rest.