A 'Tangled' Delight
Disney makes the best of a hairy situation with "Tangled," a beautifully animated and witty take on the classic Rapunzel fairy tale.
"Tangled" is Walt Disney Pictures' 50th feature-length animated film, and a title card spotlighting "Steamboat Willie," one of the first-ever Mickey Mouse cartoons, demonstrates the leaps and bounds made by a media titan whose icon, amusingly, is a mouse.
Since Mickey's 1928 debut in "Plane Crazy," Disney has consistently produced top-notch animation, hand-drawing decades worth of memories for young, old and those 20-something in-betweens, who could probably sing that "Prince Ali" song from "Aladdin" but refuse to admit it.
In the 21st century, much of Disney's emphasis has been placed on computer animation, and some of its releases have suffered for it. Maybe it's the lack of tangibility, as far as pen, ink and the human touch go, but of all Disney's recent computer-animated releases, "Tangled" is by far the most hand-drawn of them all.
With rich, vibrant colors, an impeccable attention to texture, and characters that aren't designed to look "real" (think the opposite of Robert Zemeckis' creepy, vacant-eyed sprites from "The Polar Express") "Tangled" is a feast for the eyes, and a pretty enjoyable movie, too.
Returning to the Brothers Grimm for fairy tale inspiration, "Tangled" is the story of Rapunzel (Mandy Moore, "Saved!"), an enchanted princess with 70 feet worth of magical hair.
As an infant, Rapunzel is kidnapped from her royal parents by Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy, "The Fountain"), a cruel old crone who's learned that the princess's hair possesses magical abilities. By singing an incantation, her hair can heal wounds and reverse the effects of aging.
In turn, Gothel hordes Rapunzel for herself, posing as her mother and keeping her confined within a tall tower. But as Rapunzel grows, so does her curiosity to embrace the outside world, from which she's been strictly forbidden. And on the eve of her 18th birthday, a journey to the kingdom is all she could want.
Enter Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi, TV's "Chuck"), a dashing thief on the lam from royal guards and, more specifically, one of their horses, a hilariously determined equine called Maximus.
Pursued by Maximus in a laugh-out-loud chase sequence, Flynn stumbles upon Rapunzel's tower and takes refuge - that is, until he's knocked unconscious by the princess and her trusty frying pan.
He awakens to a hard bargain - either escort Rapunzel on a tour of the kingdom, or never see his loot again. Flynn chooses the latter, and so begins an adventure steeped in narrow escapes, musical interludes, more entertaining horseplay and, you guessed it, love.
While "Tangled" offers nothing fresh as far as plot and character development go (they're pretty much your standard Disney archetypes), it's a fun-filled return to Disney's fairy tale movies of yesteryear.
It's essentially a hand-drawn feature in computer-generated clothing, a clearly conscious choice from long-time supervising animator Glen Keane ("Aladdin," "Beauty and the Beast," you name it).
Further, "Tangled" features a soundtrack written by musical stalwart Alan Menken ("Aladdin," "Beauty and the Beast," you name it again) and performed mostly by Moore. But, unlike its predecessors, "Tangled" doesn't boast any songs that really stand out, leaving viewers warm and fuzzy, but with nothing to hum about.
However, it more than compensates with stellar animation and wit, making it obvious the artists had more fun than a barrel of anthropomorphic horses.
And speaking of anthropomorphic horses (because how often do you really get to say that?), Maximus practically steals the show. This animated horse has more character in one hoof than the whole of Disney's live-action "Secretariat."
Add to that other hilarious quirks, like a pair of hooligans called the Stabbington Bros., a surprisingly expressive chameleon called Pascal, barbarian barflies breaking into song (about dreaming, no less), and "Tangled" delivers some serious laughs - all without the help of tired pop culture references.
The voice acting is spot on, and includes appearances from Brad Garrett (TV's "Everybody Loves Raymond"), Jeffrey Tambor (TV's "Arrested Development"), Richard Kiel (Jaws from the "James Bond" series) and Ron Perlman ("Hellboy").
The colorful 3D presentation is also to be commended, not serving as a gimmick this go-round, but rather as a complement, adding visual depth to the story without detracting from it.
"Tangled" is formula, sure, but Disney happily makes it work, probably whistling while it works. In an age when computer-animated cartoons are rapidly churned out like Justin Bieber singles, the old actually seems new, and that's quite refreshing.
"Tangled," rated PG for brief mild violence, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone and the Parkway Theater in West Jefferson. For show times, visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.