Bob and Justin's Mad Movie Blog

My name is Bob. My friend Justin and I are aspiring filmmakers and we have pretty similar tastes in movies. This will include our take on what's going on in film and television today as well as updating you on the status of our own work.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Tangled

As all of you know I see myself a lot of movies. Whenever I watch something, in the back of my mind there's always the acknowledgment of things that came before or after it, depending on if it's a new or old film. This is especially true of movies that acknowledge what's come before themselves. What made my experience with "Tangled" so interesting is that I went to see it with my friend Amber who is a certified Disney Princessologist. While I've seen most of the earlier Disney princess films I don't know them inside and out the way she does. I realized though that for her and other D.P-ologists, it's what "Hot Fuzz" was for me when I first saw it in the theater. All of those references to action movies, most of which were non-specific or under the radar stuck out to me and provided a joke within a joke. In both "Hot Fuzz" and "Tangled" (and this will probably be the only time the two are compared) the references are sly enough that they don't make the film confusing or any less enjoyable if you don't know what they're in reference to. But if you do know them they make an already great movie all the more special.
Based upon "Rapunzel" by the Brothers Grimm, "Tangled" is the story of a young girl named, well, Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore). She is about to turn 18 and in some respects is a normal teenage girl. Her mind and heart are focused on a single dream and she desperately craves the approval of her mother. The dream and the mother however are not exactly normal. Plus there's the fact that she has the longest head of hair in the world which possesses supernatural properties and she's never left the tower she's lived in all her life.
When Rapunzel was born her birth mother, who happens to be the queen, became very sick. With the aid of a magical flower provided by an old woman named Gothel (Donna Murphy), the queen was healed. When the healing power transferred to Rapunzel the old woman kidnapped the child for her own to keep herself young. In the years since the queen and king have been despairing over the disappearance of their daughter. Every year however on her birthday, floating lights appear in the sky in the hopes that Rapunzel will find her way home.
Rapunzel doesn't know the reason the lights appear every year but the fact that they always come out on her birthday isn't lost on her. Her singular dream in life is to find out what they mean. Mother Gothel however has controlled and manipulated her so completely that Rapunzel fears stepping out into the world. Thankfully for the young girl however a potential guide and protector has arrived. At least that's what she convinces Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi, "Chuck") to become after she's bonked him on the head with a frying pan a few times.
Flynn is a thief who believes himself to be far more dashing than anyone else does. But with the help of Flynn, her faithful chameleon Pascal, and a horse who is Flynn's sworn enemy, Rapunzel goes off to find out the reason for the lights. Along the way they encounter singing vikings and royal guardsmen.
"Tangled" is an astonishingly good film. In a year that has already seen three great animated movies come before it ("Toy Story 3," "Despicable Me," and "How to Train Your Dragon"), this may be the best of the bunch and I don't say that lightly. The comedy has a modern sensibility but it also has a classiness to it that's rare for any modern day movie, animated or otherwise. While it's full of references to previous Disney princess films (as evidenced by the many notes Amber took) they're not done in an obnoxious way. They slip in and out of the movie and it doesn't matter if you catch them all or not (I didn't).
The three main roles are incredibly well developed. Mother Gothel isn't just an evil old stepmother. She isn't a likeable character but she is a strangely sympathetic one. She loves what Rapunzel provides her with and is determined to keep that at all costs, even though it's meant a lifetime of psychological damage to the young girl. Even so, Mother Gothel has a shred of goodness to her. If nothing else she makes a point of making Rapunzel her favorite meal from time to time and provides her with things to make life in the tower more bearable. It is though, only a shred.
Rapunzel is a fantastic character. She does begin as a timid girl who fears essentially everything but that's the product of Gothel's manipulation and that's where she has to begin for this story to work. As she goes on her adventure the movie does an outstanding job of illustrating her constant internal struggle between doing as she's been told her whole life and becoming a strong person. This struggle is played for laughs at first but it ultimately is incredibly well done and what makes the character so fascinating and why we get so invested in her.
Flynn is every bit as well explored as the others. He becomes a better and more honest man due to his association with Rapunzel. Through it all though he remains very funny due to both the animation and the excellent vocal performance by Levi. He's exactly the right balance of wannabe Han Solo smarminess and real hero. Flynn possesses both qualities all along but over the course of "Tangled" the ratio changes for the better.
With a screenplay by Dan Fogelman and directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard, "Tangled" is beautifully animated (water looks so real here) and really should appeal to most anyone regardless of age or gender. While the story is perfectly suited to be a Disney princess fairytale there are flashes of Looney Tunes style comedy here that nine year old boys will love. The songs are also terrific. It's not easy to make songs feel organic or not disrupt a movie's flow. They're perfect here. And as far as the inevitable romance between Flynn and Rapunzel is concerned it plays exactly how it should. We understand why these two love each other, it's not just a function of the plot needing them to fall in love. The moment they realize their feelings for each other and open up about them is the precise moment in the film when they should.
So now that I've thought about the movie more and written my review I've realized that what I was going to rate a 9 I'm actually going to rate a 10. Because it's just that outstanding. It's only the second one I've doled out all year (the first being for "Inception"). Yes, Disney Princessologists will get something extra out of "Tangled" that the rest of us won't, but when a movie is this great it really doesn't matter. 10/10.

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