Monday, November 29, 2010

Give Me A Head With Hair

Tangled fulfills two longstanding Disney traditions. The first is for Disney to release a family friendly animated film during the Thanksgiving weekend so parents can pay 50 bucks so their kids can see it while they take a nap. The second is Disney's long-standing plan to take every ancient fairy tale or classic piece of children's literature, slap its name on it and claim ownership of it now and forever more. If they make a movie version of a much told and beloved tale, they make damn sure that, from then on, you identify that story with their movie and they'll fight like hell to make sure no one ever does anything else with that story again.

Still, this is a movie review and not a review of Disney policies that annoy me and, when regarded as a movie and not a symbol of the ways corporate thinking and greed can corrupt even the universal appeal of fairy tales, Tangled is quite good. It's actually nice to see that Disney can make a good animated film without Pixar. Last year's Princess and the Frog was ok. Tangled is much better. It has all the elements of the successful formula Disney has been using since Snow White. Beautiful Princess in trouble? Check. Handsome hero come to rescue the fair lass? Check. Anthropomorphic animals who pretty much keep the stupid humans alive? You bet. Songs? In this case, they're forgettable but they're there. Sorry Disney music fans, there is no Someday My Prince Will Come, Under The Sea or Circle of Life in this one. There's something about a girl's life beginning once she gets free from her prison. Other than that, you could put a gun to my head and I might lie and say one of the other songs was Bad Romance so you wouldn't shoot me.

If you were just freed after several months trapped in a mohole shaft, Tangled is a modern retelling of the Rapunzel story. This new version is a huge departure from the original fairy tale and that's fine. The one best known today was written by the Brothers Grimm but there were several varied versions before they were even born. In this case, they kept the character of Mother Gothel but, instead of being a witch, she's now an old woman who discovered a magic flower capable of giving her eternal youth if she sings to it periodically. Unfortunately for her, the Queen of the land grows ill so the flower is made into a potion that heals her but also transfers its healing power into the Queen newborn daughter so Gothel steals the girl and locks her away in a tower. The healing power is in the girl's hair which must never be cut lest the power go away.

Flash forward 18 years and Rapunzel is now a hot teenager voiced by Mandy Moore with about 50 feet of hair. Her "mother" tells her the reason she can't leave the tower is because it's just too darn dangerous out there. Naturally, all she can think of doing is leaving. Mother Gothel's lies have worked though because she stays up there even though she could leave anytime she felt like. We also meet Flynn Rider (voiced by Chuck star Zachary Levi), an outlaw who just broke into the Royal Palace and stole a crown meant for the long lost daughter of the King and Queen. It's really, really unlikely that, while fleeing from the Palace guards, Flynn would more or less trip over Rapunzel's tower so that's exactly what happens. One twist in the story is that Rapunzel has ninja-like mastery over her long, magical hair and easily overpowers Flynn when he climbs into her tower. She tells him she'll give him back the crown he stole if he escorts her to the city so she can see the floating lanterns launched every year in commemoration of the lost Princess. And things go swimmingly after that. The end.

Actually, a lot of entertaining stuff happens after that, much of it provided by one of the smartest and most thoroughly dedicated and competent law enforcement officials ever seen on a film, a Palace horse named Maximus. Maximus is Javert to Flynn's Jean Valjean and would hunt him to the gates of Hell and back if that was where Flynn led him. To me, the movie's two biggest weaknesses are the forgettable songs* and the main villain, Mother Gothel. The villain in a movie like this should be the most interesting character and Mother Gothel and her passive/aggressive digs at Rapunzel aren't that interesting. Oh, the movie's in 3D. The fact that I waited till now to mention that is the highest compliment I can pay it. It didn't distract me or give me a headache and that's the second highest compliment I can pay it. The little kids in the audience seemed to love it and constantly "oohed" and "aahed" when something would come flying at the screen.

To sum up, Tangled is good. Not great but very, very good. If you're an adult, you will probably be able to enjoy it along with your kids. If you're not an adult, please have your parents add this site to your nanny filters because I swear a lot and talk about blowjobs. What are blowjobs? Ask your parents.

*Did I mention those already? I can't remember.

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