Sunday, January 9, 2011

MOVIE REVIEW: Tangled

TANGLED-- 4 STARS

Official Website
Internet Movie Database

There's something missing when the movies for kids these days replace good-old fashioned fairy tales with lame animals (Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Cats and Dogs, G-Force), bad modern takes on old favorites (the retooled Garfield, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and Yogi Bear attempts) and rude off-color spoofs (the entire run of Shrek).  While most of those turned out to be big-time crowd pleasers and ticket sellers anyway, it still felt like something was profoundly missing in storytelling.  Well, that is if your movie didn't have the Pixar logo in front of it.  They are storytelling perfection, as previously discussed on this page with Toy Story 3.

In addition, if any of you have seen previews lately for the upcoming Mars Needs Moms, Gnomeo and Juliet (yes, you guessed it, Shakespeare with garden gnomes), and even The Smurfs (dear God, Hollywood's going to ruin another 80's classic), you will see the trend won't be stopping anytime soon.  It even spreads to live-action this spring, when you'll see "Little Red Riding Hood" being transformed into the stalker-horror-thriller Red Riding Hood starring Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman from the director of Twilight. 

That's why it's refreshing to see Tangled.  It marks the occasion as Disney's historic 50th animated feature.  The fun film, much like Disney's recent Enchanted, turns out to be a Hallmark card to their time-honored classic fairy tale storytelling, while still having modern dashes of flavor and wonder to appeal to the new 21st century generation.

The old fashioned ingredients are in place.  Tangled is the reimagining of the Brothers Grimm "Rapunzel" fairy tale.  It's a comfortable story we all know and love.  We have a kingdom "once upon a time" and a tragic back story of a kidnapped princess (voiced by pop star Mandy Moore) taken by an evil old woman (the sinfully sly Donna Murphy).  There are, thankfully, non-speaking animal sidekicks (we've all had enough Eddie Murphy and Robin Williams) and Disney veteran Alan Menken bringing in his musical score talent and imaginative song-and-dance numbers.  Oh, and there's all that hair.  Still, it's all according to the usual Disney plan so far.

The modern flavor of Tangled kicks in with Mandy Moore's pop star presence instead of a traditional classical singing voice.  We also, for the young boys who have to sit through a princess movie, have a swashbuckling scoundrel of a hero, Flynn Rider ( Zachary Levi of TV's Chuck having a ton of fun), with his "smolder," rule-breaking, and over-the-top action taking the place of a stuffed-shirt valiant prince.  In addition, your bad guys sing-and-dance as much as your heroes.  

The other big piece to the modernness of Tangled is the strikingly gorgeous 3D computer animation.  It might not be Pixar, but the colors, textures, and details modeled after French Rococo oil-and-canvas paintings are amazing.  It better be good because Tangled tallied up on the calculator at $260 million as the second most expensive movie (after Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End) ever made and the most expensive animated one by a mile.  Rest assured, they got their money's worth and will also get your money too with the 3D treatment and accompanying ticket price bump.  However, it's one of the few 3D movies of this recent fad that are worth the extra price.  It makes a visual difference here for sure. 

Overall, the old-fashioned and modern elements come together well to make Tangled quite a crowd pleaser.  Rapunzel refreshingly never plays the helpless princess of other movies and Flynn is the best and most watchable male Disney character since Simba in The Lion King.  Together, they are a great pair for both girls, boys, and even parents to enjoy without ever having to cover young ears or explain lame jokes or references.  Tangled, not to great fault, lacks that big-hitting signature song or signature musical scene to put it among the immortal Disney greats, but what's there will still make you smile and tap your foot along with the tunes.

Even though Disney is putting out a traditional hand-drawn feature update of Winnie the Pooh this summer, with all of the technology and success they've had with Chicken Little, Meet the Robinsons, and Bolt, let alone that of their Pixar division, we've likely saw our last hand-drawn Disney feature last year with The Princess and the Frog.  When you see the dazzling floating lantern scene (especially in 3D), hinted in the accompanying picture, you'll soon get over your nostalgic regret for hand-drawn animation and you pick your jaw up off your lap and attempt to close your wide-eyed wonder.  This reviewer is OK to see this kind of technology stay.

LESSON #1: MEN NEED THEIR REPUTATIONS, EVEN IF THEY AREN'T TRUE-- A man cares about what is said about them.  They play like they don't care, are cool with it, or are above gossip, but, deep down, they care about their reputation strongly.  They will go so far as to embellish their accomplishments, even to a false level, to make sure it's a good and memorable one (often to cover up their shortcomings).   The reputation that precedes him is part of their power, confidence, swagger, and mojo.

LESSON #2: A FRYING PAN IS NOW FOREVER CEMENTED AS A POWERFUL WEAPON OF CHOICE--  It might not be to the dark humor level of 1987's Throw Mama From the Train (classic scene: YouTube clip), but maybe "The Three Stooges" were on to something with this surprisingly powerful, improvised weapon.  Elegant in its dual function, unsuspecting in its effectiveness, and available in every kitchen, the frying pan is now a combat must.

LESSON #3: YOU CAN'T ISOLATE YOUR CHILDREN FOREVER--  Whether it's for the right reasons (health and safety) or for the wrong reasons (lying about being their parent and tapping the magical youth-giving potential of enchanted hair), parents and guardians can't isolate their children forever.  There's nothing wrong with protecting them, but kids are undoubtedly going to get sick, break a bone, skin a knee, get in trouble, or get their heart broken.  You know what.  It's good for them.  They need to find out that the world has limits and losses.  Parents have to loosen their own limits at the same time.  Over-isolation and over-sheltering can create debilitating socially awkwardness and fall-of-the-deep-end binge choices.