Friday, December 3, 2010

Higgens Network: Tangled

Disney appears to work in waves. It had the classic period with Snow White and Cinderella. Then it entered a new Golden Age with The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. Since the early 90s it hasn’t really recaptured that magic, until now?

Tangled is impressive. It’s funnier and more exciting than expected and it is doing so much right. Last year The Princess and the Frog tried to replicate some of its previous successes by its return to hand-drawn animation and princess stories. That movie was fine, but didn’t have a great story at the core. Tangled takes on the story of Rapunzel and properly expands into a “proper princess tale.”

Princess Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) has magical golden hair that can rejuvenate people’s youth. The cruel Gothel (the glorious Donna Murphy) discovers this and steals the baby away from the castle and hides her away in a tower. This works well for 18 years until the scrapping Flynn Ryder (Zachary Levi) finds the tower and the adventure begins.

There are the usual princess movie tropes where true love and dreams prosper over anything. Yet Tangled treats those idealistic goals with its foot set in a form of reality. There are a few meta jokes, but never in a cynical manner a la Enchanted. All of the humor is organic, fun, and it knows how this story is usually told. It doesn’t restructure the genre, but plays with some of the nuances.

Mother Gothel isn’t treated like the evil villainess seen in films like Sleeping Beauty. She is less subtle with her manipulations as she condescends Rapunzel while talking to her with a sweet surface. The entire movie is filled with unexpected choices in its characters that it’s refreshing. The movie allows the romance to actually develop and the plot twists in a way to honestly defy your expectations.

This is not going to top The Lion King in anyone’s books. It’s not as emotionally resonant, but it is a completely delightful movie that won’t be a chore to rewatch over and over with the kid demands it. Disney finally proved that it cannot be completely shadowed by Pixar. People turn to Disney for a certain type of movie and Tangled is their strongest entries in years.

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