Movie #51 in the Disney Animated Marathon has the voice talents of Paul F. Tompkins, it has no option but to be great!
Screenplay By: Dan Fogelman
Directed By: Nathan Greno & Byron Howard
When I first watched Tangled in the theater I left with the feeling that I had watched a good, but middle of the road Disney animated feature. What I didn’t expect was for my opinion of Tangled to grow at an exponential rate in my mind following that initial viewing. Within a month or so Tangled went from a good but middle of the road film to a great second tier Disney animated classic. I don’t know how it happened either, but the more I thought and talked to others about Tangled the more I realized I loved this picture a lot more than I did when I walked out of that theater many moons ago. With the release of Tangled on DVD it was time to sit down and see if I was as smart as I thought I was or if my mind had been playing tricks on me all along.
First things first, Tangled is funny, infectiously so. My reading of Tangled has always been a bit different than most, and this viewing only confirmed my different take even more. Most people went into, or are going into, Tangled expecting a movie that falls in line with the classic Disney princess films. I can’t blame them for that, Disney did market the heck out of Tangled as that exact type of movie. I too thought I was going to get a classic Disney princess tale when I first watched Tangled. When Tangled didn’t offer that sort of tale I wasn’t disappointed like a lot of people I know were. Instead I went with what Tangled gave me and I laughed my butt off, well not really because I’d be a much thinner man than I am. Tangential joke aside, my read of Tangled the first time out and with this most recent viewing is that it is a screwball comedy superimposed on a classic Disney princess setting. All of the elements of a great screwball comedy are there- the romantic underpinnings of the leads, the smarmy and often fast talking male lead, the female lead who talks just as fast but also becomes the emotional core of the film.
What makes Tangled special is that it adds in elements that are classic Disney animation, such as the talking animal sidekicks, the bumbling foes, and the sinister mother figure as a villain. It does this with near effortlessness, I was so busy laughing at the comedic aspects of Tangled that I didn’t realize how invested I was becoming in this world. When Mother Gothel sings to Rapunzel it is terrifying and yet funny at the same time. She doesn’t need to be menacing in her actions, she is menacing in her words and in the subtle mental abuse she so clearly unleashed upon Rapunzel on a constant basis. It helps that Mother Gothel has the best songs in the film, they are full of bite and venom, and do so in such a quiet manner that it is easy to overlook them and think they are vacuous musical oddities.
I still have a few minor quibbles with Tangled. I didn’t have as big of a problem with the idea the film puts forth about class this time around. I think that was a notion from somewhere else in my life that I brought with me into the film the first time around. It still bothered me that the film rewarded the upper class abusing their power through the actions of the King and the Queen, but it didn’t bother me as much this time. I was still irked by the inconsistency of Rapunzel’s hair. I know it’s a fantasy and maybe I should just go with it, but it couldn’t have been that hard to keep her hair the same length throughout. It was either laziness that caused them to adjust the length of her hair to what each part of the narrative required it to be. Or, Nathan Greno and Byron Howard were going for something with the always changing hair length of Rapunzel that didn’t click with me.
I’m going to use one word to describe the animation in Tangled, gorgeous. I know a lot of people were upset when Tangled was constructed using 3D digital animation as opposed to 2D hand drawn animation. I don’t have a horse in that race myself, I appreciate the merit of and see the limitations in both styles. All I can do as a film goer is to watch the movie put in front of me and judge it on what I see. Going off of that and only that Tangled is a stunningly animated movie through and through. It is crisp and clear, with wonderful colors and great attention to detail. I found myself in awe at different times in Tangled, the animation drew me in that easily.
Tangled isn’t the best thing the Mouse has ever produced, but it doesn’t need to be. It is a hilarious romp of a picture that combines numerous elements from Disney’s past and its present to form a splendid adventure. I like to have fun when I watch movies, I like to laugh right along with my five year old daughter, I like movies that leave me in awe of the craft behind their creation. Tangled doesn’t quite reach masterpiece status, but I’m okay with it being a great picture, and you should be too.