This post is the unedited copy of the review published in iMAGES on Sunday, Sunday 26st December 2010 in our film review column Animadversion. A link to the published version can be found at the end of this post.
It’s a Nasty World Out There; Mother Knows Best.
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
I am jumping the gun here when I say “Tangled” (budgeted at a whopping $260 million) is this year’s third and final entry in the Oscar race for “Best Animated Feature”. The category, which was shot-down to three nominations, will seat “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Toy Story 3”. The Oscars happen in March; and yes, this is an early prediction.
“Tangled” – also known once upon a time as “Rapunzel: Unbraided” – tarts up Bros. Grimm’s macabre “Rapunzel” into a perky and smart retelling about a heavenly golden flower, which when sung-to patches up wounds and turns 100 year olds to 35 – which is as young as Mother Gothel, the signature Disney villain, gets to be.
Gothel – Donna Murphy, motherly and delightfully evil – reminds a little of Ursula, from “The Little Mermaid”, only nicer. Not villainous step-motherly. Just more…motherly, in a devious, roundabout way. A old hag who wants to be young. Forever. Plus, I don’t think she’s a witch. She never snaps a single spell.
Coming back to the story – centuries after the flower landed the Queen of the land, about to have a baby, turns dangerously ill, so the King sends his people to find the fabled flower. The flowers potion cures the Queen and then adds itself to the about-to-be-born princesses’ genes. The princess, when born is a cuddly, big green-eyed baby with thick, golden hair of a 6 year old that can hold off death indefinitely if sung to (no one knows it yet).
Gothel, sneaks into the castle (the security is pathetic, with a total of 5 guards) and snips off a part of the child’s hair that immediately furls brown and dead. Left with no option, she kidnaps the baby and raises her as her own inside an old, very homely, tower.
Gothel, a logical cunning woman, tells Rapunzel all about the power her hair – a thick, thick, mind boggling straight mass of 40 or so feet – that the nasty world would kill for.
And so, Rapunzel (voiced and sung by Mandy Moore), her look a tad petite, her teeth a little buck, her eyes just as big, approaches her 18th birthday – not 16th mind you, which was a norm for Disney Princesses to get married to in the olden days of “Sleeping Beauty” and “Snow White”.
Rapunzel lives in a secluded world of wall-painting, book reading (all three of them) and works as Gothel’s anti-aging cream, while wondering about the stars that fly from the ground at her birthday every year.
I like “Tangled”, not because I am a sucker for classic Disney Princess fables (which I am, by the way – not counting “The Princess and the Frog”); but it did nudge my judgment a little, especially when I saw the flip-book style animation of Mickey on “Steamboat Willie” that told me “Tangled” is the 50th animated feature from Walt Disney Animations (sincerely though, I thought Disney crossed that particular barrier years ago).
Like “Cinderella”, which came out in 1950 after a period of packed short films during the Second World War, “Tangled” is a nostalgic return to classic Disney sensibilities, with a few fine-tuned updates: The critters – a horse (Maximus) and chameleon (Pascal) – don’t talk. No talking alligators or smart alec – and dastardly – parrots (then again, I kinda dug Iago from “Aladdin”).
The comedy, most of it catchphrase-humor, is left to Flynn Rider (Zachray Levi of “Chuck”), a cocky rascal who imagines himself a ladies’ man. Since there are no ladies, apart from a Queen with no speaking parts, Mother Gothel and Rapunzel, we have to take his word on the matter. Sure, why not. He’s a decent enough guy who happens to have the Disney marketing weight behind him; according to the LA Times, “Disney is closing the book on fairy tales”, but that’s a story for another day.
Directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard (Bolt); “Tangled” was to be directed by veteran Glenn Keane, who serves as Executive Producer with John Lassetter.
It is fresh with old-school breeding – including smartly animated CG mimicking a very traditional, if not old-fashioned, mindset. The heart’s there too, as are the songs by Disney – and Oscar old hand – Alan Menken, with lyrics by Glenn Slater.
Oscar will nod to “I See the Light”, by Mandy Moore and Zachray Levi (possible win for “Best Song”) a warm love song with tinge of classics “Beauty and the Beast” and “A Whole New World” that happens in one of the most gorgeous, and well-lit scenes of the movie – the lantern flowing ceremony; “When Will My Life Begin” – a spiffy number that incorporates house chores and the yearning to fly free – sung by Ms. Moore; “I’ve Got a Dream” with Mr. Levi, Brad Garrett, Jeffery Tambor and Co. and “Mother Knows Best”, a deliciously tingling, flamboyant number of maternal terror sung by Donna Murphy.
In the song she warns Rapunzel about dying “trampled under a rhino” or “get mugged and left for dead”, if she left the tower. *Gulp*…maybe mother does know best.
Released by Disney, “Tangled” is rated PG (why not a “G”, I’ll never know). The most dangerous weapons in the movie are a frying pan and a horse who thinks he can sniff out hooligans like a guard dog (he’s so wrong, but I wouldn’t say that to his face).
By Farheen Jawaid
As the 50th animated feature from Disney, “Tangled” takes the viewer back to charmed olden times of Disney Princesses. A time where the princess, and most of the cast, broke into spectacular musical numbers; a time when the witches are menacing and charismatic; a time when animals, who are also friends – and in Tangled’s case is a mute chameleon – is all a young girl needs in her lonely, colorful, storybook life. “Tangled” is everything last year’s traditionally animated feature “Princess and the Frog” should have been.
“Tangled” is revisal of the classic fairytale Rapunzel from Bros. Grimm. who, voiced by Mandy Moore, is a spunky eighteen year old with a bit of buck teeth, huge round green eyes and yards of long, and strong blond hair, that can be used to lasso things in; and she is ready for the world outside the tower where – as in the original story – she is kept from childhood. A tower which she cleans to gleaming, paints and redecorates ad infinitum in the song "When Will My Life Begin" – one of the spunky gems tuned by Alen Menken’s score.
Why does she stay in the tower could lead to a chapter in psychology. Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy) is not evil; at least not in the usual sense of the word. She raises Rupanzel as her own daughter gives hugs and kisses and even makes her favorite soup. She only wants to stay young by the magical hair of Rupanzel, which kicks in when she sings “Healing incantation”. But she wants Rapunzel all to herself, so she keeps her in the tower by scaring the adventure out of the nimble teen – a point she emphasizes by singing the spirited song “Mother Knows Best” about the treacherous outside world.
The knight in shining armor – and the guy with the best lines in movie – is a thief, Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi), chased by the law and a guard horse Maximus, who’ll give the best canine in the kingdom a run for its money.
However, the direction by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard is not inspiring; still the plot by Dan Fogelman, the gorgeous animation (one scene with the flowing lanterns is breathtaking) and the soundtrack by Mr. Menken, which is heavy on spectacular and less on originality, is homey in a comfy way. “Tangled” is like visiting old friends who you’ll want to keep on visiting.
The review’s published version can be found at: