Monday, June 20, 2016

Nick's Picks: Tangled

Films: Tangled
Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime on rockin’ flatscreen.

This is the sixth in a series of twelve movies suggested by Nick Jobe.

Nick likes to make me watch animation. I think that’s partly because the 1001 Movies list is pretty bare when it comes to animated film, partly because it’s the shortest of my Oscar lists, and partly because he really likes animation. Last year, three of his four films were animated, and he gave me a couple this year. Tangled is a film that is oddly missing from the Oscar list, especially considering how acclaimed it is (7.8 on IMDB, 3.7/5 on Letterboxd), and especially considering it’s a Disney film. Disney seems to get a little benefit of the doubt come Oscar time—witness the win for Disney/Pixar’s Brave and nominations for Brother Bear.

No matter--Tangled is the story of Rapunzel run through the Disney story machine, magicked up a bit, and with songs added. The basic story is pretty much the same. Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) is a (wait for it) princess kidnapped by a woman named Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy). Here, the reason is a little convoluted. See, Gothel one day discovered a flower in the forest that was literally a drop of sunlight. She used it regularly to restore her youth, meaning that Mother Gothel is hundreds of years old. One day in the nearby kingdom, the pregnant queen becomes ill. Men from the kingdom discover the flower and use it to cure the queen, and Rapunzel is born with the magic of the flower imbued in her hair. The magic only works if the hair is uncut, though, so Gothel steals the baby away and locks her high in a hidden tower where she won’t be found. Rapunzel’s hair grows and grows, and soon is long enough to be used as the method of entry to the tower by Gothel. Gothel tells her “daughter” that the outside world is too dangerous for her and so she is never allowed to leave the tower.

The one secret Rapunzel has is that every year on her birthday, floating lanterns appear on the horizon. Little dos she know, of course, that those floating lanterns are in her honor. What she dreams of more than anything is to see the lanterns for herself.

Enter Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi), a thief working with a pair of ruffians named the Stabbington Brothers (the one who speaks is voiced by Ron Perlman). The trio breaks into the palace and steals Rapunzel’s crown, which naturally causes the tower guard to give chase. Flynn double-crosses his partners and, while being chased, finds Rapunzel’s tower. After beating him a few times with a frying pan, Rapunzel figures out that Flynn might be her ticket to seeing her lanterns for real. She gets Flynn to agree take her to see them in exchange for the crown that she doesn’t realize is hers.

Hilarity, run-ins with ruffians who end up enchanted by Rapunzel, singing, and lots of chases ensue. It gets a bit dark at the end, which I rather enjoy in a film like this. You go, Disney.

Tangled is a film that moves Disney further into the modern age; it is, after all, their first animated film that netted a PG rating rather than G. It’s also one of their first princess-based films that seems to be designed at least in part to appeal more to boys, since Flynn Rider is absolutely the sort of character that boys would like. It does depend a little heavily on some classic Disney tropes, though, including the animal companions that are essentially humans in animal skins. In this case, we get Maximus the horse, who originally starts as Flynn’s sworn enemy and ends up as his friend. Of course Rapunzel has to have an animal companion as well—she gets Pascal the chameleon, who is almost purely comic relief. I get a little tired of the wacky animal companions in Disney films. They don’t add much for me. The songs are good, of course, but they come at the standard spots in the narrative. Tangled hits all the beats that we expect it to. It does it well, but there’s not a lot of mystery as to where we’re going to go.

Because it’s Disney, Tangled is blessed with a tremendous voice cast. Hearing people like Richard Kiel, Paul F. Tompkins, Jeffrey Tambor, and Brad Garrett is a treat in a film like this.

Tangled is hard not to like. While the plot is definitely going where we expect it to go, it’s fun getting there. The action sequences are good, and the climax is good as well. It’s not going to rank in my top few for animated films, but I liked it a lot more than some of the Disney films that did get nominations for Best Animated Feature. We’ll call this a solid win, Nick. You’re 5 for 6.

Why to watch Tangled: When Disney is good, Disney is very good.
Why not to watch: There are still a lot of Disney tropes here.


  1. You're right that the tropes are there, but I quite like this film a lot. After seeing it a few times, I like it more each time. You realize just how clever it really is, and the songs--which I was actually iffy on my first viewing--skyrocketed to being some of my favorite (though Mother Knows Best is still one of my least favorite villain songs--the reprise is good, though). It's clever, funny, and beautiful to look at at times. I like both, but after having seen both Tangled and Frozen numerous times, Tangled comes out the better film with more rewatchability, to me. Frozen is cleverer in its turning the tropes on their heads, of course. But Tangled is a whole lot more fun with a more solid cast and songs that don't grate on you over time.

    1. I may come around after time, but right now, I like where Frozen goes more than Tangled. That's not to say I didn't enjoy this because I did. When Disney does it well, they do it very well indeed, even if they're picking clean the same bones they've been picking for years.