Saturday, November 27, 2010

My 'Tangled' Review

I just saw Tangled. I know my review is a little bit late (and that I haven't posted anything for awhile), but I was out of town (at Disneyland!) and have been unable to post this past week.

Anyways, Tangled, directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard (Bolt), was superb. As with any film, story is the most important part, and Tangled really delivered. The plot was filled with conflict, intrigue, and suspense; there was a very good balance between fast, action-packed scenes and those of deep emotion.

Although, the story did suffer slightly due to an inevitable fact: it's a fairytale. I have nothing against fairytales and I think that they can make a wonderful basis for a story, but I think that this fact made Tangled suffer. While it was really funny and engaging, it was predictable and was restricted by the classic form of the fairytale. While I realize that every story is more or less predictable and restrained by a common plot outline (Hero's Journey!), fairytales suffer the most, especially since the majority of Disney's past films have been in this same genre. Still, it did a decent job of pushing the boundaries of the fairytale further than I thought they could. And I don't think it really hurt the movie, unless you over-analyze it like I am. (But I am very glad that Ed Catmull has announced that Walt Disney Animation Studios will never make another fairytale.)

Combined with the importance of story is the importance of character. Tangled didn't fail us here, either. The villain was very evil (and excellently voiced), which is a necessity for any good story, and the audience really cheered for the main characters. One thing that is always missing from a bad movie is that there isn't a forseeable goal or adequate motivation for the hero or villain--Tangled, however, had an achievable goal and lots of motivation for every character. And that made for quite interesting characters.

However, one problem is that the audience tended to root more for the adventurous rogue of Flynn Rider (most likely due to his unparalleled charisma, classic good looks, and spot-on humor), rather than the real hero of the story, Rapunzel. This is due to the fact that the character of Rapunzel was rather flat and uninteresting; she seemed to act as more of a catalyst for action than a thinking being (think Hitchcock's MacGuffin). Perhaps it's the fact that all she seemed to talk about were those darn flying lanterns. Maybe it's just that she was overshadowed by far more interesting characters. But I think the real reason is that I couldn't relate to her. I can sympathize with Flynn's back-story of rejection and longing, but how could I ever empathize with somebody who's been trapped in a tower for 18 years? I can't. Still, the strength of the other characters easily made up for this minor flaw in Rapunzel.

My favorite character of the movie, however, was the valiant steed, Maximus. He managed to get across so much emotion and humor without ever saying a word--he was really, really funny and well-animated. Whoever managed to animate that horse with such flamboyant and exaggerated emotion deserves an Oscar. And a Golden Globe.

And a Nobel Peace Prize.

Similarly, I appreciated how Pascal the Chameleon was just pantomime; it is so much more interesting and fun to watch a character convey emotion through good acting instead of fast-talking dialogue (I'm looking at you, Donkey of Shrek and every character ever voiced by Wanda Sykes...).

The animation of the whole thing was excellent. Each frame could be framed as a piece of art in its own right--the vibrant colors and excellent art direction made for truly remarkable visuals. I also appreciated how the animators made the chase scenes and characters and gags more "cartoony" by adding classic animation techniques like the squash-and-stretch--it is so entertaining to watch. This nod to the traditional forms of animation, most likely inspired by animation legend Glen Keane, has been missed from a lot of CG films, but is welcome back with open arms. Also, the medieval village and vibrant forest backgrounds are very reminiscent of the gorgeous hand-drawn Disney classics. Glen Keane has done it again!

One negative thing, though, were the songs. While I loved the European-inspired instrumental score, the soundtrack left a lot to be desired. Alan Menken, who wrote the songs for classics like Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, didn't write one great song for Tangled. I was expecting a Whole New World or Under the Sea, but was left with a generally uninteresting set of melodies. You know it's a good song when you can remember the melody and hum it...and I can't even remember one line from a single tune. It's too bad, really. Disney fairytales are known for their beautiful and catchy soundtracks.

A hot topic that's been surrounding Tangled is whether it is geared towards boys or girls. After the flop that was The Princess and the Frog, Disney's marketing department did a major overhaul of Rapunzel, retitling it, adding pop music to the trailer, and up-playing their male lead and humor. While I think that this marketing technique was an unclassy move for Disney, it seems to have worked, since Tangled is doing fairly well at the Box Office (it didn't beat Potter, but it was the second biggest Thanksgiving opening ever). Back to the issue at hand: I don't think Tangled is aimed at male or female audiences. Like all Disney movies, this movie is for everybody; there are things for the parents, the boys, and the girls. If you enjoy good cinema and have a good sense of humor, you'll enjoy Tangled.

It ain't no Bolt or Toy Story 3 or Lion King, but the great animation, spot-on humor, interesting plot, and overall flow of the story and jokes more than made up for its "fairytale-ness," somewhat weak main character, and lack of decent song-writing. Tangled, Walt Disney Animation Studio's 50th animated feature, is a winner.

9 out of 10.


A said...

You say you couldn't relate to Rapunzel and found Aladdin... I mean Flynn more interesting, I had exactly the opposite problem. Being trapped in a tower for 18 years is a fairly good metaphor for the childhoods (and often, adulthoods) of many girls/women, though considering how desperately they tried to de-feminise the story by adding Aladdin... I mean Flynn to it, this was probably more of an accidental metaphor than a conscious one.

Historyteacher said...

9 out of 10? Your post on the movie screams only 6 out of 10! You don't get 9 out of 10 with a terrible musical score.

Adam said...

A: I do agree that Rapunzel's situation would make an excellent metaphor for being "trapped" at home during your youth, but I don't think it is quite as real as Flynn's situation. A lot more people can relate to a longing for wealth and social status than being held captive (or just having strict parents) for 18 years of their lives...

(But I do like the parallel between Aladdin and Flynn. Very interesting... And quite true.)

HistoryTeacher: While watching the film, you are thoroughly engrossed. It is engaging and hilarious and stunningly beautiful. While the lack of a decent soundtrack did get mildly distracting, it's only after seeing the film and looking back on it that I noticed these, although somewhat numerous, very minor flaws. A movie should be a flowing narrative that provides tasteful humor and a unique glimpse into the human experience through engaging characters and situations.

'Tangled' did that.

That's why it gets a 9 instead of a 6.

Still, I appreciate your comments, and hope you'll enjoy 'Tangled' as much as I did! (That is, if you haven't already seen it...)

Unknown said...

I had exactly the same reactions to Tangled. I really wanted to adore it but couldn't - the character of Rapunzel was a barrier for me as well. In my case, I just am not at that stage in my life anymore where going bonkers the first time I got out of the house is appealing. And the songs were a major disappointment for me. The clever dialogue and sheer beauty of the art saved it in the end and I really enjoyed the film a lot because of that and strong secondary characters

Alicia said...

I have not seen this My Tangled yet so my lips are sealed about the movie. I have heard that this is the last fairytale Disney Movie of Walt Disney is it true? I always love the fairytale stories of Walt Disney and it is so sad to hear about it.

Hanie said...

What you wrote. EXACTLY THIS. is what I felt about Tangled. I came out of the cinema loving the movie but can't feeling like something is not quite there, like it's not well rounded enough or something. I think you hit it spot on - the visuals are lovely, the 2ndary characters makes this movie a win but perhaps it's a little to predictable and formulaic to really make it something absolutely out of the world.

Having said that, it's still a pretty awesome movie which invoke back the feeling of a good old fashioned Disney movie. That at least is a step in the right direction :)

Tiffany Libman said...

Well I saw this movie yesterday and was in the mood for something fun and it was! I love it. The chameleon was my favorite character. For Disney to say this is their last princess movie, they did a great job. Great story line, great ending, like all fairytale endings with a princess are supposed to end. Thumbs way up!!

Alicia said...

I am back and now I have seen the movie. The movie is fine but comparing it with the other Disney movies that I have seen looks like there is something missing. Actually, I was expecting more and It was not met. Or maybe may expectation is just to high?

Anahoki said...

i think you are right ... 9 out of 10 .
But i think this music is fine .

Gypsy Foster said...

Totally agree with the 9/10! I have seen it twice now (Both times taking new friends) and we all agree that as kids from the disney era this is by far the best they've ever done. Everyone, ofcourse, Loves Flynn Rider and why shouldn't they? He was made to be the relatable one. I do disagree with wether Rapunzel was relatable or not; I live in the middle of no where in english countryside and me and my friends have never been able to go out and see the world because something was always holding us back (family,age..) and we're just reaching the point where we can finally go and see the world so we LOVED her :) (I also can't get "When will my life begin" and "I see the light" out of my head and its been weeks since I last saw it ) In my opinion - Best disney I've ever had the privilage of watching ^___^ xxx

Anonymous said...

the lantern scene is an attribute to a long asian tradition, and a good thematic device. you probably will see it one day at the Shanghai Disneyland. if you cannot wait, just head to Taiwan or Thailand to check it out. It's just as magical as the movie portrayed.

Anonymous said...

If it's their last FairyTale than what is frozen?