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Tangled 3D (2010) ***1/2

November 26, 2010

written by: Dan Fogelman (based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale)
produced by: Roy Conli, (executive produced by John Lasseter & Glenn Keane)
directed by: Nathan Greno & Byron Howard
rated PG (for brief mild violence)
104 min.
U.S. release date: November 24, 2010

After repeatedly seeing the trailer and various TV spots for Disney’s latest CG-animated feature, I found myself increasingly uninterested. It seemed like Disney was scrapping the barrel. desperate for another (yawn) princess movie with a specific target audience that was clearly not me. Even taking the story of Rapunzel, who only had extra long hair going for her, seemed like a stretch and a snore fest. There was no possible way this could be interesting to me, much less provide anything unique or remotely exciting. Boy, do I ever love it when I’m wrong about a movie.

“Tangled” is a wonderfully entertaining motion picture, executed with flawless artistic style that is, for a change, effectively enhanced by the use of 3D. Filled with voice acting that provides impeccable comic timing and solid singing chops, resulting in a delightful surprise. For a fable steeped in familiarity, there are many reasons why this story shouldn’t work, but directors Byron Howard and Richard Greno are confidently earnest as they deliver a fun yarn that successfully balances  madcap irreverence with a traditional storybook approach.

Screenwriter Dan Fogelman (“Bolt” & ” Cars”) loosely bases the story on the classic Grimm fairy tale and this approach is to the benefit of the audience. Yes, there’s a beautiful girl with 70 feet of hair and she lives in a tower, but thankfully there is much more to take in here. The story has come up in pop culture for decades, but rarely has it ever been this exciting and fun.


TANGLED still 1


As an infant, Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) was stolen from her royal parents by the villainous old hag,  Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy), who was determined to keep the girl and her flowing magical locks all to her self.  For eighteen years, Gothel has kept Rapunzel in a secluded tower surrounded by the forest, using the girl’s restorative locks to maintain her youthful appearance. Despite her situation, Rapunzel has grown into a joyful and creative young woman with a resilient spirit. After all, she really hasn’t known anything else. Her pet chameleon Pascal is great company, but she longs for something more out of life. She may have been taught that the outside world is an unforgiving, selfish, and cruel place, she has watched from her window with restless curiosity.

Each year on the evening of her birth, Rapunzel is enraptured by the night sky that is mysteriously set ablaze by dancing lights. She makes it her dream to find the source of this tantalizing sight, unknowing that it is actually her parents and their kingdom releasing floating lanterns into the air in her memory, hoping that their stolen princess will return.

Along comes handsome Flynn Rider (Chuck’s Zachary Levi), a dashing and cocky young thief who stumbles upon Rapunzel’s tower while running away from his betrayed criminal cohorts (Ron Perlman), a determined palace horse named Maximus, and a handful of armed palace guards.  Seeking shelter in the tower, he stumbles upon a curious Rapunzel, they tangle, and soon he is coerced into escorting her out into the great wide open, to follow her dream. It doesn’t take long for Gothel to realize what has transpired and most of all…. that her vanity is at stake! Manipulating anyone in her way, she seeks to return Rapunzel as she was, before the truth is revealed.


TANGLED Still 3


While the tower may be the main location in the Grimm tale, the movie really takes off when Rapunzel and Flynn begin their journey. The interior of the tower has artistic flair due to Rapunzel’s savvy arts and crafts touch, but seeing Rapunzel express such wonder, amazement, even guilt is far more entertaining. Just imagine how it is to experience a blade of grass or a stream of water for the first time. The filmmakers, along with Moore, portray this in both an amusing and natural way. It’s hard for Flynn and viewers to not be taken, or tangled, with this Rapunzel. Considering I’ve always felt the character was dull, it is commendable and refreshing how bright and alive she is here.

While this is contemporary and comical update to a familiar tale, there are still some apparent Disney conventions intact here. Disney made fun of characters breaking into song in a hilarious way in “Enchanted” and while I have for some time now rolled my eyes whenever it happens in animated films, I didn’t mind it here. Maybe it was due to the involvement of multiple Oscar-winning composer Alan Menken (“The Little Mermaid” & “Aladdin”) and lyricist Glenn Slater or maybe I was already so smitten by the dazzling art direction, that I didn’t mind watching the tunes (many quite jubilant and fun) incorporate into the picture.

With their singing backgrounds, Moore and Murphy effortlessly deliver their songs, but the real news here is that Levi can sing. Yes, that’s actually his voice in a duet with Moore and his vocals are just another addition to the surprises to the film.  The rest of the actors provide some musical laughs, particularly in a hilarious sequence outside a seedy pub (the kind where you’d find Aragorn) where a slew of burly barbarians (prominently Brad Garrett and Jeffrey Tambor) sing “I’ve Got a Dream” with Moore and Levi.  It’s a song that offers up some silly characterization and great physical comedy, while naturally progressing the story. So, something familiar, done right.


TANGLED Still 2


It comes as no surprise to learn that producer Gary Kearns had in mind a painterly approach here, citing the painting “The Swing”, by French Rococo artist Jean-Honore Fragonard as a primary influence.   The character designs, atmospheres and tone reminded me of a cross between “Sleeping Beauty” and “The Emperor’s New Groove”,  both in terms of style and madcap silliness, respectively. At times, it genuinely does feel like a painting come to life, carefully enhanced in-depth and perception by a non-gimmicky 3D.  Sure every animated film is now released in 3D and it often barely does much for the film, yet the best use of 3D this year has been in animated films and this is one of them.  The detail and articulation displayed is an undeniable achievement.

Before the film begins, Disney takes a moment to note that this is their 50th animated feature (not counting their work with Pixar), and this is a film they can be proud of. Like many Disney films before it, “Tangled” derives from a fairy tale, adds songs to the story as well as animal shenanigans, but all those elements seem to line-up in just the right way. Still, its villains are not as dark as other Disney films and, for a change, neither of the two leads are ever annoying. How ironic and appropriate for the House of Mouse to deliver a return to form in such a successful way. Packed with broad comedy, a variety of delightful supporting characters and absorbing environments, this is a charming winner for Disney.

What we have here is an enjoyable film that will surprise anyone who had any reservations whatsoever about seeing something that would seem overdone. That’s how I had felt at first about “Tangled” and it’s a rare delight that I wound up feeling completely satisfied.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. mATtHEw gRAmItH permalink
    November 26, 2010 3:43 pm

    Well, well. I was also hoping that my impressions from the trailer weren’t the whole, uh, picture. We thought about going last night, but were worried it would be a bit too…well…lame. Not that our 4 year old son would mind. Our baby daughter certainly wouldn’t. Then I read A.O. Scott’s review in The New York Times and thought, hmm..might not be so bad. Now yours. So maybe we’ll see it this weekend. It’s not that often that something watchable plays at our local theatre.

    One thing that I’m always leery of though are children’s stories of any sort with royalty involved. There’s so many of them out there, and I’m not sure that the usual obvious themes of finding one’s inner awesomeness/nobility supersedes the subtle reinforcement of an us vs. them, winners vs. losers, class-based society inherent where monarchs and their “royal families” rule. Nor does it discount the continual reinforced ignorance as to what made those people “royal” in the first place. These stories ought to start “Once Upon A Time one of the beautiful princess’s ancestors was the most ego-maniacal, vicious, power hungry, dominant, alpha male around. He killed and tortured many little boy’s and girl’s fathers and mothers and gained power, then held that power by force and by falsely convincing people of their own powerlessness”.

    It seems to me that by mythologizing royalty, as we do in our culture as soon as our children are old enough to hear a story, we are in fact acting as a tool of an ancient, hierarchical system of subjugation; one that puts power, money, and competition above all else. That system was once bad, or at the very least extremely limiting, for all but a precious few. Now, still operating within the shadow of that old system’s mindset, but in a modern world economy, it’s disastrous for the entire planet.

    Within a world view where we are either winners or losers, kings or serfs, of course we want our daughters to be princesses. If my daughter is a princess then in my microcosmic fantasy, if no where else, that makes me a king. In reality though, our daughters will grow up to find out that they are not princesses. That illusion will vanish, but the illusion created by the idea of royalty – that some people are better than others, could easily remain. Mightn’t we be harming our daughters by perpetuating this b.s.? Isn’t it about time for us to equate monarchy with malarkey? I think so.

    I’m trying to raise my children to have a world view more in the spirit of cooperation than of competition. Sometimes unintentionally, sometimes knowingly, I expose my 4 year old son to stories with royalty. I mostly try not to but I know that I can’t shelter him from every injustice in the world, and I don’t want to. But I also have to be sure I don’t subtlety steer my children towards a world view that shackles them. My daughter will never know the story of Cinderella if I can help it. Do you think this movie comes from the same Disney, or are they reformed? I’m gonna guess it’s the same old conservative values, retrofitted for a modern generation.

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      November 26, 2010 7:01 pm

      I can relate to your perspective on princess movies and what we expose our children to. I am so glad my daughter has no interest in them. She’d rather see movies about fairies or animals and considers princess flicks quite boring. What many of these movies do show though is that royalty doesn’t bring you joy, love, respect or happiness….at least not long-lasting. How many times do we see kings or queens who turn evil or who crave more more more? How many times have we seen princesses or princes who long for something more? Something beyond their world? There’s some good conversation pieces here to share with our children. A ton of money or a place of royal power (or political power) does not guarantee a great life.

      My wife and I have a similar approach to your “cooperation over competition” for our girl and would also add “serving and giving” to that view. Anything to help them realize that the world isn’t all about them, which (to me) isn’t the message princess movies convey. “You’re nothing unless your beautiful with a skinny little waist” is not what I’d want my daughter to latch on to. That being said, I think there are still some positive or important elements to glean from the “Cinderella” and “Sleeping Beauty” stories, you just got to skip over some of the junk you don’t like to find what you can like. That being said, I will not seek out those movies for my daughter but will not restrict her from watching one, if she wants to. We’ll just be talking about what we watch and make sure she understands what she watched.

      As for your question….Yes and No. Disney is delivering the same approach toward classic fairy tales (“Snow White”), classic literature (“The Jungle Book”) and/or mythic stories (“Robin Hood”) and giving them an updated or modern take on them, often adding humor, musicals, or anthropamorphic characters for their target audience. These storybook tales will always be told in some form or manner, if it’s not Disney it will be Dreamworks or some other studio. What appealed to me here was that the characters were confident and self-sufficient but just needed to be exposed to the rest of the world in order to enrich their lives (Rapunzel) or shown how the person they were effected the people around them (Flynn Rider). Rapunzel needed to interact with others and seek help in order to follow her dream, while Flynn eventually had to see that chasing stuff isn’t as important as investing your time and energy in people. No damsels in distress. No fru-fru lacey gowns. No dashing princes to sweep the girl off her feet. Just two people who discover some truths about life, while learning a few things about themselves.

  2. mATtHEw gRAmItH permalink
    November 29, 2010 2:40 am

    This afternoon my wife and I took our 4 year old son to see this movie. There was a lot for all three of us to like about it, BUT…

    Funny… I was just now interrupted by our little guy who is lying in bed, listening to “The Seal Catcher” on storynory.com. He doesn’t know that I’m thinking about the movie we watched today, but out of the blue he blurted out he “liked MEGAMIND better than TANGLED”. I did too!

    “What we have here is an enjoyable film that will surprise anyone who had any reservations whatsoever about seeing something that would seem overdone.”

    The again maybe it won’t! It sure seemed overdone to me.

    Beautiful to look at? Yes. Tugged at my heartstrings? Sure. Sentimental drivel? Absolutely!

    I thought the songs were UGH, bad! If you like modern Broadway type musicals, and I know that many people do, well sure. The songs are completely modeled on musical theatre. Me, I just can’t stand the cheese factor.

    Was it any better than any Disney films in the past? I don’t think so. Considering the technology available at those times, I don’t think it was better than DUMBO or BAMBI or SNOW WHITE or CINDERELLA or THE LION KING or…

    This is a princess movie. Like I said in an earlier post, I perceive that as a problem. For an adult or maybe a teenager I agree with you David, take what’s good in a movie or book, and leave the rest behind. But for small children? They are influenced just by the settings alone and the entire world that characters inhabit, regardless of the rest of the story and themes. Children will question all kinds of things, like whether a horse can fall a hundred feet and be ok, or whether a girl’s hair could really glow. But will they question why the protagonist was written to be a princess in the first place? Will they wonder how the king’s family came to power? The narrator said the king was kind, but will children bother to question why the “kind king” puts people to death for thievery? Will they ask “Why is it bad to steal, but not bad to kill a thief?” I think most of them won’t. As they accept that the king is kind and that he loves his daughter, they will subconsciously accept that its ok for kings have people killed. It’s a passive acceptance. The king is a good guy. He has ultimate authority. The choices he makes must be good, fair, just. Exactly how many times will a child not question the morality of authority figures before the not questioning becomes a habit? Then what kind of person has that child just grown up to be? Thanks Disney! My child can’t think for himself, but he’s a good citizen!

    The sheer number of stories with princesses and royalty that children are exposed to is a problem. Yes, some of the stories show how the life of a princess may not be all that it’s cracked up to be, but that doesn’t matter. It’s like marketing. If you see it enough you’ll buy it/buy into it. That’s how it works. And this movie definitely romances the life of royalty anyway.

    It’s movies like this that make little girl’s fantasize about being princesses. And why do they want to be princesses? Because being a princess is better than not being one. Right? Why is the protagonist a princess? Why couldn’t the girl who was abducted be a commoner? Why couldn’t she just be a normal person? Because a princess is more valuable, more important, of course! If she were a normal person she would ultimately just be reunited with her family. In this movie, she’s reunited with her family AND she once again becomes a princess. That matters. HEY LITTLE GIRL OUT THERE. BEING A PRINCESS MATTERS MORE THAN NOT BEING A PRINCESS. YOU’RE NOT AS GOOD AS A GIRL WHO IS A PRINCESS. YOU ARE INFERIOR. YOU WANT TO BE A PRINCESS. DON’T FORGET IT. PRINCESS. PRINCESS. PRINCESS.

    I saw a preview today for the latest NARNIA crap. You know, the story about the kids who go into a wardrobe and find themselves inhabiting a world with talking animals, fairies, and mythological creatures…oh and of course also that they themselves have transformed into kings and princes and princesses. That has to be part of the story. That story and any number of other ones could easily be told without the royalty factor. Why aren’t they?

    The Children’s Story genre is replete with child characters becoming royalty or holding onto or regaining their royal positions in life. These stories reinforce classism. They promote an acceptance of authority over others. They can bring about low self esteem, or conversely, can promote an unhealthy fantasy life – one that is unattainable. It sickens me. I can only imagine that it’s stories like TANGLED and CINDERELLA and how these stories effect people from a very early age, that has allowed many of the world’s monarchies to have remained intact to this day. It’s the romance of it all. If we didn’t have those stories those people would be nothing more to us than power-hungry thugs, living in the lap of luxury at the expense of ordinary citizens…er…I mean…subjects.

    I agree that there are great themes in TANGLED otherwise. I just think that the damage done by the royalty aspect outweighs whatever positives can come from those themes.

  3. FaithJ permalink
    November 29, 2010 2:27 pm

    I have to respectfully disagree with the previous commenter. I’m a girl, and as a child these kinds of fairy tales were fun. It is exciting for kids to imagine a world of princes and princesses, magic, and talking animals, because they don’t exist. Many little girls would love to be a princess, and loving parents can make them feel like one, not in a self-indulgent, superior way, but in a you-are-valued, you-are-beautiful, you-are-special way.

    I don’t think that fairy tales are responsible for the existence of monarchies today. And according to the Bible, respect for authority is a good thing. I hear from parents that respect is something woefully absent in many young people’s lives today.

  4. mATtHEw gRAmItH permalink
    December 5, 2010 6:14 pm

    And I respectfully disagree with FaithJ. Although, in a way, she has made my point for me. She enjoyed those tales without questioning their relevance beyond conventional wisdom, and now that she is older seems to be advocating for submission to higher human authority figures.

    “Many little girls would love to be a princess..”

    Why is that, do you think? Could it be because of the multi-BILLION dollar princess industry, for one thing? If a little girl never saw a princess movie or heard a princess story, never saw a princess show or commercial, or never was inundated with eye-level princess products in department stores would little girls still want to be princesses? I tend to think not.

    “…and loving parents can make them feel like one, not in a self-indulgent, superior way, but in a you-are-valued, you-are-beautiful, you-are-special way.”

    What is it about a princess that is more deserving of being valued, beautiful, and special over a non-princess? Royalty does not hold a monopoly on being virtuous, nor valued, beautiful, or special. Why should parents have to resort to an impossible fantasy to give their daughters self-esteem? What do we teach our daughters when we tell them to identify with a role that is only special because of the connection to her father and/or husband? Princesses are not self-made people.

    “And according to the Bible, respect for authority is a good thing.”

    Like when Jesus rebuked the authority of the scribes and Pharisees, who he said kept people from getting into heaven? Or like when Jesus tipped over all the money-lenders carts? Or when he broke the law by healing the sick on Sabbath? Jesus didn’t really respect authority there. Or when he snapped at his mother for telling him what to do? Or when Jesus was moved by a man who suggested that because he was a military man who gave orders which people had to follow, perhaps he wasn’t deserving of a miracle?

    How about Moses? I’m not so sure he respected the Pharaoh’s (an Egyptian king) authority. Another great thing about the Moses story is that he gave up being a prince to find a greater path. He had to find out that his true, natural self wasn’t born royal at all. He then was able to empathize with the enslaved, join them, and save them. He subsequently went on to live a very long satisfying life.

    Both Jesus and Mary came from pretty simple beginnings, too. I don’t think Jesus would approve of all this emulating of royalty. Royal people are historically not particularly kind, good-hearted people. Who had Rome conquered Israel in the name of? Who demanded that all the baby boys be killed? Who had John the Baptist killed? All those kind kings, of course! And actually, as I recall it was a PRINCESS that convinced Herod to kill J the B. All this of course assumes that one views the Bible as a source of authority, which I don’t anyway. Words of wisdom, though? Definitely.

    Here’s a good conversation on the topic of TANGLED and ‘princess films’:

    And here’s an excellent article on the ‘princess’ topic:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/24/magazine/24princess.t.html

  5. David J. Fowlie permalink*
    December 8, 2010 1:10 am

    Wow. All this talk about royalty made me think of wise King Osric (Max Von Sydow) from “Conan the Barbarian”….”There comes a time, thief, when the jewels cease to sparkle, when the gold loses its luster, when the throne room becomes a prison, and all that is left is a father’s love for his child.” Seemed to me, Rapunzel’s father, King as he was, must have felt the same way.

  6. mATtHEw gRAmItH permalink
    December 9, 2010 3:11 pm

    Yeah, well. Sure. There’s a romantic quote for you. CONAN…is full of them. That quote’s is about as meaningful as “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women!” Fun quotes. But they seem akin to those fantasy riddled Marine Corps commercials, designed to appeal to the adolescence male mind. Both quotes and those commercials all serve the same master, and it’s not enlightenment!

    That quote disturbs me. Like, why should it impress anybody? “WISE King Osric?”. Were’s the wisdom in a father caring about his child? That oughta be normal, regardless of social status or intellect. It’s like when a greedy politician wants huge kudos just for doing what any normal decent person would do. But when a politician just acts just halfway decent, whoa – what a big-hearted person! Happens all the time. The most extreme example is the way we lionize Lincoln because he freed the slaves. Dang right he freed the slaves. Wouldn’t you have freed innocent human beings if you had the chance? No? The person that doesn’t do it is a very, very, bad/selfish/fearful person. The person that does do it is just a decent human being. That we put these people up on a pedestal is testament to what a corrupt society we live in, where just not being horrible is seen as practically angelic.

    My point is that of course a decent father would care about his child’s welfare. What is the reason to have us identify with a KING who looses his child? Why does that character have to be a king? I think it’s so that we will see the humanity in an otherwise mostly selfish social position that has very often brought about so much suffering in others. Problem is, doing that continues the status quo. That’s what authority wants, not for folks to be outraged as decent self-respecting people would surely be by the stratifying of social status by force and heredity. Living in the shadow of that system; and the culture that has been shaped, laws enforced, and wars fought to sustain it over the years; has conditioned us away from our own natural, caring, loving, and self-respecting nature. We have lost our own intrinsic human nobility/worth.

    These stories, which cause the populace to empathize with the thugs…er, royalty…that controls them, have been told for 100’s and 1000’s of years, but I think it’s time that people take off the shackles and with some reflection, find themselves, and see their lives as apart from their former or current overlords.

    Thinking about the opinion that this is a “good movie” while not noticing the big, elephant-in-the-room that no one is talking about, reminds me of another quote brought to us by the same studio 45 years ago – “A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down”.

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