Combustible Celluloid
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With: (voices) Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy, Ron Perlman, M.C. Gainey, Jeffrey Tambor, Brad Garrett, Paul F. Tompkins, Richard Kiel, Delaney Rose Stein, Laraine Newman
Written by: Dan Fogelman, based on the story by the Brothers Grimm
Directed by: Nathan Greno, Byron Howard
MPAA Rating: PG for brief mild violence
Running Time: 100
Date: 11/24/2010

Tangled (2010)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Hair and Now

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Disney's Tangled opens with just a hint of panic and desperation; the movie doesn't have the relaxing confidence that a Disney movie should have toward the holiday season. It should be a break from the frenetic rush, not an addition to it. It's so anxious to be loved that it distances itself. It's interesting to consider this dynamic the same year that the documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty was released. That movie told about Disney's severe doldrums in the 1980s, making boring, out-of-touch animated features that nobody cared about before The Little Mermaid (1989) and Beauty and the Beast (1991) saved the day.

Now Disney appears to be in that same boat again. Many of their releases in the last ten years have been forgettable and/or flops. Their hand-drawn animation department petered out with Home on the Range, and their computer animation division debuted with the terrible Chicken Little. Bolt was one of their best recent films, and then there was a beautiful, graceful attempt to return to hand-drawn animation with last year's The Princess and the Frog; it didn't do as well as hoped. Some insiders blamed the old-fashioned sounding title, but I'm sure many executives blamed the hand-drawn style. So now Disney is back with a new computer-animated film, and it has a great deal riding on it. This one is also in 3D, which feels even more desperate. You can practically feel its sweaty hands.

Mandy Moore provides the speaking and singing voice for Rapunzel, she of "let down your hair" fame; the title Tangled represents an attempt to sound "hip" and "modern." According to a prologue, an evil old lady discovers a magic plant and uses its power to keep herself eternally young. When the queen grows ill, the king's men use the plant to nurse her back to health. The power of the plant comes out in the queen's newborn daughter, especially in her golden hair. The old lady, Mother Gothel (voiced by Donna Murphy), kidnaps Rapunzel and raises her, keeping her prisoner in the familiar tower. But every year on her birthday, her parents release hundreds of glowing lanterns into the sky, in the hopes that their daughter will come home.

A dashing bandit, Flynn Ryder (Zachary Levi), happens upon the tower and discovers the girl. She wishes to see the lanterns this year, and needs a guide. He will do it on the condition that she will return a crown, which he has stolen and which has now come into Rapunzel's possession. Hence, we get the usual bickering, trust issues, and the eventual falling in love with the evil old lady and several henchmen on their trail. The Disney formula is all here, and there are a few gorgeous showstopping moments, like the lantern sequence. But it seems a bit fast and jittery. This time we get lots of okay songs -- written by Alan Menken, with Glenn Slater -- and lots of jokes.

Those jokes kind of got to me. They seemed like a blatant attempt to try to appeal to viewers, rather than inviting viewers in. The best Disney films simply cast a spell, but this one jumps around like a lonely puppy. It's too bad that The Princess and the Frog didn't do better last year; it might have given the Disney executives courage and confidence to go out on a limb. Tangled is fine, and it may lure some people into the theater with its digital look and 3D gimmick, but it's probably not going to be anyone's favorite, and it certainly doesn't have that indefinable, indescribable Disney magic.

Disney has released a two-disc combo pack with a DVD and a Blu-Ray, although a regular DVD and a 3D Blu-Ray are also available. Extras include deleted scenes, a making-of featurette, original storybook openings, extended songs, teasers, and a nifty little short feature counting down all fifty of Disney's animated features.

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