film review: TANGLED

by Leonard Maltin
November 24, 2010 5:36 AM
5 Comments
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I approach each new Disney film with a combination of eagerness and apprehension: will it be as good as I want it to be? Can “the new guys” carry the torch lit by Walt and his colleagues so many years ago? Where Tangled is concerned, I knew within minutes that the answer was yes. I could tell from the look and sound of the film that it had the qualities people have always sought in a Disney animated fairy tale. I felt like I was home. Yet Tangled is a completely contemporary film that puts its own spin on the source material, with clever staging, hip humor and spectacular action scenes.

Tangled has had a long and unusually rough gestation period. It went through several Disney regimes, changing directors and directions more than once. The final picture went through a rapid production process over the last two years, with Disney animator extraordinaire Glen Keane mentoring two young studio directors, Nathan Greno and Byron Howard, who have come through with flying colors. Dan Fogelman’s screenplay is lively and funny but also has—

—heart, especially when it matters most. I love the retro look of Tangled, with its glowing, brightly colored settings, and even its use of 3-D. Best of all, the movie features two delightful supporting characters who continue yet another Disney custom without saying a word of dialogue. Rapunzel has a little chameleon friend named Pascal, who acts as comic Greek chorus, while the hero, Flynn Rider, has an extraordinarily expressive equine adversary named Maximus who earns many of the movie’s biggest laughs.

Tangled doesn’t break any new ground, but it’s not mired in the past, either. The filmmakers have taken the best of the Disney tradition and filtered it through a flip, modern sensibility, visually and verbally. As in the live-action movie Enchanted, they know their audience wants to have its cake and eat it, too, acknowledging the familiar fairy tale tropes (with particular echoes of Sleeping Beauty), turning some of them on their ear, but stopping well short of self-mockery, so when, at the climax, we’re meant to care about these characters and pull for them, we do.

The score by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater may not be memorable, but it serves the movie well enough, and the voice actors give it their best: Mandy Moore as Rapunzel, Broadway veteran Donna Murphy as the old crone who poses as her mother, and Zachary Levi as the dashing, wisecracking (and self-invented) Flynn Rider.

I’ve seen Tangled twice. I’ve even seen it work its magic on my class of 20-somethings at USC, not the target demographic for this kind of picture. They cheered at the end, and I hope audiences around the world echo that response.

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5 Comments

  • Evelin S. | April 2, 2011 8:21 AMReply

    I agree that a big thing that was lacking in this movie is better music. That is the only thing that would throw me off the moment, how the music did not do the movie justice. Especially at the lake scene, I was eager for a stunning sound(to match it's stunning scenery) a melody, or mind blowing lyrics (disney is quite famous for those) but all that came was an unmemorable, simply ok music. The movie had great potential and it lived up to it. It's not one of the best disney films, but it's close to it. The animation and scenery is so remarkable. Along with them, they pulled off a great twist on the classic (that could have made the movie a dud). I greatly enjoyed this movie and I would watch it again and again.

  • B.E. Kerian | March 30, 2011 1:44 AMReply

    Well said, Mr. Maltin. This is, in my opinion, a vintage Disney film. It's beautiful to look at, it's funny, it's intense, it's lively, it has winning and believabkle characters, and it sustains a two-dimensional/hand-drawn quality that many CGI films lack. Tangled was certainly one of my favorite movies of the year. Besides all things Pixar, we need more movies like this today!

  • Jim | March 21, 2011 10:29 AMReply

    I'm so glad I found your site. After re-re-re-re-re-reading THE DISNEY FILMS for so many years, having direct access to your thoughts is invaluable.

    I loved this movie and am glad you did too.

  • Drew L. | January 17, 2011 2:14 AMReply

    You said it all, Maltin. This is the Disney film I think a lot of us have been waiting for for a long time.

  • Lisa Molina | November 28, 2010 1:55 AMReply

    My 8 year old daughter and I laughed and cried together during this movie - but the most magical moment for me was when every child in the audience reached out as far as they could to try to touch the 3-D lanterns in utter silence. They were completely "in" the movie moment, and it brought tears to my eyes. One of my most favorite movie experiences of all time. Thanks Disney.

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