Thanks to being members of D23, we had a wonderful opportunity this evening to see an advance screening of TANGLED at the Walt Disney Studios.
When we attended WAKING SLEEPING BEAUTY (2009) last spring, the screening was held in the small theater in the Frank Wells building where the Disney Archives are housed.
Tonight's packed event was in the much larger, full-sized Studio Theater, a beautiful venue which even has its own overture and light show preceding the start of the movie. (No photos were possible due to ultra high security...they were even wanding looking for cameras as guests entered the theater.) The movie was screened in 3D. It was a treat to see the film in such a wonderful setting, surrounded by fellow Disney fans.
TANGLED is an utter delight. It has strong echoes of both SLEEPING BEAUTY and THE LITTLE MERMAID, with bits of other Disney films thrown in; for example, an old hag calls to mind the witch in SNOW WHITE. At the same time, it has a modern tone with some contemporary humor and a strong heroine...yet it never resorts to the crass or vulgar.
Mandy Moore (A WALK TO REMEMBER) voices Rapunzel, a princess who was kidnapped as a baby and raised by an old crone (Donna Murphy) who remains young and beautiful thanks to Rapunzel's magical hair. Rapunzel lives in a high tower, ostensibly because her "mother" wants to protect her from the outside world, but in reality, of course, the old woman is selfishly saving Rapunzel's magic for herself.
One day Flynn Ryder (Zachary Levi of CHUCK) sails in through the window and changes Rapunzel's life forever. With her mother away, Rapunzel induces Flynn to take her on a "forbidden road trip" (one of my favorite lines) to see some magical lights which appear in the sky every year on her birthday...
The characters are all very well done; for instance, I loved the depiction of Rapunzel's conflicting joy and guilt when she sneaks out of her castle tower for the first time. The scene where she starts an impromptu dance when she reaches the village is lovely. I liked that although Rapunzel starts out as a very sheltered girl -- her perplexed reaction to a tiara will call to mind Ariel and the "dinglehopper" -- she's no milquetoast, not by a long shot. She expertly wields her hair to deal with problem situations and is quite daring. There's also a great running gag about her ability to use a frying pan as a weapon which carries on until the last sequence in the movie.
Flynn's name surely must have been inspired by Errol Flynn, and he shares some of the same rascally characteristics as Flynn's movie characters. He's not a perfect hero like Prince Charming or Prince Phillip, but he's perhaps more interesting because of it. He's also quite funny.
Rapunzel's real parents are movingly depicted, yet I realized when the movie ended that they had never spoken. For that matter, two of the film's best characters don't speak either: Rapunzel's little chameleon friend Pascal and Maximus, a horse who's one of Disney's all-time finest animal creations. Maximus is absolutely hilarious, and in the scene where he adopts dog-like behavior he threatens to steal the movie. Like other aspects of the film, his presence also seems a tribute to Disney's past, as he reminded me of Prince Phillip's horse Samson in SLEEPING BEAUTY.
The movie has sequences of true beauty, including the aforementioned dance and the lanterns in the sky. It's a film with great visual appeal to go along with its heart and its humor. The final sequence is enough to make any Disney fan tear up happily.
The one drawback to the movie which keeps it from being quite on the level of films like THE LITTLE MERMAID or BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is the lack of a memorable musical score. (2009's THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG, on the other hand, had a fairly strong score but a weaker, more forgettable storyline.) The Alan Menken music is pleasant but there aren't any particular tunes that one hums leaving the theater.
TANGLED was directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard.
Having seen the film, it seems quite silly that Disney changed the name from RAPUNZEL to TANGLED in hopes of marketing the film to boys. This film is and should be, quite simply, RAPUNZEL, following in a long line of Disney titles including SNOW WHITE, SLEEPING BEAUTY, THE LITTLE MERMAID, MULAN, and more. In fact, we've found that no one seems to know what TANGLED is, but if you add in the description "the Disney movie about Rapunzel" there's instant recognition. I suspect that to some extent Disney actually may have shot themselves in the foot releasing a film with such a bland, unrecognizable title. Perhaps this will be overcome with positive word of mouth.
Disney expert Leonard Maltin loved it too.
I highly recommend this film, a delightfully funny, feel-good movie in the finest Disney tradition.