Yet another animated classic comes to us courtesy of Disney with Tangled, their stunning, funny and magical take on the story of Rapunzel. This film has everything one hopes for in a great Disney movie, including captivating and memorable characters (both human and animal), incredible artistic craftsmanship and even some songs that you might be able to remember after two or three viewings.
A prologue tells the story of a king and queen's daughter being kidnapped after she absorbs the magical powers of a flower that provides healing abilities and eternal life. The young Rapunzel is taken by the evil Mother Gothel (the voice of Donna Murphy) to a tall tower in the forest, where she will be kept prisoner and provide Gothel with eternal youth.
Years later, handsome thief Flynn Ryder (Zachary Levi) snatches Rapunzel's original crown from her former castle, and finds himself pursued by authorities. He takes refuge in the prison tower, where he is promptly konked on the head courtesy of a frying-pan-wielding Rapunzel (Mandy Moore), who now has super-long hair that she can use as a whip or a restrictive device. She takes the crown from Flynn and makes him an offer for its return.
Rapunzel has never left her tower and wants to take a trip outside for her birthday while her evil fake mother is out procuring her a gift. In order to achieve freedom from a chair where he is tied up in Rapunzel's hair, Flynn must take her to see the lights that float in the sky every year on her birthday. Flynn agrees, and off they go—with evil Mother Gothel eventually in pursuit.
The Rapunzel character is beyond charming, thanks to wonderful vocalization by Moore, who is equally fantastic while speaking and singing. Rapunzel is a worthy member of the Disney princess family, alongside Belle, Snow White and Ariel. Her huge doe eyes are remarkably expressive, and her big teeth remind of the real-life Moore, who sports a rather radiant smile. Flynn Ryder has a soul patch and a bangy haircut, making him a prince with a modern twist.
Of course, this is a Disney movie, and every Disney movie needs a good animal or two for merchandising. Rapunzel has a nicely expressive chameleon that is protective of her, and it gets more than its share of laughs. Best of all is Maximus the horse, who is determined to solve crimes and is the archenemy of Flynn in the early goings-on. (They warm up to each other as the film progresses.) Maximus moves in a distinct way that gets laughs nearly every moment he is onscreen.
The music is provided by the ever-reliable Alan Menken, whose past works include The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Enchanted. I can't really recall any of the music as I write this, but I do remember thinking it was pleasant and non-obtrusive as it played during the film. I plan repeat viewings, so perhaps I will soon be able to sing the songs when approached in supermarkets and dark alleys, and beckoned to do so. (That sort of thing happens all of the time.)
If you should get a chance to view Tangled in 3-D, I recommend you do so. I know that some of the 3-D converted live-action films suck and aren't worth the extra money (I'm looking at you, Clash of the Titans!), but this year has boasted some fine animated 3-D films (How to Train Your Dragon, Toy Story 3 and Despicable Me).
With the holidays in full gear, Disney has itself another cash cow, and a lot of Tangled stuff is going to wind up under holiday trees. I want a Maximus action figure for Christmas, please!