Monday, January 3, 2011

Monday at the Movies: Disney's "Tangled"

I'm keeping this review as spoiler-free as possible for those of you who haven't had the chance to see Tangled yet, promise. Now, when I first heard about Disney's working on a Rapunzel film, I was actually pretty shocked. You see, I'm a firm believer that there are just a number of fairytales which are simply not Disney-able. Of my top-two of those, first is Bluebeard and second is Rapunzel. I mean, seriously, go read the actual fairytale--it's crazy, starting with two peasants stealing radishes (rampion, from which Rapunzel is named) from a witch next door, and ending up with Rapunzel pregnant with twins in the desert after having been taking advantage of by a prince who eventually finds his way back to her over many years, blind. Reading it, I just couldn't imagine how the folks at Disney were going to handle this amount of crazy. But to my pleasant surprise, their adaptation is quite successful.

First, the stolen radish becomes a magic golden flower with the power to grant eternal youth and heal, and Rapunzel is born a princess who is stolen because of her magic hair by Mother Gothel. This, and the prince is now a rogue thief by the name of Flynn Rider. I won't give away anymore for those who haven't seen the movie, but I will say that I am VERY impressed with this adaptation. I loved Princess and the Frog, but this was even better in my opinion.

Now, before I can go into the film itself, I have to talk about the marketing of Tangled. First, as you'll obviously notice, the title of the film is not Rapunzel, and there's a very specific reason for that: Princess and the Frog was successful, but not as much as Disney had hoped, and this was due in majority to its being marketed to audiences as a princess (read: for little girls, melodramatic romance) movie. The androgynous title combined with the focus on humorous/action scenes and the male lead over the female in most trailers led to Tangled's marked box office success (hey, it outsold DEATHLY HALLOWS at one point!). I can vouch for this--when I saw the film, there were fathers with their sons who went to it all by themselves, not with their sisters. This movie successfully reaches all genders, as well all ages--Disney got the coveted 15 and up age range via some amazing youtube promo campaigns, including one making use of the infamous Double Rainbow viral video. If you'd like to learn more about the marketing campaign, I'd suggest watching Nolstagia Chick's newest vid about it.

On to the movie characters!

Rapunzel is voiced by one of my favorite singer-turned-actresses, Mandy Moore, who does an excellent job of getting into her character vocally. A lot of people might be put off at the idea of a well-known pop-star/actress like Moore playing her, but I've always loved Mandy Moore as an actress (Saved, Walk to Remember, and yeah, even American Dreamz). The other Disney movie musical with a famous actress playing the lead female role that I can remember is Hunchback with Demi Moore, but she never sang her own part. Mandy Moore does all of the singing, and with Alan Menken working on the songs (which are catchy without being overly cheesy) this all adds up to awesome. In addition to sporting Moore's spunky, enthusiastic voice, Rapunzel's character is a welcome departure from past Disney princesses in that she can defend herself (and does, frequently, with her handy dandy frying pan XD) and really isn't out looking for love--she's seeking out the world and trying to put together the puzzle of her identity. She's trapped in a tower, yes, but she's well-educated, skilled, and quite independent. Tiana was very similar, but there was still a lot of pointless debate about whether or not her character was empowering. With Rapunzel--the Disney canon version--I feel no such debate is warranted. If you see the film, you'll be more than likely to agree. Oh, and her animal companion? A super cute chameleon named Pascal--looks like the reptile animal bff continues (PatF's animal companions include a firefly and an alligator, and Mulan had a dragon and a crickett).

Here comes the smolder.

Flynn Rider is a roguish thief on-the-run who becomes entangled (no pun intended) in Rapunzel's world. He is voiced by Zachary Levi of Chuck fame, who does an excellent job and, holy crap, I had absolutely no idea he could sing. But he does, quite well actually! I really enjoyed Flynn's character, and I'll say one thing for Disney--leaving his past open was a crucial step in preserving the intrigue and drama of the story, and Disney played their cards right here. Rider is a bit of a Han Solo/Indiana Jones type male lead: he's too sure of himself, and is cocky, but not in an offput-ish way. He's a lovable anti-hero, similar in many ways to Aladdin (who was probably the last Disney male to be as appealing to young boys, including Levi, Flynn's voice actor!). Interesting fact: to get the right amount of "smolder" and good looks for Flynn Rider's appearance, the animation crew gathered all the female Disney employees in the studio and had them go through pictures of hot guys and pick out the sexiest features. No joke, and I think they did a really great job! Thanks, ladies!

Mother Gothel is voiced by Donna Murphy and is a fabulous villain, very much like Frollo from Hunchback (consequently also about a dark adoptive parent figure who locks their "child" in a tower). We aren't sure if she really loves Rapunzel or is just using her, and she throws us because of this. She isn't one-dimensional or as predictable as some of the run-of-the-mill evil-for-evil's-sake villains.

I can't really say anymore without giving it all away, but I can tell you that you should see this movie: The animation and visuals are breathtaking, the story is well-written, and the music stunning. It's perfect Disney magic, and you'll get a new favorite Disney princess out of it. The last time I remember this much thought and effort being put into a Disney princess film, it was Sleeping Beauty. And coming from the biggest fan of that film, that's saying a lot. To paraphrase Rapunzel, best. movie. EVER.

1 comments/comment?:

Tangled Wall Stickers said...

The movie for ll set of ages! Great movie for little girls.