The trend of overhyped, underachieving 3-D CGI films has been broken, and it took the classic Disney recipe to do it. Their latest princess film, “Tangled,” displays a fresh take on the classic story of Rapunzel and her first journey outside her keep.
Following the underperforming, though wonderful, hand-drawn ”Princess and the Frog,” Disney once again conforms to modern movie-making trends. As much as I enjoyed the classic feel to their previous film, the 3-D CGI effects created a brilliantly painted world and enticing effects, which impress even those, such as me, who remain opposed to the trend of the added “dimension.”
What really gives the film an edge on their more recent works is their return to the characteristic Disney formula. The company used to be associated with dramatic, musically-invigorating fairytales filled with action, adventure and an unrealistic, sappy love story that inspired all ages.
“Tangled” unexpectedly fulfills that brilliant formula. The simple, fun songs and strong character development keeps their tradition of animated brilliance alive, adding Rapunzel to the ranks of the elite Disney princesses.
If I had to make a complaint, however, it would be that I wanted more of the same. The catchy tunes, primarily those sung by Rapunzel, played by Mandy Moore, were mostly toward the front of the film and left me longing for more dramatic, show-stopping tunes to keep up the warm pace.
To add to the nostalgic journey, the orphaned thief Flynn Rider’s love affair with the restless princess who longs for the outside world, albeit from a lone keep rather than a palace, drew constant comparisons to Aladdin. Aided by music from Alan Menken (“Aladdin,” “Beauty and the Beast”) and an Abu-esque chameleon, the characters and antics were wonderfully familiar. Still, “Tangled” is much more than just characters plugged into an equation; the lighthearted film carried me through, entertaining and lifting my spirits from beginning to end.
One of the movie’s largest strengths is Disney’s handling of scary material. Most ‘children’s’ movies are either devoid of dark material or overproduced and too frightening for their intended audience (Disney’s “Christmas Carol,” “Megamind,” “Cars”). Though admittedly not needed in all kid flicks, the inevitable victory of good over evil is played out with poise and suspense, thrilling without succumbing to the pointless dramatics of many recent animated epics (the recent 3-D flop “The Nutcracker,” for example).
As with any quality Disney villain, Rapunzel’s kidnapper is a menacing, despicable being, able only to be loathed. Greedy, selfish and disturbing to look upon, her darkness is well-known and prevalent, yet emphasized just enough to create depth rather than terrifying intensity. Also in true Disney fashion, evil is conquered in their trademark, dramatic manner that may cause children, and a college student or two, to loosen their grip on the popcorn.
Although we would all love to have the hand-drawn excellence of our childhood back, the animated powerhouse has sent a reminder to the likes of Pixar and Dreamworks as to just who is in charge of the fairytales. Rather than succumbing to using dramatic visuals to cover up a sub-par plot, their most recent animated epic implements music, story and character development with engaging effects to capture the audience. This holiday season, amid other animated flops and disappointments, students should wrap themselves up in “Tangled” and rekindle their imaginations with Disney’s continued brilliance.