"Blondes Have More Fun"
"All at Once Everything Looks So Different"
Disney's 50th animated feature, Tangled (this time under the pixelated gloved hand of executive producer John Lasseter) is, literally, a whole new world. Since the Katzenberg renaissance starting with The Little Mermaid, Disney has been the ink-standard of animation, not only in the visual realm, but also in the interpretation of material, musical presentations that have fit neatly, and even surpassed, your typical Broadway fare. There have been artistic hiccups in those 50 films, but the output of Disney has been revolutionary on all fronts—the only goal not achieved being that rarest of elements—Oscar gold.
Well, Tangled won't do it. The songs (by the reliable Alan Menken and cheeky lyricist Glenn Slater) are fine, performed by the vocal perfromers Mandy Moore, Donna Murphy (great performance by someone you should know better*), and Zachary Levi (and every guy with a deep voice in L.A.). The story drags a bit in the middle with some fast derring-do and establishment of deus ex humana, but then turns amazingly sublime, and has a dramatically difficult ending—that part of Disney films that usually fall down in a tangle of fights and...falling down.
But, what is...simply...amazing...is the CGI'd presentation of the traditional animation Disney has established under the leadership of Glen Keane. It's everything you're familiar with, plumped up to three-dimensions: the simple good-looks of the heroes, the big eyed cuteness of the princess, the sultry evil of the villainess (mother-daughter manipulation is a strong sub-text here), and the manic Avery-anthropomorphism of the animal-familiars. It's perfect, like a cartoon come to life...because it has (with nicely subtle 3-D animation effects). The backgrounds pop in dimensions and colors and detail. Everything looks so amazing that at times it takes your breath away. And in two sequences: a dance in a village square, and the obligatory love song (staged as perfectly as Disney ever has, as the lovers watch as flying lanterns—the King and Queen launch them on the anniversary of their only daughter's birth—and kidnapping—as those lanterns and their reflections in the lake from which they're watching surround them in a visual expression of love...and loss), it is at the apex of what Disney can do artistically.
So, it may not be "just-so" perfect (or, since we're in the realm of fairy tales, "just right") as in "Beauty and the Beast," "Pinocchio," or your favorite Disney film, and it may not be the one to win the coveted Oscar, but it sure comes close, and the startling transformation to CG animation makes it one to see and marvel over. Just when you think Disney couldn't get any better...
Tangled is a Full-Price Ticket (I'd even spring for the 3-D presentation)
* You've seen her if you saw Star Trek: Insurrection (all 26 of you), and Spider-Man 2 (she was Dock Ock's late wife).