The best non-Pixar Disney movie since 1994’s The Lion King, Tangled is an effortlessly captivating and frequently breathtaking throwback to the studio’s fairy-tale-inspired films of yesteryear. It’s clear right from the film’s opening minutes that Tangled marks a substantial improvement over such entertaining (yet underwhelming) contemporary Disney efforts as 2004’s Home on the Range, 2005’s Chicken Little, and 2008’s Bolt, as directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard kick things off with a brilliantly conceived and executed sequence that immediately captures the viewer’s interest.
From there, Tangled only gets better and more involving as the filmmakers effortlessly blend the old-fashioned sensibilities of classic Disney with the brisk pace and emphasis on comedy that modern audiences have come to associate with the animation genre. It’s also difficult to recall a computer-generated animated film that has so successfully managed to evoke the feel of hand-drawn animation without sacrificing the eye-popping visuals that CGI has become known for, which ensures that Tangled instantly joins the ranks of such beloved animation classics as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Inspired by the Brothers Grimm fairy tale Rapunzel, Tangled unfolds in a magical realm where an evil witch named Gothel (Donna Murphy) has managed to stay eternally young thanks to a special healing plant. But after the kingdom’s Queen almost dies during childbirth, the King sends out his men to retrieve the plant and uses it save the lives of both his wife and his newborn daughter, Rapunzel. This obviously doesn’t sit well with Gothel, and the villainous witch, after learning that the baby now possesses the plant’s healing powers, kidnaps the kid and locks her away in a hidden tower.
Years later, on the eve of Rapunzel’s (Mandy Moore) 18th birthday, Gothel embarks on a three-day journey to find a gift for her “daughter.” (Rapunzel has been raised to believe that not only is Gothel her mother, but that the outside world is dangerous and full of people looking to steal her hair.) It’s during this time that a lovable thief named Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) bursts into Rapunzel’s life, as he attempts to escape from his various pursuers by hiding in her remote tower. Though initially suspicious of Flynn's intentions, Rapunzel eventually embarks on a whirlwind tour of the outside world with her new friend – though Gothel isn’t going to let her own personal fountain of youth escape without a fight.
The Voice Cast
Rather than populate the voice cast with A-list celebrities, Greno and Howard have instead chosen to fill the various roles with performers who are best able to embody their respective characters. This is certainly true of Mandy Moore’s turn as Rapunzel, as the singer-turned-actress does a phenomenal job of portraying her character’s wide-eyed innocence and open-hearted personality. (And, of course, it doesn’t hurt that she sings the heck out of the film’s various musical numbers.) The real surprise here, however, is Zachary Levi’s work as Flynn; best known for the NBC series Chuck, Levi effortlessly captures the character’s transformation from a vain (yet charismatic) rogue to a compassionate love interest.
The Bottom Line
Ever since they first hit the animation scene back in 1995 with Toy Story, Pixar’s various competitors – including Disney – have been working diligently to match the company’s level of quality and consistency. And although DreamWorks Animation came awfully close with 2010’s How to Train Your Dragon, Tangled marks the first time that a studio other than Pixar has managed to craft an animated endeavor that holds just as much appeal for adults as it does for children. And, like the best films that Pixar has to offer, Tangled often packs a far more emotional punch than anyone could have reasonably expected – with the finale, in particular, sure to provoke a tear or two in even the most stoic of viewers. It’s consequently not a stretch to label Tangled an animated masterpiece that will undoubtedly be remembered in the years and decades to come, and we can only hope that this marks the beginning of a whole new phase in Disney’s output.
Tangled was directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard and is rated PG for brief mild violence.
Theatrical Release Date: November 24, 2010