This movie has been hyped up as Disney's big return to form, especially after years of sub-par movies in the shadow of its partner studio, Pixar. I actually thought Princess and the Frog was the true return to form, but it turns out I was wrong (although I still enjoyed that movie very much). Tangled may be a return to form, but one that depends on nostalgia. Aside from the animation, the movie doesn't break any new ground or enter any new territory.
The story is pretty simple. Most of us know the Grimm's fairy tale of Rapunzel. The story revolves around a princess who is surrendered as an infant to a witch and locked in a tower, where the only known means of entrance is climbing the girl's supremely long hair up to the windows. The story here is altered a bit, with Rapunzel being a princess, and kidnapped rather than surrendered. Also of note is that Rapunzel's long hair has healing powers, due to her mother drinking an enchanted elixir while pregnant. The villain (kidnapper in this case) is Gothel, and she isn't a witch or an enchantress, but a very vain woman so consumed with being young forever. Gothel needs the power of the girl's hair in order to remain youthful looking. Move ahead 16 years later, and Rapunzel wants to see the world outside her tower, and gets her chance when a young hoodlum named Flynn Rider (originally a prince in the Grimm's tale) seeks solace in her tower while on the run.
The story, I have to say is not very original, but it is solid. There is enough development between the characters and their relationships. And while non of it is unique, it is enough to keep the story and the movie going along. Flynn Rider turns out to be a rather compelling character, one in which is so slippery that its hard to know whether or not to trust him. Although he's a thief, its only because he's something of a dreamer who thinks its possible to attain the impossible. This works in the relationship between him and Rapunzel: what she believes is impossible is actually possible, and its vice versa for him. Their relationship connects when they finally make these realizations.
Tangled is a mixture of two formulas: Disney's Princess films in the 1950's, and the modern Broadway formula in the early 1990's. They are updated further with Computer Animation. However, the CG is not the realistic "Illusion of reality" look Disney initially tried to achieve years ago, but a closer adaptation of Disney's original character designs from the previously mentioned eras. Glen Keane, who was originally one of the directors, contributes to the character designs of the film, and if you check out his blog and original drawings, the 3D characters bear a much closer resemblence to their drawn counterparts. A much appreciated breakthrough.
I have to say, when I first heard about this movie (when it was still called Rapunzel), I was curious about how they described the look of the film. Previous directors Glen Keane and Dean Wellins had stated they were working on a CG look that would capture the feel of 2D animation but with an emphasis on the look of oil paintings. I had no idea how to imagine this, but it sounded unique. What they finally have here is very nice, with a great job done on Rapunzel's hair (the much said struggles with the hair seem to have paid off). There were parts of the movie where I didn't like Rapunzel's hair, especially in the end when her hair gets cut off, and it looks all brown and pulpy (sound familiar?).
These formulas wouldn't be complete without the cute animal characters and broadway style songs which the characters break out into. Rapunzel's only friend in the tower is Pascal, a little chameleon that acts more like a cat than a lizard. The horse, Maximus, is one of my favorite characters in the movie. Maximus starts off as a loyal Royal Guard horse (acting more like a dog than a horse), fiercely tracking down the wanted Flynn, but then becoming a willing ally of Flynn, due to their mutual respect of Rapunzel. These misplaced animals personas managed to add to the enjoyment of the film.
I had problems with the songs. They just weren't memorable enough for me, even with Alan Menken, whose music many a child has grown up on. They just weren't catchy or lyrically poignant enough for me. "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid is still a great example of lyrical memorability. However, Menken has not worked with as bold a lyricist as the late Howard Ashman. I mean no disrespect to Glenn Slater, but these songs sounded more like they were playing it safe, rather than treading some new territories.
Overall, I come back to the same thing I tell everyone. The movie is good, but its not great. It may be a return to form for Disney, but its no great leap forward. I would have preferred something that broke new ground, either visually or story-wise. I give Tangled a 7 out of 10.