Directors: Nathan Greno & Byron Howard
Screenplay: Dan Fogelman
Voices: Mandy Moore (Rapunzel), Zachary Levi (Flynn Ryder), Donna Murphy (Mother Gothel), Ron Perlman (Stabbington Brother), M.C. Gainey (Captain of the Guard), Jeffrey Tambor (Big Nose Thug), Brad Garrett (Hook Hand Thug), Paul F. Tompkins (Short Thug), Richard Kiel (Vlad), Delaney Rose Stein (Young Rapunzel / Little Girl), Nathan Greno (Guard #1 / Thug #1), Byron Howard (Guard #2 / Thug #2), Tim Mertens (Guard #3)
MPAA Rating: PG
Year of Release: 2010
Country: U.S.
Tangled Blu-Ray + DVD Combo Pack
TangledFor Tangled, their 50th animated feature, Disney Animation has turned to “Rapunzel,” one of the last fairy tales that has not been given the big-screen Mouse House overhaul. Keeping only the slightest vestiges of the original Brothers Grimm story (including a few choice moments in which characters are allowed to bellow “Rapunzel! Rapunzel! Let down your hair!”), screenwriter Dan Fogelman (Fred Claus, Bolt) has created an entirely new backstory that puts a more modern spin on the long-haired tale, but without slipping too deep into postmodern pastiche and irony. In fact, the only real irony in the film is the title, which in no way reflects the perfectly conditioned computer-generated locks on the heroine’s head, which remain blessedly clean, smooth, and tangle-free despite being dragged all over a fairy tale kingdom.

Pop star and actress Mandy Moore lends her vocals to Rapunzel, who is snatched from the loving arms of her regal parents by a selfish old woman named Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy) who prizes the magical qualities of the girl’s hair, which were bestowed on her by a mysterious flower that saved her mother from dying during childbirth. Because she was taken when she was only an infant, Rapunzel has been led to believe that Mother Gothel is her real mother, which explains why she thinks it is perfectly normal to be locked in a tower deep in the forest and forbidden from venturing outside (the manner in which Mother Gothel manipulates Rapunzel with alternating threats and melodramatic guilt trips is a particularly sharp-edged depiction of maternal cruelty). She also doesn’t question why Mother Gothel uses her hair to achieve eternal youth, a clever new variation on the story that resonates strongly with our culture’s obsession with youth and beauty. Of course, Disney movies, particularly those featuring waifish princesses, bear plenty of culpability in perpetuating largely unobtainable stereotypes of female beauty, and Tangled’s Rapunzel is no different--not only is her hair shampoo-commercial perfect at all times, but she easily fits the slender-bodied, big-eyed beauty ideal. But, really, could we expect anything different at this point?

Rapunzel’s world is shaken with the arrival of Flynn Ryder (Zachary Levi), a dashing and handsome bandit who is trying to escape both the kingdom’s soldiers (led by M.C. Gainey’s humorless Captain of the Guard) and a pair of criminal thugs (Jeffrey Tambor and Bred Garrett) with whom he was briefly partnered. When he takes refuge in Rapunzel’s tower, she uses the opportunity to cajole him into being her guide to the outside world, although her real desire is to see an annual event in which the entire kingdom sends floating lanterns into the night sky, which unbeknownst to Rapunzel is in her memory. The fact that they are being pursued by soldiers, thugs, and Mother Gothel (whose look and mannerisms are reminiscent of Ursula from The Little Mermaid) also provides plenty of opportunities for swashbuckling, including an Indiana Jones-style sequence in and around a collapsing dam. Comic relief comes courtesy of a group of grizzled Vikings who each has a secret wish; Pascal, Rapunzel’s wordless, but extremely expressive pet chameleon; and Maximus, the Captain’s militant horse, who has a special vendetta against Flynn.

Like the traditionally animated The Princess and the Frog (2009), Tangled returns to the older style of Disney storytelling that incorporates musical numbers into the narrative. The fact that Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast) wrote all the tunes makes it feel like it’s 1990 all over again, albeit with computer-generated, rather than hand-drawn animation. This mixing of the old and the new gives Tangled a pleasant sense of nostalgia that wears well with its modern tweaks and is a welcome respite from Disney’s more desperate attempts to compete with Pixar and DreamWorks in duds like Chicken Little (2006). The half-dozen musical numbers work well with the material, particularly the Vikings’ boisterous “I’ve Got a Dream,” which allows for a comically raucous detour, and Mother Gothel’s “Mother Knows Best,” which allows Donna Murphy a chance to stretch her Broadway vocal chops while also cementing her character’s ruthlessness. It’s not hard to see where the story is going at any given time, but directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard (who previously worked together on Bolt) keep the proceedings lively, which is a blessing since the film is probably 10 minutes longer than it needs to be. But, given the fact that this is Disney’s first fling with a fairy tale adaptation since Beauty and the Beast back in 1991, you can’t begrudge them drawing it out a little.

Tangled 2-Disc DVD + Blu-Ray Combo Pack
Tangled is also available in a four-disc Combo Pack that includes Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Copy (SRP: $49.99).
Aspect Ratio1.78:1
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround
  • French DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround
  • Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround
  • SubtitlesEnglish, French, Spanish
  • Untangled: The Making of a Fairy Tale
  • Three deleted scenes
  • Two extended songs
  • Two alternate openings
  • “50th Animated Feature Countdown” video montage
  • Nine teaser trailers
  • DistributorWalt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
    Release DateMarch 29, 2010

    Disney’s high-def digital port of Tangled looks gorgeous. The image is sharp, clear, and incredibly well detailed, with particularly impressive rendering of various surfaces, whether it be the subtly rough nature of the walls inside Rapunzel’s tower or the hair--oh, the hair, all the hair! While the characters are intentionally cartoonish in nature, a great deal of effort was obviously exerted in rendering both Rapunzel’s and Flynn Rider’s follicles, which are impressively photorealistic. Colors are bright and beautifully saturated while maintaining a realistic feel. The lossless DTS Master Audio 7.1-channel surround soundtrack is also top-notch, with great separation and depth to give the musical numbers room to soar and plenty of activity in the low end during the action sequences, particularly the collapsing of the dam.
    While Disney has been exceptional in putting together extensive supplementary sections for their release of classic films, they have come up quite short with the Blu-Ray release of Tangled, which offers very little in terms of behind-the-scenes information. The 12-minute featurette “Untangled: The Making of a Fairy Tale” is a decidedly kid-centric affair, with stars Mandy Moore and Zach Levi cutting up in front of the camera and playing silly trivia games (one of which seems to be wrong--they say that The Great Mouse Detective from 1986 was the first Disney animated film to employ CGI, but I had always thought that The Black Cauldron, released a year earlier, feature computer-generated fire). There is some lip service paid to the film’s production, as we get a few brief interview snippets with directors Byron Howard and Nathan Greno, supervising animator Glen Keane, actress Donna Murphy, and hair simulation supervisor Kelly Ward. Howard and Greno also introduce three deleted scenes, none of which made it past the storyboard stage (they are presented as rough animatics with temp soundtracks). Howard and Greno also introduce rough versions of two alternate openings, both of which are traditional “storybook openings,” bits and pieces of which wound up in the finished film, as well as extended versions of the songs “When Will My Life Begin?” and “Mother Knows Best.” Finally, there are nine Tangled teasers, quirky and often very funny 60-second commercials for the film that spoof infomercials, news broadcasts, educational films, and the like, as well as a two-minute musical montage of clips from all 50 of Disney’s animated feature films.

    Copyright ©2011 James Kendrick

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    All images copyright © Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Overall Rating: (3)

    James Kendrick

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