The familiar Disney princess formula (think "Cinderella," "Beauty and the Beast," etc.) gets a contemporary rinse and perm with this delightful adaptation of the classic Brothers Grimm fairytale "Rapunzel." Impressive CGI animation (3D in many theaters) and a company of incredibly appealing characters help make "Tangled" easily one of the year's best family films.
Kidnapped as a baby by the devious and manipulative Mother Gothel (voice of Donna Murphy) and isolated from the world, Rapunzel (voice of Mandy Moore) wants nothing more than freedom when her 18th birthday dawns. Gothel -- acting the part of Rapunzel's mother -- hungers for the rejuvenating effects sung (literally) from the girl's magical golden hair and forbids her from trimming her ever-growing locks. The hide-and-seek games Rapunzel plays with her pet chameleon Pascal can entertain for only so long, and a desire to see beyond her walls quickly consumes her.
Fate intercedes when charming thief Flynn Rider (voice of Zachary Levi) happens upon Rapunzel's tower after escaping from the king's castle with a valuable object. (Gothel is conveniently away on a three-day sojourn.) Rapunzel, naturally, clobbers the mysterious trespasser and binds him with her multi-use hair. The two reach an agreement: He'll escort her to town so she can see firsthand the myriad floating lanterns that annually appear in the sky outside her window, and she'll give him back his pilfered prize.
Let the adventure begin.
The four main characters -- Rapunzel, Flynn, Pascal and a determined horse named Maximus that pursues Flynn relentlessly -- make a thoroughly enjoyable quartet. Rapunzel is innocent yet strong, naive yet confident. She is a terrific heroine in the Disney vein who is very easy to sympathize with (the big green eyes don't hurt).
Flynn talks in a laid-back way that helps make his character both likable and relatable. Neither Pascal nor Maximus speak, but each uses body language to great and often hilarious effect. The dynamic that develops between Flynn and Maximus is wonderful. Gothel, though, is too one-dimensional and generic.
Although the animation isn't quite up to Pixar standards, it's close, which isn't a surprise considering the involvement of executive producer (and Pixar genius) John Lasseter. The filmmakers and animators also use Rapunzel's hair in an array of creative and visually impressive ways, whether she's swinging over a cavern or swimming through a canal. Clever scenes abound, especially those involving rapscallions from the Snuggly Duckling pub or Rapunzel's surprisingly useful frying pan.
The music -- generally a Disney strength -- is rather uninspired. While "I've Got a Dream" (featuring the pub thugs) is witty and fun, other tunes include lyrics with all the creativity spotted on the back of a cereal box. Where's Randy Newman when you need him? The 3D doesn't improve the film substantially except in one memorable moment when two radiant lanterns drift and dance together. The scene is subtle but effective.
Kudos to Disney for bringing Rapunzel to the big screen in a way that made this viewer smile from ear to ear. Long hair hasn't been this much fun since Woodstock.