'Tangled,' opening Wednesday, finds the just-right balance between sentiment and satire, action and romance. Plus it's pretty.
I don't feel like writing a review of "Tangled." I feel like throwing it a parade. This Disney makeover of "Rapunzel" is a joyous, gorgeous, glorious extravaganza. The animation is as bouncy as a tetherball, the script is a winning blend of satire and schmaltz. And Mandy Moore, who supplies the long-haired lass' vocals, has a voice that caresses your ear like a cashmere mitten. Where can I get a street permit and hire a marching band?
Deconstructing familiar legends is standard procedure in this post-"Shrek" era, but "Tangled" is so fresh and boisterous in tweaking fairy tale clichés that it feels novel. The film, produced by Pixar founder John Lasseter, braids the once-upon-a-time romanticism of Disney tradition with a quick-witted modern sensibility. "Tangled" gives us the studio's first digitally animated princess, a roguish bandit antihero and humor with a sassy edge. It is rated PG, downright risqué for the Mouse House.
In this retelling, Rapunzel is stolen from her royal parents by Gothel (Broadway veteran Donna Murphy), a crone who uses the tower-bound teen's golden hair to remain youthful forever. In her own way, Gothel is scarier than Snow White's wicked stepmother. She doesn't cast spells; she's fully capable of manipulating, guilt-tripping and emotionally undermining the girl, who has grown up believing this malicious Medusa is her mother. Still, like any grounded-for-life teen, Rapunzel dreams of escape.
She gets her wish when highwayman Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi of TV's "Chuck") climbs up to evade the law. He's a vain, charismatic scoundrel, exasperated that his portrait on "Wanted" posters never gets his aquiline nose right. Over the course of terrific adventures, the cocky outlaw teaches her about courage and she curbs his scofflaw ways by repeatedly clocking him on the skull with her frying pan.
The female and male characters are equally strong and funny, a hallmark of "Tangled's" harmonious design. The movie keeps swashbuckling action and Alan Menken character songs in perfect balance, gently lampooning both. By rights, the two strands of material ought to be incompatible. Instead they're delightful. When Rapunzel sings about her dreams, the old familiar Disney bluebird of happiness flutters by -- repeatedly. Later, a pub full of knaves and brutes burst into song to describe their own fantasies. Rider is relentlessly pursued by Maximus, a palace guard's gruff, superhero horse. With their fractious free-for-alls and endless one-upmanship, they're a classic comedy duo.
"Tangled" has impressive visual appeal, from the warm Mediterranean glow of the landscapes to the handsome character designs. A romantic boat ride beneath a constellation of floating lanterns is one of the more breathtaking episodes of gratuitous beauty this side of "Avatar's" phosphorescent forest. A thunderous dam collapse and flood is strikingly vivid and exciting. "Tangled" is pretty enough for girls, lively enough for boys and clever enough for older, wiser audiences. Don't even think of missing this one.
Colin Covert • 612-673-7186