John Lasseter as executive producer? Original music by Alan Menken? Tangled may well be the first in a new line of animated films infusing Disney fairytale storytelling with Pixar know-how (yes, it’s that good.)
After stealing a jewel-encrusted crown from the royal palace, Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) and the Stabbington Brothers (Ron Perlman) flee for their lives into the woodlands beyond the city. Flynn gets separated from his cohorts by a horse who’s too clever for his own good, enabling the thief to discover a hidden cove with a lone tower. Flynn scales the outer wall hoping for merely a safe place to hide out, but what he finds instead is a determined young woman named Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) with a serious case of cabin fever and in desperate need of a haircut.
At face value, Tangled appears to be just another in a long line of 3D animated flicks studios seems to be cranking out these days (never mind that they’re being better reviewed and making more money than many live flicks.) But it becomes apparent that the advertising for Tangled gives away almost nothing that audiences are in store for (example: did you know it was a musical? You won’t mind… the songs are seamless.) After the lackluster performance but earnest effort of The Princess and the Frog, it’s safe to say that the frozen head of Walt Disney should be smiling right now.
With his charm played up as a capable rogue rather than the unready spy fans of NBC’s “Chuck” are used to, Zachary Levi is surprisingly well-suited to ladies’ man and rogue Flynn Rider. With a tone that never sounds insincere, he gets away with lines no one should. Mandy Moore’s predisposed princess Rapunzel is flirty and fun, happily innocent about discovering wondrous new things but still clever enough not to be taken advantage of. The chemistry between the two feeds on itself, and when their inevitable separation finally occurs, you can hear the loss in both vocal performances; coupled with what happens on screen, it would take an awfully black heart not to feel something.
Speaking of villainy, what would a Disney princess flick be without one? Donna Murphy provides both vocals and singing voice for Mother Gothel, Rapunzel’s confidant and keeper. Gothel’s manipulation of Rapunzel is as thorough as it is sinister, and Murphy lays it on thick without having to lift much of a finger. It’s true, however, that Tangled relies on Disney’s tried and true themes. We’ve seen it all before (rogue hero, lost princess, magic flower, and animals too smart for their own good), but it’s been a while since we’ve seen it done this well… or with this much hair.
(a three and a half skull recommendation out of four)