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Tuesday, February 08, 2011


One is used to seeing Disney animated flicks showing "the inevitable" interactions between distinct fictional princesses and animals: one singing along with warbling birds (Snow White), the other one sewing party gowns with adroit mice (Cinderella), and another befriending jazz-playing alligator and talking insects (The Princess and the Frog). And, so to speak, 2010's musical animation Tangled — in which a chameleon named Pascal and a horse called Maximus play part — is no exception. But that is not to say it will always be just fine to see these animal characters steal the spotlight from whom it's supposed to be in.

Tangled, billed as the 50th animated motion feature of Walt Disney Animation Studios with a staggering $260-million budget (said to be the biggest for an animated film so far), chronicles the story of Rapunzel (Mandy Moore). But unlike the Brothers Grimm's version, this one has an agreeable twist. Here, Rapunzel's story starts with the single drop of sun from which a magical flower with the ability to make someone young and healthy sprang up. This special flower, which manifests its power by singing a particular song to it, was kept by an old lady known as Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy) to herself in order to store her youth and beauty for hundreds of years. One day, the Queen got very ill while she was carrying Rapunzel, and so the whole kingdom searched for a cure. Luckily, they found the magical flower and brought it to the castle. With it the Queen was restored to health.

The magical power of the flower was transferred to Rapunzel through her golden hair. Mother Gothel, determined to get back her "flower," figured that Rapunzel's golden hair loses its magic when cut so she kidnapped Rapunzel. Although bent on perpetually secluding Rapunzel in a tower deep in the forest, Mother Gothel do call her her "daughter." There is an undercurrent of warmth to the way she talks to her but that sense is always immediately withdrawn (the way she calls her "flower" does sound very affectionate), just like how it goes to other Disney villains. One is curious though why the film doesn't establish the rationality in her "lifelong" purpose of staying young and lovely.

The story speaks to those who are experiencing the inexplicable dilemma of adolescence, that point wherein choosing what path to take is very hard. In my book, latching onto the topic of "creating new dreams" is a fresh take on that somehow common theme of films to date. Having said this, Disney's decision to change the film's title to Tangled from the original Rapunzel is a recognition of its diverse audience and therefore positive for its commercial strand.

Rapunzel's adventure in the film begins when she finally had the guts to go out of the tower and see for herself the lanterns she mistook for stars. She is accompanied by her guide Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) — who somewhere in the middle discloses to Rapunzel that Eugene Fitzgerbert [sorry, not so sure with the spelling] is his real name — and her very supportive pet-slash-friend Pascal. Then along the way they meet Maximus, a palace horse that is at first dead set against seeing Rider on the loose after stealing the lost princess' crown.

Writer Dan Fogelman is undeniably a good storyteller, with virtually all of the film's smartly rendered characters, save for the palace horse whose character is somewhat over the top. He probably set out to make the film funnier by creating Maximus a smart horse, if not smarter than a human being it supposedly plays a sidekick of. The horse indeed has funny antics here and there, but most of the time, it just becomes exasperatingly brash. Directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard did deliver on making the film engaging from beginning to end, but somehow fail in that cop-out ending.

The music provided by Alan Menken is ace. The songs and the performances — especially the lengthy "Mother Knows Best" (including the "Reprise") by Mother Gothel and the "Incantation Song," simply termed the "special flower song" — will stick with you.

Tangled's animation team greatly deserves an applause for the fusion of the classic hand-drawn animation and the modern-day CG animation in the film. One is greatly impressed by the effect done by 3D on the characters' hairs (lots of them when it comes to Rapunzel), which says that a great deal of effort is exerted on that part.

All in all, the film is fun (memorable and inspiring, I personally say). Highly recommended.

(Image from here)