The classic animated film is something that Disney has slowly been attempting to become reacquainted with ever since abandoning its failing endeavors at churning out direct-to-DVD sequels based on their catalog of classics. So far this has given us two films, PRINCESS AND THE FROG, which didn’t do nearly as well as they had hoped but managed to capture peoples’ fascination regardless. And now there is TANGLED, their first foray into 3D animation outside of their partnership with Pixar. Fortunately for Disney, despite this being their second most expensive film ever made it managed to be their highest grossing animated film. Certainly a feat that nobody would have predicted after the disappointment in PRINCESS AND THE FROG’s tenure at the box office.
When the kingdom’s most wanted—and most charming—bandit Flynn Rider (voice of ZACHARY LEVI) hides out in a mysterious tower, he’s taken hostage by Rapunzel (voice of MANDY MOORE), a beautiful and feisty tower-bound teen with 70 feet of magical, golden hair. Flynn’s curious captor, who’s looking for her ticket out of the tower she’s been locked away in for years, strikes a deal with the handsome thief, and the unlikely duo sets off on an action-packed escapade, complete with a super-cop horse, an overprotective chameleon and a gruff gang of pub thugs. Tangled is a story of adventure, heart, humor and hair—lots of hair.
In a switch of their usual animated classics, Disney sought to make this movie appeal to both genders rather than simply giving girls another Disney Princess to perpetuate shallow ideologies. They most managed to accomplish this as both Flynn (Zachary Levi) and Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) had almost equal attempts to make them individuals, but it still didn’t come across so well. Flynn was supposed to be made mysterious and sauve, but ultimately came off as predictable and dull. His very introduction into the movie isn’t anything real special, and by the end of the movie he’s less a strong male lead and more a supporting character. You simply need more than a vastly outdated Mission Impossible joke in order to introduce a character that won’t have much backstory. Rapunzel, obviously, fairs slightly better as we’re given her complete origin, but it bugged me a little. In order to make her a Princess, Disney had to create a backstory that tapped into the original story of Rapunzel. This is fine, but annoyingly the majority of her origin felt nothing more than lifted from Disney’s 1997 animated film HERCULES. I kept waiting for the King to start throwing lightning bolts at any given moment.
The cast is mostly small, but each voice actor gives a fairly strong performance. Mandy Moore certainly surprises as the voice of Rapunzel, I had thought she faded into obscurity but apparently she has actually been occupied with a flourishing acting career. It makes for a vast difference compared to some of her popstar peers that have sought out an acting career, much to the dismay of several audiences. Moore also lends her vocal talents for the few songs that are in the movie making for a flawless transition from normal dialogue to exceptional singing. Zachary Levi, most famous for his role on CHUCK, brings a verbal charm to Flynn that doesn’t always seem to adapt well to the character’s mannerisms. Although, I am willing to chalk that up to my own failure as I am a fan of CHUCK and it was jarring to hear Levi’s disembodied voice.
The supporting cast is… pretty much just Donna Murphy as Mother Gothel, whose performance makes up for the majority of appeal that can be given to this character. The concept for Gothel seemed confused and probably would have been better if they had simply stuck with her being a witch, as the original story of Rapunzel set her as. I guess they wanted her to be more of a natural threat than supernatural, but the very start of the movie makes it confusing given that somehow her character knows exactly what to sing to the mystical mcguffin in order to make it work. It would be easy to assume that, as a witch, she would have some sort of supernatural insight. But she’s supposed to be a normal human, so I guess the flower simply came with a sheet of music complete with lyrics? It’s simply not good to have people asking “why?” from the start of your movie, to an aspect that apparently isn’t supposed to be important. Oddly, Gothel is really the only supporting cast, since the rest are either non-speaking animals or have several limited screentime.
The pair of supporting animals manage to both bring some creative humor to the movie, but they also manage to come across as lazy attempts to create iconic critters. Pascal, Rapunzel’s pet chameleon, is the obligatory animal comedy relief and is generally used well throughout the movie, but seems conveniently forgotten when there’s a scene that they have no idea how to fit him into. The other animal, a military horse named Maximus that is hunting Flynn, actually bugged me. Although there are a few scenes with Maximus that shine, he ultimately comes across as painfully contrived and added unnecessary hijinks to the film, which ruined several scenes.
Overall, I can only say it was an okay movie. It was mostly entertaining and had some good jokes, but it seemed somewhat aimless and not entirely thought out. When it comes to strong male leads, they don’t really manage to live up to their own 1992 film ALADDIN, and Rapunzel’s own story just comes across as a lazy reuse of their own version of HERCULES. The talented voice acting does manage to keep you watching despite a lack of truly noteworthy scenes, but then I found myself bored by the songs which seemed brief, unnecessary, and just unmemorable. Disney definitely has a long way to go in order to get back to making “classics,” which I don’t see this movie as ever becoming one. I can only recommend it as a Rental.
Disney unleashes Tangled on Blu-ray in the greatest combo-pack of all: Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy. All four in one box is a definite treat, plus you have a nice reflective foil/embossed slipcover on the outside to help pop off the shelves. Regardless if you have a Blu-ray player right now, definitely pick up this release over the others—it doesn’t even matter at this point since it comes with a normal DVD copy as well, so once you do upgrade you’ll be able to drop your jaw at the Blu-ray clarity without having to fork over more money. Inside the set is the usual assortment of inserts and whatnot, but nothing overly exciting unless you really like looking at advertisements. In the event you want neither the 3D Blu-ray or the Digital Copy, then there is a Blu-ray + DVD only set (which is what I’ll be reviewing).
Video arrives in the form of an AVC encoded 1080p transfer that…well, there’s no real way around it. This video combined with the audio (a DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix) make for what is yet another beautiful demo disk for a home theater. Animation has always been the pinnacle of showing off what the digital disc format is capable of, but this is just truly stunning. Not only is the animation itself flawless, but so is the transfer with just rampant amounts of detail, clarity and a color palette is earthy and rich as well as bright and showy. Without a doubt this is a true representation of just how beautiful a Blu-ray can look, and at this point I doubt we’d expect any different from Disney. I could go on and on about the image depth and clarity or remark about how solid the sound field is in the 7.1 mix or talk about the throaty LFE output…but I won’t. I’ve said the same thing about past Disney releases (both animated and live action) and it still holds true to this day—Disney simply makes astounding looking and sounding Blu-ray’s.
The extras are great as well. Included:
• Untangled: The Making of a Fairy Tale – Exactly how long is Rapunzel’s hair? How many lanterns were used? Where did Pascal’s name come from? Which Disney animated feature first utilized CG animation? These and more will be answered when Mandy Moore and Zach Levi take viewers on a kooky behind-the-scenes tour to learn how the filmmakers styled this film’s “Golden Tresses.”
• Deleted Scenes – Co-directors Byron Howard and Nathan Greno introduce three scenes and illuminate why they were ultimately cut. (The Jaunty Moose, Chemistry Develops, “Vigor The Visionary”)
• Extended Songs – The complete versions of two great songs are shared in a unique feature that explains the co-directors decision to scale them down. (“When Will My Life Begin,” “Mother Knows Best”)
• Two Original Storybook Openings – Two alternate versions of the film’s opening sequence described by co-directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard.
• 50th Animated Feature Countdown – A video montage celebrating Tangled as the 50th film to join The Walt Disney Studios’ prestigious lineup of classic animated features.
• 9 Tangled Teasers – A collection of the most unique and quirky commercials made for the theatrical release of “Tangled.” Some are spoofs based off of infomercials and/or breaking news, some are teasers and others are simply just funny filmstrips.
Admittedly the extras here definitely aren’t the same strength as other Disney releases and they tend to lean towards the more superfluous end of things, but they’re still entertaining in some degree. There’s less than an hours’ worth of extras here and only about thirteen minutes of that is actual making-of style goodness; the rest is the usual deleted scene/song bits and other advertising material. Kind of a shame we didn’t get a commentary (especially since, as the extras point out, this is the 50th animated film by Walt Disney Studios’), but at the same time I’m not overly surprised as despite this films venerable box office intake, it didn’t seem to pop with the Disney aficionados that I know. Not to say this isn’t a great film as I definitely enjoyed it a lot, but it doesn’t have the same kind of weight as the classics…but this is still definitely a Highly Recommended disc regardless, as the A/V presentation alone is quite beautiful.
Tangled arrives on Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy, Blu-ray/DVD, and DVD on March 29th.
Film review by Andrew
Blu-ray review by Zach Demeter