After Disney’s brief return to “classic” animation with The Princess and the Frog, they have again returned to their roots with their latest fairy-tale production, Tangled. It has been a while since Disney has revamped a non-original story for an animated feature film (correct me if I am wrong, but the last one was either Treasure Planet or Tarzan depending on your definition of original). While this film may not become the Disney-defining classic like many of the others in the princess genre, it is a fun family film and one worth seeing for any Disney fan.
While the film’s story is known to most, Disney does (as they always do) a great job of adding periphery to the central plot. These additions take this film over the hill of mediocrity that is so hard to overcome in the animation genre. One of the best (and funniest) additions to the traditional fable is the group of ruffians that Rapunzel and Flynn (the male lead) meet at the local watering hole. These battle-scarred heathens reveal a soft-side and a desire to be more than oafish brutes. They express their dreams in a song that was the result of another great Disney reunion. The brilliant mind behind the scores of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin returns to write the music that gives this movie that old Disney feeling. Alan Menken returns and creates a musical set that is not superfluous but essential and that pushes the plot forward. In the end, Disney does its best work, as they always do, in the telling of the story.
Rapunzel has become a typical teenage girl with aspirations of adventure and dreams that she cannot wait to follow after. This is essential in the film’s overall theme. She grapples with worrying that her dreams may not be all that she has imagined, but she also takes it a step further. She wonders what the rest of her life will be if her dreams are realized. Will that be the end of the adventure? What will she strive toward? Flynn answers clearly that regardless, she should just keep on dreaming and passionately following after those dreams. Maybe it is because I come from the generation that has been deemed too lazy to reach their dreams. Or maybe it is because as a recent college graduate in a struggling economy I am one of many trying to figure out which dream I should follow. Whatever the reason, the fact that this film’s theme was more than “follow your dreams and good things will happen,” struck a chord with me. The film took the next step to ask “then what?” and offered a compelling answer.
Disney has been criticized of late of catering too much towards the “little princesses.” While this movie will not help these claims, it will still be seen as a success. Disney was able to revisit the princess genre and do so in a way that was neither dull nor predictable, but fresh and engaging. This isn’t one that I will watch again and again, but it is definitely one that “little princesses” (and even little princes) will enjoy. Hopefully they aren’t too little to miss the great message.
3 Stars out of 5
Contributed by: James N.(NDI#82). James is the Disney Driven Life’s resident movie reviewer and creator of The CLAWtomic BAUM Movie Reviews Blog.