DVD/Blu-ray Review: “Tangled”

Tangled (Disney, 2010)

Disney’s 50th animated feature lets down its hair with Rapunzel. Does this princess earn her crown?

The Story: She does indeed, but it was a long and, umm, “tamgled” voyage to the screen. Uncle Walt had wanted to film the fairy tale. By the time the stars aligned, however, the front office, worried that “girly” movies were losing their luster (2009′s The Princess and the Frog was more the latter at the boxoffice), ordered the name change from Rapunzel to Tangled and played up the “boy” content. Fortunately the cover art (which suggests that Rapunzel, the egocentric brigand Flynn Rider, and the imperious horse Maximus are about to go seriously medieval on someone’s ass) isn’t representative of the movie. Befitting Disney’s most expensive animated production (allegedly $260 million, or about half an Avatar) there is thunderous action and several, umm, “hairbreadth” escapes (the flood sequence is a humdinger) but it’s fun-for-the-family Disney magic, co-directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard and overseen by Pixar guru John Lasseter.

As the studios run out of comic books to adapt fairy tales are the current rage among producers looking for the next big thing in live action. If Red Riding Hood is any indication, however, they have a way to go before reaching the heights of animation in this arena. Not that cartoons always get it right–even the mighty Shrek succumbed to too many glib pop culture jokes. Screenwriter Dan Fogelman has banished these from Tangled, concentrating on how Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore), abducted as an infant by the wicked Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy) for the healing and age-defying properties of her ever-expanding golden locks, is sprung from her prison aerie by Rider (Zachary Levi) and finds liberation, Disney-style. (A funny chameleon friend, Pascal, and a chorus line of tough guys with tender dreams including Ron Perlman and Richard “Jaws” Kiel, are involved.) That the computer animation has been given the warmer texture of traditional Disney pictures like Beauty and the Beast was a wise move, recalling their simpler pleasures, and the filmmakers struck gold with their leads. In her own way Moore is as enchanted as Amy Adams in her live-action vehicle, and Levi (Chuck sings!) is a good foil for her pent-up aspirations. Everyone who loves Disney villains, however, will swoon over Murphy. The great musical theatre star (soon to return to Broadway in The People in the Picture) has few opportunities in the movies or on TV to show us what she’s got, and she’s delectable here, witchy, wicked and a mite sympathetic, too. Her haughty exclamation–”Now I’m the bad guy?”–is an instant classic, and her portrait belongs in the hall of shame with Cruella and Maleficent.

Audio/Video: If you’ve bought this combo pack it’s more than likely that the DVD will be used solely for road trips and for weekend stays with Aunt Gladys. I’d say the sound and image (1.78.1 aspect ratio), combined with a smaller pool of extras, give you about $135 million worth of entertainment. The Blu-ray, however, is fit for a king. The look of the film was inspired by the lush paintings of Fragonard, and each frame is fit for a museum, not to mention your home theatre–the money is up there on the screen, and the Blu-ray lets you luxuriate in its swirls of color and fantasy. The 1080p eye candy is matched by a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack (French and Spanish options are also available) that surely bounces, pinwheels, and ricochets about your living room. With two younger-than-Tangled-age kids in the house, though, I was obliged to audit it through headphones, where it certainly kept me awake once they had gone to bed. Someday soon we’ll enjoy the full effect together. (There’s also a 3D version available if you’ve taken your gear to the next dimension.)

Special Features: Before I went Blu I used to moan and groan about all the extras I was missing when I could only watch what was on the DVD provided in the combo packs, so I sympathize with anyone who has to make do with the “original storybook entrances” provided here as the only supplement. On the other hand Disney hasn’t gone all out on Tangled. Besides the entrances featurette where the co-directors explain the genesis of a facet of the film there are (all in 1080p)  in vitro deleted scenes that were discarded at the storyboard stage, a clip show of Disney’s prior 49 animated releases, “Tangled Teasers”  (amusing throwaway bits and gags that play off scenes from the movie) and “Untangled,” a 12-minute making-of enthusiastically narrated by Moore and Levi.

Bottom Line: Despite a knotty production history Tangled emerges as a “shear” delight, particularly on Blu-ray. Look, I was off the hair puns for several paragraphs.

 




  • David_E

    Felt this was perhaps the finest non-Pixar, kid-oriented, animated film since Kung-Fu Panda … at least as far as wit and good times were concerned. Head and shoulders above the Shrek franchise for me. Another notch in Lasseter’s belt; so nice to see him up the game on the Disney side.

    … That said, goodlordwhatILMdidwithRangoisnothingshortofbreathtaking.

  • Anonymous

    This was my second favorite animated film last year, behind HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON.

  • http://robertcashill.blogspot.com BobCashill

    ..which I haven’t seen. I figure that sooner rather than later I’m going to have to see them all at the movies, so I’m refraining except for absolute necessity (like TOY STORY 3). But I’m waiting for DRAGON and RANGO (practically anagrams) to turn up on cable/DVD.

  • http://robertcashill.blogspot.com BobCashill

    ..which I haven’t seen. I figure that sooner rather than later I’m going to have to see them all at the movies, so I’m refraining except for absolute necessity (like TOY STORY 3). But I’m waiting for DRAGON and RANGO (practically anagrams) to turn up on cable/DVD.

  • David_E

    At least rent Rango on Blu-Ray. Honestly, I have never seen animation as stunning – the textures, the lighting, the shading, the motion, plus the artistry and caricature … yikes.

  • http://robertcashill.blogspot.com BobCashill

    I’m going to. May actually see it at the movies, in fact.

  • http://robertcashill.blogspot.com BobCashill

    I’m going to. May actually see it at the movies, in fact.

  • RSF Smee

    While Disney has stumbled badly in recent years — the Circle 7 debacle before they bought Pixar, the re-working of the anarchic “American Dog” into the plain “Bolt,” and of course the lavish but surprisingly unmoving “Princess & the Frog” — this particular animated delicacy shows why they’re still virtually the only studio remaining with specific name cachet. Certainly no-one goes to see “a Universal movie,” and few go to see “a Dreamworks movie,” but a few more films like Tangled in the can will ensure that many continue to demand “a Disney movie.”

  • http://robertcashill.blogspot.com BobCashill

    Studio “identity” has pretty much disappeared. Long after the Golden Age had ended you could still peg a Warner Bros. movie, or a Paramount movie; for me it all became a blur sometime in the 90s. But Disney and Pixar remain; indeed, the animated features put out by Fox, say, have their own identity, given that the same people (umm, “auteurs”) tend to put them out.