That pun was just too obvious but I couldn't help myself.
Last year I fell just a little bit in love with Disney's back-to-roots princess animation story "The Princess and the Frog", which, though not one of my FAVORITE films of the year, was absolutely lovely. To be honest though, my love for that movie is kind of what made me worry about "Tangled". It seemed to me like Disney was going for a snarky Shrek kind of thing, and I was sort of upset - that sort of thing is better for Dreamworks, and after proving how well they could do it the old-fashioned way, why go back to the same old generic thing?
Thankfully, my reservations were proven to be somewhat incorrect, though after watching Disney's 50th Animated Film EVER I have an entirely new set of scruples.
"Tangled" is, as you all surely already know, a reinvention of the Rapunzel story. Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) is a girl whose hair has magical healing properties due to a flower that healed her mom during pregnancy. Her parents, the king and queen of a kingdom, lost Rapunzel when the evil Mother Goethel (Donna Murphy) stole her as a baby to keep her powers to herself. Of course, Rapunzel yearns to be free, and on her 18th birthday, she decides to sneak out of her tower, with the help of a bandit named Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) who accidentally lands up there while escaping the king's guards.
This reinvention of the Rapunzel story is quite successful and works perfectly as the vehicle for the typical Disney romance. Duh, Flynn and Rapunzel fall in love and whatnot, but for some reason it doesn't feel corny or anything. A lot of this is due to the technical brilliance of the animation. The movie is so refreshingly colorful and carefully animated - though Rapunzel's hair may not be a consistent length, as my sister lamented, it is still captivating to watch. CGI is very rarely beautiful, and I'm pleased to say that this film achieves some rather aesthetically gorgeous moments.
And Mother Goethel is, simply, one of the best Disney villains in recent years. Where "Princess and the Frog" and even in some ways, "Enchanted" fell slightly short was the very one-dimensional nature of their villains. 'Tis not the case here! The maternal relationship that Rapunzel has with Goethel is rather compelling - we can't forget that she is basically the only mother that she's ever known - and seeing the affection, such as hugs and kind words, between them, makes the villainship so much more horrifying and perfect. Of course, Donna Murphy's brilliant voice work is much to credit for why Goethel is such a great character. She's over the top, she sings wonderfully, and she nails every line.
Sadly, such laurels cannot be awarded to Mandy Moore. Her Rapunzel is occasionally quite good, but too often she sounds whiny, or even worse - as though she's not getting into it enough, which leaves the viewer feeling super distanced from the character. This happens especially during the musical numbers. Her singing voice (at least in my opinion) is kind of annoying, with this weird airyness that is just not convincing.
This leads to another problem with the movie - it doesn't seem committed enough to being a musical! The songs are fine, if not somewhat unmemorable (I mean, it's hard to say anything bad about Alan Menken), but somehow in the context of the entire narrative, they don't feel natural or necessary enough. However, Mother Goethel's song "Mother Knows Best" is probably the best in the movie; it's funny, creepy, and its animation sequence is tight and clever. On the other hand, the movie's musical non-singing score is quite fitting and often transcendent.
Of course, that's not to say that I didn't like the movie. I very much did, and I guess I almost started crying at the end (I'm a leaky faucet though, so don't mind me...). I suppose I'm just trying to identify the reasons it didn't lodge itself into my heart like I would have expected. It's good in so many ways, and it did not fail in the ways I expected - it just didn't reach the level of quality that perhaps it could have. I'm honestly a bit conflicted about it, but I would recommend it even if only so you all will be able to discuss it with me and help me figure it out. Haha!