In another year, Tangled would have been the most talked about animated film of the year. In a different year, it may have won Best Animated Film at the Oscars, and its vocals from stars Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi might have wowed audiences in the Best Song category. Unfortunately, we’re talking about 2010, a year when rival DreamWorks Pictures came out with the fast-paced and poignant adventure, How To Train Your Dragon, and a year when friendly fire overwhelmed Tangled in the form of Toy Story 3. Just because Toy Story 3 and How to Train Your Dragon were phenomenal doesn’t mean Tangled isn’t worth your time, however. For what it is -- a charming return to classic Disney roots coupled with some post-2000 vivid humor -- Tangled works nearly perfectly. Even better, it will be worth your time, over and over again.
If instincts are correct, Tangled will one day be a classic Disney film -- the movie has great re-watch value, whereas some of Disney’s more recent efforts, like The Princess and The Frog, Bolt, and Brother Bear, do not. However, Tangled is less of a classic story than one should expect from a movie based on the fairy tale, Rapunzel.
Tangled is the story of a long-haired Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore) who is stolen from her royal parents as a baby by a selfish woman named Mother Gothel (v. Donna Murphy), who discovers touching Rapunzel’s hair works like the Fountain of Youth, if only for a short while. The two live happily for a time in a godforsaken tower; Rapunzel learns to bake, paint, and use her time wisely, while her "mother" learns how much time she can avoid the tower between visits to maintain her youth. Flash-forward 18 years and Rapunzel is a young woman yearning for a little freedom. Every year on her birthday, she notices a stream of lights filling the night sky. Rapunzel decides she would like to see the lights in person, but with Gothel against Rapunzel leaving, things settle down for a bit.
Enter Flynn Rider (v. Zachary Levi), a handsome and hilarious thief who has recently angered the crown by stealing, well, a crown. As Rider runs away from the King’s soldiers, he happens upon Rapunzel’s tower. Rather than getting the basic “Let down your hair” plotline, Rapunzel first beats up Rider and then decides to escape with him to see the lights. Plenty of adventure follows, including the inevitable Disney animal sidekicks and several meh-to-great tunes by Alan Menken. This sounds formulaic, but you can definitely tell there was Lasseter/Pixar influence that went into the film’s making, especially through its script.
As far as adventure goes, Tangled earns an A. Even better, Tangled is the most expensive animated film ever made, and it shows. Shots of water display the sun shining on its surface, magic flowers emanate a realistic glow, and even Flynn Rider’s boots show wear and tear. Grass has movement and backgrounds have depth. Audiences could theoretically watch any scene a tenth time and notice something they didn’t see the nine times before. For detail-oriented people, this is incredible, although for everyone else, any noticed detail is a bonus. Just know how insanely well thought-out the animation in Tangled truly is.
Unfortunately, Tangled isn’t perfect. Its weakness lies in a few flaws that are easy to forgive but hard to miss. Like Beast in Beauty and the Beast, our male protagonist, Flynn, isn’t really opened up as a character until the film has already figured out its pace. Unlike Beauty and the Beast, this means the romance between Flynn and Rapunzel is rather hurried, possibly because their adventure is based on a seemingly short road trip. Mother Gothel is more of a complicated evil than many kids could understand, and the fact that she stretches her evil plan out when she could end it immediately just seems illogical. As far as the music goes, Menken’s “I’ve Got a Dream” and “I See the Light” both work well, but the rest of the soundtrack is unremarkable. These few things don’t particularly deter from Tangled as a whole, but they do go a long way to explain why the film didn’t get quite as much buzz as Toy Story 3 or How to Train Your Dragon. Although it does leave room to wonder what would have happened if Tangled were competing with Cars 2 and Rango.
It goes without saying Blu-Ray picture is so much better than a regular DVD, but it takes a viewing of the DVD directly prior to the viewing of the Blu-Ray to really prove this. Luckily, Disney includes a DVD with the Blu-Ray copy, and so that is exactly what I did. The picture on the Blu-Ray is up to par with theater quality, and the visuals are so crisp they seem to have depth. It's also great that Tangled isn’t a Disney Diamond Edition, so we aren’t encumbered with the added cost of a digital disc. To me, digital discs are unnecessary; I can always pop the DVD into my computer if I really desire to watch it that way (although I understand this may not be true of everyone). Weirdly, Disney includes a commercial for digital copies on the Blu-Ray disc for Tangled, though the film doesn’t come with one.
The first real bonus features are the deleted scenes. These are actually really good and come with commentary; however, they are in various stages of completion, and most aren’t even fully actualized. After the deleted scenes are some segments on ideas for the original opening, which was supposed to be a storybook opening, as has occurred in past Disney films. They eventually opted, I think rightly, for a fresher idea, but the storybook openings are still cool.
Tangled is the 50th film Disney has produced, and so the third segment is an homage to all of the company’s past films. There are quick shots of some of the most memorable moments in Disney's film history, which is definitely nostalgic and worth watching. Then, there is a featurette on the making of Tangled, which is actually less informative than standard Disney fare. The disc closes with a ton of teaser trailers that are all truly bizarre. One is a perfume ad, one is like a '40s pre-movie newsreel, one is a “breaking news” trailer set up like a car chase, one is a real-estate add for the tower, etc. If these were actually used to market the film, I never saw them. I wouldn’t be shocked if they were just saved for this disc.
These aren’t the best features I’ve ever seen for a Disney release. However, since Tangled isn’t a re-release, there hasn’t been a decade to finesse ideas and stockpile material. Plus, Disney is still blowing most DVD's special features out of the water even with this so-so offering.