It’s no Whole New World, but with smart lyrics and colourful characters, Disney’s back in business.
Tangled’s got it all; A grissled, Jekyll and Hyde wicked mother, an intimidatingly tall tower without escape and anthropomorphised animals ideal for reproduction inside Happy Meals. There are songs with soaring choruses, conflicted but oh-so charismatic heroes and blonde hair. Reams of it.
Rapunzel plies her locks like Indiana Jones wields his whip, and when she’s not getting tough with the stuff, she swishes it like the lady in this shampoo advert.
But if that makes the film sound run-of-the-mill; think again. Its characters are cheeky and its plot a post-modern and zesty melange of previous Disney princess tales.
Wrinkled hag Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy) subsides on a magical flower to look young. But when the plant’s uprooted to ease Princess Rapunzel’s birth, the elixir takes the form of the baby’s magical blonde hair.
Distraught, Gothel breaks into the palace, steals the golden-haired girl and brings her up as her own, basking in her hair’s youthful glow. Gothel successfully traps her naïve ‘daughter’ in her tower for 18 years before a wayward thief Flynn (Zachary Levi) happens upon their hidden home.
Former starlet Mandy Moore brings plenty of energy and humour to Rapunzel, and excellently portrays the struggles of youth in a hilarious scene that sees her weep with despair, then weep with joy, then back again as she comes to terms with flying the nest.
Zachary Levi is a riot as Flynn; a hero invested with enough colour to liven up what could have been a monochromatic role. But Mother Gothel is the pierre de resistance. A sort of musical Mother Portnoy, she performs the standout song Mother Knows Best (sample line: "skip the drama; stay with mama") with a schizophrenic frenzy worthy of the very best of Sondheim’s crazed heroines.
If anything is lacking, it’s the landscapes. We go from the palace grounds to lush Germanic forest; to a cutesy lopsided inn (all staples, sure); to a desert water reservoir in what looks like a Wylie Coyote sketch. A strange and superficial excuse to fill up a 3D screen with water? A transparent nod to the traditional hand-drawn animation of old?
Whatever, the imposition is slight. Plus, there’s a treat in store with the woozily loved-up festival of lights; the scene that will clinch it for romantics and 3D tech-heads alike, complete with soaring 'I See The Light' duet. Lyrically there’s nothing special going on here – "And at last I see the light/And it's like the fog has lifted/And at last I see the light/And it's like the sky is new” – but, eyes-on-the-prize as, golden lanterns dart about in 3D.
The lanterns don’t just glide across the screen but swirl out in front of you, so close you could touch them. Could this be the scene to melt Mark Kermode’s 2D heart?
Gloriously uplifting and satisfyingly schmaltzy, Tangled is one to beat the winter blues and should stay in cinemas long enough to snag seats during the Valentine's period. And if any other recommendation were needed, let it be known that in Quentin Tarantino’s top 20 films of last year Tangled came fifth.
After their latest offering, TRON: Legacy, some old fashioned Disney is just what the doctor ordered.
Mother Gothel is a scream and I’m crushing on Flynn Ryder. Good feelings both.
It’s no Whole New World, but with (mostly) smart lyrics and colourful characters, Disney’s back in business.