It's almost hard to believe that the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale, "Rapunzel," has never been made into a Disney musical before. But the story of the girl with long hair has finally made it to the big screen with "Tangled," which is a charming and fun adaptation of the popular fairy tale. The filmmakers found away to make the story fresh and contemporary while at the same time capturing all of the magic of a classic Disney film. Tangled is the 50th Disney animated film and the last of their princess movies. Although there is one big difference from this film and it's forty-nine predecessors, Tangled uses CGI animation as apposed to the classic 2D animation of the previous movies, not to mention that it is also presented in 3D. While it's hard not to miss the traditional animation, the CGI and 3D is tastefully done and adds to the story rather than distracting from it. The effects make Rapunzel's hair really come alive, which is essential to the plot of the movie.
Another difference between this film and other Disney musicals of the past is that the animal sidekicks don't talk. I think that is wonderful! It didn't stop their particular personalities from shining right through the screen and becoming two great additions to the Disney catalog of characters. Maximus is a horse that belongs to the captain of the King's guards and is portrayed like a super-cop. He is a wonderful new character and he has a true arc in the film, which is quite cathartic and often not the case in animated movies. The second new animal character is Pascal, a chameleon who lives in the tower with Rapunzel and is her only friend. We've seen the "princess character" in Disney films before befriend birds, mice and even dwarfs but a chameleon ... that is brilliant! Pascal is also a wonderful new addition to the pantheon of Disney characters. Not only is he extremely cute and loveable but the filmmaker's idea to make his color-changing tie in with his emotions is also a stroke of genius.
The movie begins with a prologue that explains how Rapunzel (the lovely Mandy Moore) ended up in that tower all by her self. Years ago the King and Queen were expecting a child but when she began to have complications, the safety of her and her unborn child became a concern. The King had his guards search for a magical flower that might be able to save his wife and unborn child. They eventually find the flower and use it to save the Queen and she gives birth to the princess, Rapunzel. Unknown to anyone, a witch named Gothel (the talented Donna Murphy) has been using the power of the flower for years to remain young and beautiful. Think Golum from "Lord Of The Rings." Furious, Gothel breaks into the castle and finds the princess with golden blond hair, resembling the color of the flower. She is able to use Rapunzel's hair to stay young but when she tries to cut some off to take along with her, the hair dies and is unusable. She realizes that the only way she can get what she wants is to steal the child. So she does and she locks her up in a hidden tower, far away from the kingdom. She raises Rapunzel as if she was her own, while always emotional abusing her just enough to keep her locked mentally and physically away in the tower, but never loosing her misguided loyalty.
We catch up with Rapunzel on the eve of her 18th birthday. Every year on the princess' birthday the King and Queen have the kingdom launch lanterns into the sky, in hopes of bringing back the lost princess. Rapunzel has seen these lights for years, every year on her birthday, and while she doesn't know that they are really for her, she knows in her heart that they do mean something to her. She desperately wants to see them up close and not just from the tower this year, although of course, Mother Gothel refuses. Rapunzel's only friend is a chameleon named Pascal. Meanwhile a thief named Flynn Rider (the always great Zachary Levi) and his evil cohorts break into the kingdom and steal the princess' tiara. After he is double-crossed by his companions, Flynn escapes with the tiara but is pursued by the King's guards, led by Maximus, the Captain's brave stallion. Flynn narrowly escapes capture, accidentally finds Rapunzel's tower and uses it to hide. Rapunzel has never seen a man before and is taken aback by Flynn at first but eventually strikes a deal with him. She'll help him escape pursuit if he gets her out of the tower and takes her to see the lanterns. They escape together and begin an amazing adventure that leads to Rapunzel finding out the truth about her origin, facing the wrath of Mother Gothel once and for all and falling in love with Flynn.
The mood and tone of the movie is gorgeous and idyllic in nature, which adds to the charm of the film. The 3D and CGI animation add a great effect to Rapunzel's glowing blond hair, which you would not have in other formats. It does not take away from the story, but rather adds to the audience's experience. But one of the best things about this movie is the brilliant music by legendary and Oscar winning Disney composer Alan Menken. Menken did the music for classics like "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast" and his work here is on par with that. But rather than embrace the traditional Disney style he tried something new. He gave the music, especially the songs sung by Rapunzel, a Joni Mitchell/Cat Stevens/'70s singer-songwriter vibe, which really works well and fits the characters within the story. All of the voice actors did a nice job and I thought that it was great that they chose actors with musical backgrounds, rather than a stand-up comedian or celebrity that might not poses that skill. Co-directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard deserve a round of applause for successfully taking this classic fairy tale and bringing it to the big screen in a fresh and thrilling new way, which is still worthy of the Disney label. In the end, Tangled is a charming, funny and touching adaptation of the classic fairy tale that will be fun for the whole family. The movie truly achieves being worthy of its place as the 50th Disney animated musical and unfortunately the company's last princess story.