Using the Brothers Grimm story as its backbone, directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard have created a lively and fun swashbuckler that marks a solid number 50 for Disney. The tale kicks off as the king's guards steal Gothel's (Donna Murphy) golden healing plant to save the queen's life. Their child, Rapunzel, is born with bright blonde locks that posses magical powers, but before long Gothel whisks her away to a secret tower where she's made to serve her evil new matriarch. Out of respect to their lost daughter, every year the king and queen launch glowing lanterns skyward on Rapunzel's birthday. Fast-forward 18 years and charming thief Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) crashes into Rapunzel's (Mandy Moore) abode and sweeps her off on an epic adventure.
Songs by Alan Menken accompany this brisk journey through a faraway kingdom, but they aren't as strong or memorable as previous Disney musicals. It's also lacking the heart and soul that's inherent in all its best work. "For every laugh there should be a tear," Walt once opined, and here the gags fly thick and fast yet the emotion isn't quite there. Levi and Moore are both excellent as the rogueish hero and princess, while Donna Murphy steals the show as the evil Gothel (who looks a bit like Cher, only less fake!). The final confrontation between her and Rapunzel is quite breathtaking - visually and with Menken's score - and reminiscent of the Queen's demise in Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs.
There are some striking moments in Tangled, notably a sequence where Rapunzel and Flynn see the night sky illuminated by thousands of lanterns. One set-piece kicks into action with a dam breaking and the protagonists getting trapped under rubble as water quickly rushes up around them. This ride's a familiar one, but with humourous sidekicks such as horse-who-thinks-he's-a-dog Maximus and chameleon Pascal, it's thoroughly enjoyable.
Fifty animated features in 73 years is an impressive tally and, though it feels like the days of recent Disney classics such as Aladdin and The Lion King are long gone, Tangled proves that the House of Mouse is finding its way back to form.
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