Tangled – Review

Tangled (2010)

Directed by Nathan Greno, Byron Howard. Starring Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy

Tangled is the 50th feature-length animation by Disney and to celebrate they even they decided, instead of re-inventing the wheel, to go  back to their origins. There has been quite a lot of debate recently on whether, among all the Pixar masterpieces, the likes of Shrek and Ice Age, Madagascar and so on, there’s actually any space left for Disney Studio. Had the irreverent tone of Shrek towards fairy-tales actually manage to destroy Disney’s approach to telling fairy tales forever?

Well, I was the first one to admit that after a film like Shrek, where the princess sings with such a high pitch note that a little bird next to her explodes,  it would have been impossible to have another girl singing and dancing barefoot in a forest, surrounded by animals, birds and flowers. And yet somehow this film manages to do that, without being cheesy and it not only confirms that Disney is alive and well… but also  that I was dead wrong! (And, for once, I am really happy to be wrong!).

The wonderful thing about Tangled is that underneath all the pointy, giggery 3D, the almost perfection of the visuals and the sharp humor, which we’ve now become to expect from this type of film, it’s actually a very traditional Disney fairytale.

And yes, the girl is singing barefoot in the forest, surrounded by flowers and animals (Thankfully none of which  sings or even talk! Good choice!) and you  know what? It works!

You can probably tell (… and smell) that there has been a lot of thinking and brainstorming behind each scenes to bring Tangled to the screen. Every single element that used to make a Disney feature-length animation a classic is here, and each of those elements all been carefully calibrated so that they not over-done and they would not annoy anyone.

Thus, the songs are there, but not too many and they restrained that Hollywood-fest/Broadway over-the-top feel that you found on those classic “Be our guest” or “Under the Sea” numbers. Something that worked for those kind of films, but it was becoming a bit of a caricature.  The closest thing to those is “Mother Knows Best”,  possibly the film’s top musical number, which manages to be catchy, inventive and yet it done very tastefully.

The lovely princess is there too, though she has obviously been upgraded for the 21st century audience: she’s a much more active and stronger character and yet she has a conflicted personality, more than any Disney princesses before. The scene where she she’s just been rescued and her mood changes from happy to terrorized to desperate , all in the space of few  seconds,  is genuinely quite funny.

The great action hero is there too, looking hot as ever (apparently there were “hot guy” meetings held at Disney to make sure that every little girl would fall in love with guy). They also made sure that he would be the main character of the story just so that it would not alienate the boys too (the film has also been renamed from Rapunzel, once again in an attempt to not seem like another “princess” flick aimed strictly towards girls). He’s charming, funny and also plays against those post-Shrek expectations, with lines line “I don’t do singing” or “I don’t do back-stories”.

Mother Gothel, the baddie of the piece,  pretty much steals the show and it’s one of the most memorable and best baddie I can remember, probably even out there with such characters like the ones from Cinderella and Snowhite (Yes, really!). And, in the best Disney tradition (SPOILER ALERT) she’ll fall down to her death in the end…

And finally you get the animals sidekicks, all of which are spot on too. Maximus, the horse (you just wish the was more of him) and a cute chameleon Pascal. Once again you can tell there are probably born out of team brainstorming, with tie-in toys in their heads rather than true inspiration.

However, despite all these calculated steps, the whole film feels effortless and done with a real heart behind it too. And when the big moments finally do arrive, they really work like magic ! For example the first time the Mother goes up the tower and the music swells over the wide vistas or that marvellous sequence in which thousands of floating lanterns light up the night sky (also allowing the animators to really use the 3D to maximum effect): this is what cartoons should do: make the impossible seem possible and make it look beautiful.

But it’s not just the visuals that are magical and vibrant. The characters too are alive as ever: you can see their chest breathing, their veins on their neck moving before they speak, and they’re eyes are so real that it really feels the characters are truly looking at each other, and not just towards each other. Not to mention the details and care put into Rapunzel’s streaming golden hair as she hurls it around, and even uses it as a weapon, a hook, a swing

The action set pieces are breath-taking too (The scene with the water, all the chases in the forest, swinging from trees or riding horses..) and the romance is strangely believable and heartwarming.

The end result is an immersive 3D experience featuring the best of both schools of animation: great characters and storytelling (yes, it’s all pretty formulaic, but so are the best fairy-tales for kids!), and perfect technical achievement!

Tangled might not ultimately be a modern Disney classic, but it’s the closest thing to it from Disney Studios in a very long time (even though I did like the Princess and the Frog).

Let’s hope it’s the beginning of a new age for Disney. If I had a kid, this is the type of film I would like him/her to fall in love with and watch over and over again.


Check out my review of Toy Story 3 too

Toy Story 3 – Review

TOY STORY 3 –  (2010)

Directed by Lee Unkrich. Starring Tom HanksTim AllenJoan CusackNed BeattyDon RicklesMichael KeatonWallace ShawnJohn RatzenbergerEstelle HarrisJohn MorrisJodi BensonBlake Clark.

I’ve been meaning to talk about this film for a while, so what better excuse than its release on DVD and BluRay?

We’ve heard so much about this one in the last few months, that it’s hard to come up with something new and original to say. Everybody seems to love it: critics and moviegoers from everywhere. And recently there’s even been a campaign to try to push it as best motion picture for the Oscars.

Rotten Tomatoes gives it a resounding 99%, and at this exact moment the film features in the Top 20 favorite films of all times on the Internet Movie Database (also know as: THE MOVIE BIBLE!).

So let’s just start from a safe place and assume that this film is good. Because it is indeed.  The film works on so many levels.

The story about growing up and having to abandon your childhood toys is so universal that it’s hard not to sympathize with it. The film-makers have been very clever to show you the story from all possible point of views: from the toys themselves, who are about to be given away, from the point of  view of the boy who has to grow up and leave of all that child stuff behind, and the from  the mother’s prospective who has to watch her son going to university and leaving the nest. In other words, whatever your age is, you’re pretty much screwed: you’re bound to see some of yourself in that film, you’ll understand all those emotions at stake, and by the end of it you WILL end up crying like a baby!!… Or at least I did, more than once.

Furthermore, this is the third of a trilogy that started over 15 years ago. Pixar is all too aware of how we’ve sort of grown up with these characters and it plays on that to perfection, so that by the end of the movie, it is all even more poignant just because of this attachment over the years.

This is the main power of Toy Story 3. Pixarunderstands exactly what we liked about  the first “toy story” films, what we love about those characters and they give us precisely that. The mixture of drama and comedy. The classic jokes (The whole Ken and Barbie stuff is pretty inspired), the spooky characters (that doll stills gives me the creeps!!), the nail-biting/edge-of-your-seat action scenes (up there with the most accomplished action movies), the beautiful colorful animation, the perfectly pitched score and a story which works for adults and kids.

Being the third of some of the most beloved movies in the history of animation, or generally being a sequel or a threequel (is there such a word?) can be a bit counterproductive and most of the times could end up being massively disappointing. But not when it comes to a Pixarfilm. Somehow we are all come to expect only masterpieces out of that Company. And even though I don’t think this is out there with the originality of the first one, and both in terms of story and script, but it is damn close.

The jokes are a little bit more forced than in the first one, (All the stuff with Buzz speaking Spanish is probably funny once, but it does go on for a bit too long, almost like the joke of the dog with a squeaky voice in “up”) , and let’s face it, the story itself is not too far from “Toy Story 2“. Even the use or the songs by Randy Newman, is used in the same context as the first film… But hey, I’m really picking needles here, maybe because I care so much about Woody and his friends!!

I wish all the films were this good, not just cartoons!!

Of course, the animation has improved massively since 1995 and Pixar has grown up too and understands what animation should really do. In the first Toy story, we were all in awe at the realism of the rendering of the toys themselves and the landscapes and interior of those houses. Yes, within that, the humans always looked a bit like plastic and actually rather freaky. On this one the makers have learnt the lesson and decided to make everything a little bit “less real”  and the humans more like caricatures than real people. So now the final effect is less jarring than it used to be.

So, the question now is: is this the animation that’s going to break free and actually win an Oscar for Best Film? Well, sadly I don’t think we are ready for that yet, though I would really love it to do so. In the same way as the third Lord of the Rings was awarded for the whole trilogy a few years ago, I do think Toy Story 3 should be recognized and awarded for giving us probably the best constantly good trilogy in movie history…  In 10 or 20 years times what film are we going to remember most? “The King’s Speech” or “Toy Story” trilogy.

Enough said.


 Check out my review of Tangled

%d bloggers like this: