A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 412 – Tangled

Tangled – April 16th, 2011

I’ve got to admit, I’m the one who suggested we buy this. Very out of character for me, given my general lack of interest in Disney princess movies. I realize that they are beloved the world over by ladies young and old. Not this lady. I was never the princess type. I was Wonder Woman (no really, I had a cape and a costume and I wore it until it all fell apart). And later I was Robin Hood. But friends of mine whose opinions I respect when it comes to movies like this were saying that it was pretty good. No one hyped it up to be the Best Movie Ever, so that counted in its favor for me. And no one decried it as being full of simpering and powerless damsel crap. So, point two. So when we felt the movie-buying itch and this was right there in the supermarket, well, into the basket it went. Why yes, we are weak, why do you ask?

Now, I remember when this movie came out and there being some talk about the promotion done for it. Many of the ads seemed to minimize that there was a princess in it at all. Flynn, our dashing hero, was the focus, along with the horse, Maximus, and the various thugs and brigands you meet through the course of the story. Some folks I saw online were mighty ticked that there seemed to be so much effort put into making the movie look like it was all about the guy when in fact the story isn’t like that at all. And having now seen it, I can understand that Disney wanted to market the movie to a wide audience, but I can also dislike that the ads weren’t more well-rounded. And the thing is, I’m a sucker for a charismatic thief character (remember, Robin Hood – and no, last night’s Ridley so does not count) and I can’t say Flynn grabbed me. Oh, he’s got plenty of funny lines and all, but I can’t say I was ever not pleased when Rapunzel smacked him with the skillet.

Now, Rapunzel? She’s more my sort of character. Except when she’s singing. Then she’s the embodiment of why I don’t usually do Disney. It’s just so very twee and while that might float some boats it leaves mine in dry dock. I could have done without the singing because really, Rapunzel does very well without it. She nicely balances the sort of innocent hope and belief that the world holds wonders with some spunk and attitude when faced with danger or a douchebag. Part of her character arc is that she finds out that she truly can take care of herself in the outside world. Sure, it’s often nice to have someone watch your back, but she doesn’t always need it. And I like that! I like her. And then she goes and breaks into song. The only song I really enjoyed in the movie was the one in the pub and that’s only partially her. Otherwise it’s a bunch of burly brigands singing about how they dream of being pianists or collecting ceramic unicorns. It’s comedic, not a ballad.

Normally I can at least enjoy the villain’s song, but well, I wasn’t feeling it here. Mother Gothel is pretty nasty, to be certain. She locked Rapunzel up in the tower and has been using her for her magic for eighteen years. She never intends to let her go. She’s vile. But she’s vile in an insidious sort of way. She’s nowhere near the sort of villain that Ursula (the standard to which I hold all Disney villains) is and her song reflects that. Compare Ursula’s Poor Unfortunate Souls to Gothel’s Mother Knows Best. This isn’t to say that I don’t think Gothel made an excellent villain. She did. And in a way that I’m frankly fascinated to see in a Disney movie. I mean, they’re presenting their audience with a villain who is clearly evil, but who is also thoroughly trusted by the princess character. She calls her ‘mother’ through most of the movie. She’s in agony over disappointing Gothel or breaking her heart. That’s a lot to lay down in front of kids in a PG movie and to be honest, I’m really incredibly pleased that they gave the relationship between Gothel and Rapunzel as much complexity as they did. With Ursula and Maleficent and Jafar and the like? No, it’s pretty clear that those relationships are antagonistic through and through. But to get to that much antagonism between Rapunzel and Gothel Rapunzel needs to actually grow as a character. That? Is pretty damn cool.

The rest of the story isn’t anything revolutionary. Rapunzel meets a thief who hides in her tower (that would be Flynn) and bribes him into taking her to see a display of floating lanterns that she’s always wanted to see up close. They set off and have an adventure together. Flynn’s stolen a crown from the palace and double crossed his partners, so he’s got palace guards and his partners after him, plus a horse named Maximus. Gothel finds out Rapunzel’s gone and so she’s after them too. I think it’s pretty obvious that eventually there’s a seeming betrayal and then oh no, it wasn’t a betrayal and then there’s a confrontation and the good guys win. Hurrah. This is not a movie throwing any curve balls in terms of plot points. Flynn starts out a charming rogue with no cares but money and getting rich and looking out for himself. Through his interaction with Rapunzel he learns that there’s more to life and becomes a better person and so on and so forth. She also hits him a lot. With a skillet. They call it a frying pan but no, that’s a cast iron skillet and there’s a difference. For one, a skillet will make a much bigger lump on someone’s head. Just saying.

Anyhow, it’s a very cute movie with a lot of great fun lines and interactions. I’m quite certain I’d been told that Maximus steals every scene he’s in and it’s true. I kind of wish there’d been more of him even though I will now never be able to unsee the similarity between his look at Mr. Horse from Ren and Stimpy (Andy noted it and yes, it is so very clear now). His facial expressions and actions and body movement definitely showcase the talents of the animators who made the film. I mean, the movie is lovely and I was quite pleased with all of the lighting and textures and people. But Maximus just puts it out there that the animation can carry a charismatic character with no voicework needed. So there’s that and there’s Rapunzel herself and while I wasn’t swept off my feet by Flynn I did appreciate his comedic input. And there’s that understated villain aspect I mentioned above. Not revolutionary, no, but definitely a little more than I expected, so I think I can say I’m not sorry at all that we fell for a supermarket display and bought this.

April 16, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tangled (2010)

April 16, 2011

Tangled

I’m not sure why we bought this. I suppose movie buying is just a compulsion, and it feels odd that I haven’t been buying my usual three or four movies a week since my time at Blockbuster ended. So once in a while I just have the need to pick up a movie. Last week on payday Amanda and I were in the supermarket and the movie section called out to us – there wasn’t really anything there that appealed to us, but she had heard that maybe this movie wasn’t so bad, for a Disney princess movie, so we bought it.

We don’t own a lot of Disney animated movies. I have enjoyed some of them, but there’s a certain saccharine quality to them that makes them difficult to swallow. It’s the singing. I like Alan Menken just fine and I’ve always been able to enjoy a good musical, but there’s only so much a guy can take. I’m a sucker for an animated movie though, and for the longest time Disney was the dominant player in the animated film department. As a child of course I loved Disney movies. I had record albums with soundtracks to The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, The Jungle Book, even the Aristocats. (In the days before VHS… yes I’m dating myself.) When the new era of Disney animation started I was surprised to find that I actually quite liked some of the movies that were part of it. I found The Little Mermaid enchanting (see my review of it) enjoyed Aladdin and even was able to appreciate parts of Beauty and the Beast… but that was about the limit of my Disney tolerance. Lion King still grates on me to this very day and I completely skipped Pocahontas and Mulan.

About all I knew before watching this movie was that it was touted as the first 3-D animated movie from Disney to attempt to capture the look of the hand-drawn films (I guess they’re not counting all the direct-to-video 3-D CGI Micky Mouse movies), and it was a very difficult film for Disney to market because they tried so very hard to market it to boys. (Seriously – the preview we saw in the theater for this featured the male character capering with a horse and only had Rapunzel’s hair in shot near the end. No sign of the princess at all.) Oh, and that it was an adaptation of the tale of Rapunzel.

In this particular spin on the Rapunzel story the reason the evil witch has her trapped in a tower is that she has magical hair that can keep the witch young. The handsome prince who finds her in the tower and rescues her is an irascible thief (which instantly gave me flashbacks to yesterday’s movie.) Together the two of them have a whirlwind adventure. That’s pretty much the whole story there, and there aren’t really any big surprises in it.

It’s a very comfortable and familiar feeling movie. I’m pretty sure that’s most of the point of it. It has the sheen of a big budget CGI film from Pixar or Dreamworks Animation, but it has the character design, animation style, songs and mood of a Disney film from the early nineties. It isn’t out to break any moulds or do anything revolutionary (although the technology behind the look of the film is impressive.) Instead it is meant to be the comfort food of animated films – a Disney film like those good old ones they made twenty years ago.

For me, at least, it worked. There’s fun humor, lots of really pretty animation, and a simple plot about a girl wanting to go out on her own after years of being told how awful the outside world can be. The “hero” Flynn is a bit of a cad, and I felt myself tuning out during a couple of the songs, but Rapunzel herself it a pretty cool heroine.

I was very uncomfortable during her first song though when she described her life and it consisted mostly of traditional feminine chores such as cleaning, cooking, knitting ans sewing. I’m still not sure if it was showing these as activities she enjoys doing to pass the time in her tower or if they’re meant to be part of the prison she’s trying to escape from. There could be an argument for either one I suppose – on the one hand this is a “Disney Princess” movie and little girls are meant to want to be princesses who sew and cook, right? On the other hand she really does seem pretty trapped in this life and doesn’t seem to really start enjoying herself when she starts defending herself with a frying pan.

I think my favorite parts of the movie are the thugs in the Snuggly Duckling tavern, and the horse. The thugs are voiced by some fun and familiar actors such as Ron Pearlman (playing one of the main bad guys) and Brad Garrett and Jeffrey Tambor. The horse Maximus, of course, is just great physical comedy and in spite of having no lines is one of the best things in the movie. On the other hand:

Every time I saw this face on the screen:

This is what came instantly to mind:

That made me laugh. Except that, yes sir, I did actually like it. I liked it just fine.

April 16, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment