Tangled (2010)

(In theaters, December 2010) There’s nothing revolutionary in this latest offering from the “Disney Princesses” factory.  In fact, much of Tangled (marketed as “Disney’s fiftieth animated feature”) seems to be a conscious homage to the best-known films from the House of the Mouse, down to the use of fairy tales, musical numbers, animal sidekicks and evil stepmoms.  But there’s no need to reinvent everything when it’s possible to do the familiar really well, and so Tangled offers a pretty good times at the movie even without necessarily offering anything dramatically new.  The Rapunzel fairy tale isn’t given a reinterpretation as much as homage and the long-haired blonde heroine is easily one of Disney’s most appealing young heroines in a while.  The story is crisply told, the jokes are funny, the animation is top-notch, the action sequences are terrific, the animal sidekicks are used deftly (they have personalities, but they don’t talk) and the hair-related gags are inventive.  For such a fast-paced film, the irony is that one of the best sequences in Tangled comes when the narrative stops and the film indulges in a lovely “paper lanterns” sequence that does much to reaffirm computer animation as an art form.  The weaknesses of the film are easily overlooked: The musical numbers are bland, forgettable and have none of the snappiness of The Princess and the Frog.  But by embracing a fairy tale without ironic distance and forgoing pop-culture references, Disney may have delivered its first film in a long while with built-in longevity as a family classic.  Even Disney-sceptics may be willing to let go of their accumulated resentment and embrace Tangled.

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