Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Tangled (2011) - A great addition to the Disney princess myth

Viewing Context:
After the opening weekend may have been too busy for us all to get in for free down at Cineworld, we went down the following Saturday (all being me Tasha and Corey). We were also joined by my sister and her kids, so it was a real family viewing. Corey had been seeing it advertised plenty and was really looking forward to it. Unfortunately, he’s also been getting excited about the Yogi Bear advert - curses.

Directed by Nathan Greno and Bryon Howard, who have both worked in the animation department on a number of Disney films. Written by Dan Fogleman, writer of Bolt and Cars, neither quite as good as this.

What Happened:
The queen is very ill in the later stages of pregnancy, so her empire searches for a legendary flower that can heal any ailment. They find it, but the selfish woman who has hidden it from the world for centuries, using it to maintain her youth, is not right chuffed about it going. The flower heals the queen and its magic goes into princess Rapunzel (Mandy Moore), so the old woman nabs her as a baby and locks her in a tower, raising her as her own. On her 18th birthday, she has finally reached the point where her curiosity cannot be held back anymore; this coincides with the dashing Flynn Rider (Zachary Levy) stumbling across the tower. Rapunzel convinces this charming thief to take her to where the lanterns fly once a year. Unbeknown to her, these are let off intentionally for the princess to be led home.

Above anything else a Disney film's message delivers, I always have to consider the state of the Disney princess and how she fits into the Disney princess canon. Rapunzel can stand up as another great example of how Disney has completely left behind the passive, pointless, negative (in my view) figure in the Snow White model. Disney are really striking the right balance between on the one hand having a beautiful relationship build up genuinely, with the male lead earning the princess' love and affection rather than naturally gaining it just by being their knight in shining armour. Balanced though, by the fact that Rapunzel never wishes for him, certainly wasn’t simply waiting for him; it never even figured into her plan until it naturally occurred. Her focus was solely on her own self discovery and self worth rather than missing that magical prince. Similarly, in the inevitable 'princess in distress' section of the narrative, she didn't need her prince to save her, yet he still tried. It was the right balance between showing how committed he was and how great his feelings for Rapunzel were, without ever implying that she ‘needed’ him to save her. The film puts them both in situations of jeopardy, where they can both be saviours of one another.
There alse featured themes of knowledge; the dangers and manipulative nature of knowledge not being fully disclosed. How this can be bent so wickedly to distort the world views of those that are not in the position to control the information. I'm not implying that this is any Dogtooth (The Greek Oscar nominated film), but the same implication (albeit watered down Disney version) is there.

What it did particularly well:
Everything that you would like in a whimsical Disney kids' film. The songs were particularly enjoyable and well placed.
the way it was so bright and pleasant was a joy to watch, without being sickeningly pathetic. This helped a great deal towards building that connection between the two characters, which is something it needed to do more than competently in order for the final act to pay off as well as it did - and it really did, as I had no idea which way they were going to go (signs of my child like naivete more than anything).
I loved a lot about Disney's last offering The Princess and the Frog, but I was never as engaged in the connection between the two leads as I was between Flynn and Rapunzel; the characters separately yes, but not them as a couple.
Finally, it had a great supporting cast, in the horse and the lizard.

What unimpressed or missed potential:
The evil mother was good, but could have been played up a bit more. At least when Rapunzel inevitably found out that she wasn't her real mother, it could have been a little more emotional. It happened a bit quick; she had just found out that her whole life had been a lie and that this wasn’t the mother that she had thought she was. It must be said that the rest of the film convincingly portrayed how conflicted Rapunzel must have been, as the evil mother sinisterly switched between terrifying Rapunzel, then offering her protection. It was a Disney version of the kind of sinister mental torture that Nina in Black Swan seemed to be subjected to.

Scene of the film:
The final payoff was excellent; I really didn't know what was going to happen. I admit that I really am turning into a soft-ass as I get older but the tears were building.

Performance of the film:
I never know what to say about this in an animation. Maximus the horse was really cool, but can't really give it to him so I'd say that Moore did the lead act really well. She seemed naive at times, confident at others; I know that the animation is a lot of it but the voice counts too. Plus, she really topped it off with the singing.

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