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Tangled

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My favorite movie that I watched in 2010 (and there was some tough competition!) was Tangled, which I saw in the theatre in 3D. In fact, it was probably my favorite movie I've seen in the past few years; but I apparently didn't write about it here.

Last night I watched it again, with Kam and Stephanie on Blu-Ray (in 2D), and loved it all over again.

(Most of the following comes from notes I wrote after the first time I saw it, updated and edited now that I've seen it again.)

I did find the prologue a little too long and a little tedious (especially the first time), partly because that part didn't have any of the wit or sass that I was expecting after seeing the previews. And I rolled my eyes at it, because in the Grimm version of the story, Rapunzel wasn't a princess, but Disney has to make all of its heroines princesses for marketing reasons, so a princess she is. Sigh.

(Then again, according to Wikipedia, in a Persian precursor, the woman who lets down her hair is a princess. And for that matter, there have been plenty of other big changes over the centuries; in the first edition of the Grimm version, Rapunzel gets pregnant after the prince's visits to the tower. So changing the story wouldn't bother me if it weren't so blatantly in the service of Disney marketing.)

But from the end of the prologue until the end of the movie was pretty much pure awesome, despite some political issues (see below). I laughed a lot both times through, and in the theatre I would've laughed more if the rest of the audience hadn't been so quiet—I didn't want to distract them.

The movie is consistently really funny—it tosses in little jokes everywhere. Verbal jokes, situational humor, a lot of physical humor (which I'm not normally into, but I laughed a lot at it here), a bunch of character-based humor.

The songs, with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater, are great and really well done and funny and catchy and clever. The romance is totally romantic, especially the song (“I See the Light”) in the peak romantic scene. (The lyrics for that song aren't as good as for some of the other songs, but I love the music, and I love the idea/sentiment of the lyrics, and the song works for me really well in that scene.)

The 3D in the theatre wasn't bad. It added to some bits. There were some bits that were obviously filmed from particular angles specifically to get more mileage out of the 3D effect, so I rolled my eyes a little, but overall, it was fine. I wonder if ten years from now we'll all consider 3D a passing trend, or whether it will be the way all movies are. The 2D version at home didn't feel like it was missing anything, though there were half a dozen scenes where the perspective or the camera motion were gratuitously zoomy, reminding me that it was made for 3D.

Aside from that, the art and animation are mostly really good. I especially liked the facial expressions—it seemed to me the first time through that the faces were more expressive than most animated faces; a lot of character in them, especially Rapunzel's. (I noticed this less the second time through, not sure why.)

Rapunzel herself is great and multitalented and brave, and felt very emotionally real to me. The male lead, so obviously derived from Errol Flynn that his first name is Flynn, is (except for that prologue voiceover) exactly the right kind of charming rogue. (Btw, some people got mad after seeing one of the previews because it made it look like the movie was focused on Flynn instead of Rapunzel, but that's a misleading-preview issue, not a problem with the movie; the movie itself is primarily focused on her, secondarily on him.) The villain is unlike any other Disney villain I can think of in a couple of interesting ways. The comic sidekick, Pascal the chameleon, is one of my favorite characters in the movie, and is hands-down my favorite Disney sidekick ever (it doesn't hurt that he(?) doesn't speak at all).

I kept wondering who was playing the various characters, and assuming that at the end of the movie I would say “Oh, of course!”, as usually happens at the end of animated movies for me. But in fact, none of the actors were names I knew. The guy who plays Flynn plays the lead in Chuck, but I've never seen more than a few minutes of that. The woman who plays Mother Gothel has been in a couple of things I've seen, but I think she's had only minor parts in those.

I find it interesting that the chameleon and the horse, being non-speaking roles, weren't played by anybody. Very clearly delineated characters, though, with great expressions and poses.

I did have a few concerns, or at least hesitancies, about the movie, but they involve spoilers so I'll put them after the break.

But first, I'll just summarize the above by saying that the movie is totally charming, very funny, quite romantic, and thoroughly engaging. Highly recommended. Except that now I've raised expectations too high. So, um, I guess the movie is kind of okay and you might as well see it.


Spoilers and concerns

I find it fascinating that Mother Gothel is not a witch. She doesn't have magical powers; she only has extreme cunning and the ability to thoroughly misuse Mom powers, like guilt and manipulation. And I thought that was brilliantly, but slightly uncomfortably, subversive: the villain of the movie is the one who says all the things that moms say to their kids, perhaps especially to their daughters. (The “I love you”/“I love you more”/“I love you most” exchange is wonderfully creepy and disconcerting.)

And yet she's in some sense not really a mom. It seems weird to say that, since she did actually raise Rapunzel for eighteen years; and for all her awfulness and selfishness and abusiveness, she seems to have done a reasonably good job of it in some ways. But I feel like the movie is telling us that she's not Rapunzel's real mother.

And that's one of the bits of political subtext I was kinda unhappy with: stepmothers don't come off so well (though I suppose that's always true in fairy tales); birth family is everything.

Oh, and speaking of political issues: princesses sure are privileged. And, of course, there are no people of color in the movie. And so on.

And yet, it seemed to me there was a lot less grounds for political objection than in most Disney movies.

Remarkably (because it's been rare in my moviegoing lately), this one even passes the Bechdel/Wallace test, and not only on a technicality. Of course, the two women are stepmother and daughter, and they're mostly talking specifically about mother/daughter issues. —I'm not objecting to mother/daughter talks, not at all; nice to see, and unusual among the movies I've been seeing lately. I'm just saying that in my ideal world, there would be more movies that pass the Bechdel/Wallace test by, say, having two unrelated women talk with each other about stuff going on in their lives, or the adventures they're having. But that's not a complaint about this movie, just a digression into the world of movies in general.

There were a few other things that I wasn't thrilled with. For example, I was mildly annoyed with the climactic moment of the plot (even after a spoiler warning, I'm reluctant come right out and describe it, so I'll just note that I'm talking about the bit involving a tear), though on watching a second time it felt to me a little more justified and more consistent with what we'd seen up to that point. And I'm not clear on why the horse was so charmed by Rapunzel, but I was willing to let that go. And there were probably a few other small dissatisfying notes.

But really, my concerns and annoyances are minor. Overall, it's a thoroughly delightful movie.

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