Tangled is the latest Disney Princess-for-the-next-generation animated extravaganza, and the 50th animated feature from the studio. Unlike last year's The Princess and the Frog, where Disney stuck to its traditional hand-drawn animation and storytelling formula, Tangled takes all the familiar elements of the "princess movies" (think The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin) and combines them with Disney's application of new technology -- CGI and 3D. The end result is a film that may not be as iconic as some of its predecessors, but is definitely a throwback to an era when Disney was the behemoth of animation.
Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) was stolen from the palace nursery as an infant and raised by the dastardly Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy), who locks her up in an enchanted tower and uses Rapunzel's hair to continuously restore her youth. Rapunzel dreams of the day when she can leave the tower and find the source of the floating stars that she sees every year on her birthday -- with her adorable and consistently loyal chameleon companion in tow. Her chance comes one day when master thief Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi), seeking escape from a variety of pursuers, climbs the tower with the goal of finding a place to hide out and stash his stolen goods. Instead, he finds Rapunzel, who hides his prize and tells him that if he takes her to the source of the floating stars, she'll return his belongings. From there, it's one amazing adventure after another, with twists, turns, and a little romance.
There's nothing particularly innovative about Dan Fogelman's screenplay, but it has all the heart and humor that make this a fun movie to watch. Rapunzel is the well-known fairy-tale that serves as the foundation for a story that unfolds with all of the classic Disney elements intact: a young and somewhat naïve princess, a handsome rogue to guide her, a cute animal sidekick, a witchy villain, songs, and of course a happy ending. These fairy-tale elements extend to the visual aspects of the film, from the storybook aesthetics of the setting to the expertly crafted details of the character's faces.
Also, there's a certain retro vibe to Tangled. The choices for vocal casting harken back to the previous two decades, when Disney bypassed big-name stars in favor of lesser-known talent. Mandy Moore's voice (though, you can argue she's the biggest name in this film) is not immediately recognizable, which allows the audience to connect with Rapunzel as opposed to being distracted by a familiar voice. Even Zachary Levi's performance as Flynn Rider is charming, roguish, and, well, generic enough to represent the same feeling.
Overall, Tangled is a winner. Disney has managed to acknowledge where they've been and look toward where the company is going, and they've created a film that speaks to what adults remember from Disney's hand-drawn animation days, while at the same time injecting newer technologies to keep the kids dazzled and entertained. It's charming, enjoyable, and has a heavy dose of that ol' Disney magic.