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The Independent Critic

Zachary Levi, Mandy Moore, Brad Garrett, Ron Perlman, Donna Murphy, Jeffrey Tambor, M.C. Gainey
Byron Howard, Nathan Greno
Dan Fogelman, Jacob Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm
Rated PG
92 Mins.
Walt Disney Co.
• 2 original storybook openings
• 50th Animated Countdown

 "Tangled" Review 
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Disney has been touting its latest full-length animated feature, Tangled, as its 50th animated feature, certainly a benchmark worth noting. While Tangled brings Disney inching ever more closely to their Pixar counterparts, the studio continues to play it far too safe with this latest adventure, essentially yet another fairy tale retread of the typical Disney song-and-dance animated musical featuring a lovely princess, a handsome prince (okay, thief), a wicked "mother" and lots and lots of tunes.

This is not to say that Tangled is a bad film. Indeed, it's not. Young girls, in particular, will be quite taken by the beautiful Rapunzel (Mandy Moore), a young woman who is swooped away from her royal family and raised for most of her younger years by a rather evil woman (Donna Murphy) who seeks to possess the magic within her flowing hair and, thus, keeps her locked up inside their treehouse type home hidden away from all of humanity.

Tangled is one of Disney's better animated features in years, a film reminiscent in music and spirit to their live-action Enchanted, so much so, in fact, that Rapunzel's voice, singing and even her dance choreography often mirrors that found in Amy Adams' performance as Gisele in Enchanted. The parallel nature of their performances may very well not bother the more casual moviegoer, as in both cases the performances are energetic and inspired, the music is fresh and entertaining, and both films possess such a warmth and good heart that it's nearly impossible to not love them anyway.

That's really the point, isn't it?

When it comes down to it, what really matters is whether or not Tangled entertains and it certainly does in a myriad of ways. As the story goes, Rapunzel dreams of exploring these strange lights in the sky that she has figured out appear only on her birthday. They are, in fact, paper lanterns sent out by her parents each year in hopes that they will guide their lost princess home. One day, while her mother is away, Rapunzel's hidden home is invaded by Flynn (Zachary Levi), a thief  who has, in fact, just stolen her very crown from the royal castle. Before long, the two misfits are off to explore the mysterious lights and, well, this being Disney it goes without saying that these young birds will soon be in love followed by any number of adventures along the way.

Working from the classic Grimm Brothers tale, screenwriter Dan Fogelman has shaped and shifted our tale here and wrapped the entire thing around the musical stylings of Alan Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater. Menken has long been a Disney partner, his style a perfect fit for Disney's larger than life, sweeping stories with inspirational characters and simple yet strongly value-based plots. From the opening tune, "When Will My Life Begin?," to the menacing "Mother Knows Best" and the very Enchanted like "I've Got a Dream" and much, much more. Most assuredly, Tangled will be seeing an Oscar nomination or two for Best Song.

While the film's plot line and story arc may seem awfully familiar, kudos to Fogelman for filling the screen with a host of delightful characters starting with co-leads Rapunzel and Flynn, both of whom are voiced delightfully by the underrated and under-appreciated Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi. While Moore, as previously noted, at times comes off a bit too closely to Amy Adams' Gisele, there are worse performances to mimic. Moore has never quite gotten the attention she deserves, and it's nice to see her name attached to this higher profile project. She's delightfully fun and inspired here, a wondrous blend of innocence and bravado inside this 18-year-old girl venturing out into the real world for the very first time. Likewise, Zachary Levi, whose character is drawn with an eerie resemblance to actor Adrien Brody, is the perfect blend of sweet and smarmy.

Seldom have animal characters been brought so beautifully to life, including an adorable and way over-protective chameleon named Pascal and the King's horse, Maximus, at first an adversary and ultimately an ally filled with an abundance of goofball charm that will instantly have you falling in love with him. The pub thugs, you'll have to see them to believe them, are an absolute stitch.

With Tangled, Disney comes closer to nailing the mix of entertainment and emotional resonance that has become a trademark of the Pixar films and yet which also seems to evade virtually every other maker of animated features. While too much of Tangled rings familiar for the film to be considered a classic, the characters are more developed and layered, the story is deeply involving and the music will have you humming and singing long after you leave the theatre.

Walt would be proud. You're getting closer, Disney!

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic