Thursday, 21 July 2011

DVD Review: Tangled

Disney movies have become somewhat overshadowed by Pixar movies of late. And for good reason. Pixar make outstanding family movies; for adults as much as they are for kids. Disney just make movies for kids.

Or at least, they did.

Because a little movie came along that changed all that. And that movie was…The Emperor’s New Groove.

Wait, what? I thought this was a review of Tangled.

It is. I’m getting there.

The Emperor’s New Groove was a 2D old school animated movie released in 2000. It was frantic, anarchic and most importantly funny. I mean, hilariously funny. Seriously if you haven’t seen it, try and get a copy. It was still a Disney movie, but it played with the conventions of what you’d expect a Disney movie to be. It still contained all the elements that other Disney movies had, but gave it a post modern spin, as well as an unusual but perfect voice cast. And all the better for it.

And then, Disney tried it again. And it worked perfectly…only this time it was with a live action movie. Enchanted also played with the conventions of the typical Disney movie but kept it fresh and new. It poked fun at the Disney princess idea, but never felt like it was being mean or bad mouthing the history of the House of Mouse. It was an affectionate ribbing. And again, it was funny.

And then last year, Disney decided that to truly go toe to toe with Pixar that they decided to join them in the realms of computer animation. And it has paid off handsomely.

Tangled is at heart perhaps the most traditional ‘Disney movie’ out of the three movies I’ve mentioned so far. It’s a movie that literally has a fairytale princess, a dashing hero and an evil witch. But it’s done in much the same vein as New Groove. It has a fourth wall breaking narrator character; it subverts all the normal Disney clich├ęs but embraces them at the same time.

And it’s very very funny.

The story itself is nothing new, but it’s presented with such an air of confidence and vigour that you get wrapped up in it. It’s a classic tale but with a modern sensibility, in much the same way that the first Shrek movie was. In fact, you don’t even mind the songs when they arise (the music is really the only concession to the classic Disney archetype, but even they’re great. All written and arranged by Little Shop of Horrors music supremo Alan Menken, fact fans) because they’re not professions of love, but rather funny songs that fit and sow seeds for major plot points later on.

The voice cast is absolutely stellar. The reason this movie peaked my interest however was the fact that Chuck himself (Zach Levi) voices the character of Flynn, the dashing hero of the story. He is the perfect person to voice the sarcastic, funny, vain hero. He’s likable even at his most douche-y, and his casting is as inspired as David Spade’s was for Emperor. I can’t really say much about Mandy Moore casting as it could have just been any other voice actress as far as I’m concerned, but Jenny did inform me that she has a great Disney princess singing voice (Moore, not Jenny). The central couple are likebale and easy to root for, because they’re not just ciphers, they actually feel like real characters.

The star of the show however is the horse, Maximus. The horse that thinks it’s a dog. The physicality with which he’s given, and the animation that brings him to life is hilarious. If I could compare it to another animated animal it would be Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon. Both great triumphs in animation, extracting laughs from the movements rather than words.

I watched this on Bluray, and usually any computer animated movie looks great. I expected nothing less from this, but to say I was blown away was an understatement. It’s the best looking picture I have ever seen in an animated feature, and the biggest action scene in the movie looks simply phenomenal. It makes me wish I’d seen it in the cinema.

Anyway, to summarise: a funny, heartfelt, beautiful movie, and for me it’s up there with some of the best Pixar movies.

4 and a half stars

I’m out

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