It’s hard to praise a children’s movie for being nostalgic, because children have the attention spans of goldfish, and haven’t been sentient long enough to be nostalgic about anything. But that’s exactly what Disney has achieved with Tangled, a well-made, story-book feature that feels like the glory days of the Disney musical (back before the term meant a vehicle for Zac Efron).
Soon after Disney entrusted the entire Tarzan soundtrack to Phil Collins (a surefire hit with the kids), the animated musical went the way of the dinosaur (or rather, went the way of Dinosaur, Disney’s abysmally forgettable 2000 flop). But after spending a decade or so in Pixar’s shadow, Disney is slowly crawling back to the fairy-tale element that made it great, and Tangled is definitely a step in the right direction, picking up where The Princess and the Frog left off.
Almost all the crucial elements are here in this take on the Rapunzel tale. The characters are brilliantly animated and designed, bringing the 2D visual stylings of old to the CGI era. The voices are perfect (Mandy Moore’s voice is so bubbly and sweet, it’s almost unfit to play anything but a princess). The movie’s sense of humor is fresh and feels current without relying heavily on pop-culture references (*ahem*… I’m looking at you, Shrek). They even have the time-honored tradition of token animal sidekicks, all ready for plush toy merchandising and Happy Meal-ification.
Unfortunately, one area where Tangled falls short is its music (which is a shame, because it’s kind of a big deal, considering). The tunes fit the tone fine enough, but gone are the shows-stopping numbers you once knew. No breakaway pop single, no universal love theme, no sing-a-long stuck in your head. In fact, it’s a tad forgettable. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t ruin the movie, it just made the difference for a good movie that could have been great.
I end with the famous quote from LL Cool J: “Don’t call it a comeback.” Because frankly, Disney still has a ways to go before they reclaim their former glory. But for a night out to the movies with the family, Tangled is still a great choice, worthy of recommendation. It’s Sleeping Beauty meets CGI meets Broadway. Kids will enjoy the action and story-book adventure, and nostalgic parents will enjoy bragging to their children about how everything from their own childhood was much, much better.
It’s a win-win situation.