Friday, November 26, 2010


I wound up leaving Maine about an hour and a half earlier than I'd originally planned on Thanksgiving, which meant I got back into Boston at about eight o'clock. South Station is pretty close to the AMC Boston Common theater, and though we were into the part of the day where movie tickets are expensive, I opted to compound it by going for the 3-D ticket. I figure I'd wind up seeing one of they weekend's new releases past matinee time anyway, and since this one looks to be the best, why not have it be the one I want to see the most? The same 3-D surcharge applies to the $6 tickets as the $11.50 tickets, so I might as well give Tangled more of my money than Faster.

It is kind of funny, though, that just before this movie gets released, word comes out that Disney is canceling future fairy tale/"princess" movies - this, after changing the name of this one from "Rapunzel" as a knee-jerk reaction to The Princess & the Frog under-performing. It seems nuts to me - this is what Disney is known for, this movie is both really good and likely more easily marketable than P&F was, and considering the development time for an animated feature, it seems like making long-term decisions based on short-term data.

Anyway, good movie. And while I mention that the songs don't really stick with me in the review, at the time of this writing (very early Friday 26 November), Amazon's got a digital download of the soundtrack for $4, which is a ridiculously good deal. Click that merch button if it's still there.

Also, we got a good set of 3-D family-friendly previews, which might be fun to run down, even if I catch crap for this first one:

Yogi Bear - So help me, this preview makes me giggle, even if I kind of suspect that funny lady Anna Faris is going to be wasted in this. I strongly suspect that Justin Timberlake is going to be a riot as the voice of Boo Boo.

The Smurfs - This one, on the other hand... No, just no. Maybe something other than a teaser trailer will do something more for me, but putting the Smurfs in the modern world rather than their quasi-medieval setting just seems wrong.

Mars Needs Moms - Berke Breathed is getting paid for this, right? I mean, it doesn't look like a terrible movie, just not a good one, even before we get into the dead-eyed motion capture style.

Cars 2 - I actually liked Cars quite a bit, even though a lot of people dismiss it as one of Pixar's and Lasseter's weak link. My main concern with the sequel was doing it without the voice of Paul Newman, who just seemed like such a perfect fit for the material, but Michael Caine is kind of brilliant in the trailer.


* * * * (out of four)
Seen 25 November 2010 at AMC Boston Common #16 (first-run, digital 3D)

Tangled is probably my favorite thing that the direct descendants of Disney's original feature animation group has done since Aladdin, in no small part because it's the first of their digitally-rendered features that embraces what worked during that 1990s run of success. From the Alan Menken score, to the fairy tale source, to the visual style, Disney has managed to put a slick new 3-dimensional paint job on the things that they've been hiding in the attic.

A fair amount of backstory leads into the film's present, but once there, the situation is like this: Princess Rapunzel (voice of Mandy Moore) was kidnapped as a baby by Mother Gothel (voice of Donna Murphy), who locked Rapunzel in a tower and raised the girl as her own daughter in order to have the use of her magical golden hair, which heals injuries and restores youth. Meanwhile, back at the castle, dashing thief Flynn Ryder (voice of Zachary Levi) and the Stabbington Brothers (voice of Ron Perlman) are fleeing with a stolen crown. Ryder stumbles upon Rapunzel's tower, and she makes a deal with him to guide her to the castle so that she can see the paper lanterns that fill the sky on her birthday every year in person.

There are a few ways that Tangled has a hard time equaling its cel-animated forebears. As comfortably familiar as Menken's score is, none of the songs by Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater are terribly likely to be remembered after the movie ends (they're fine, and it's nice that the film doesn't shrink from being a musical). Also, digitally-rendered animated films have had a hard time with human figures for the entire history of the medium, especially women. When not attempting photo-realistic motion capture, what happens is that stylized male characters are often bulked up and thus solid-looking, while the likes of Rapunzel and Gothel are slender, with thin necks and big heads (and in Rapunzel's case, very wide eyes), creating the impression of a mannequin that can be tough to shake.

Full review at EFC.

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