First, some pros:
- It was a Disney movie through and through. As much as the trailer tried to convince me that it was a so-so Shrek knock-off, this is no film from DreamWorks. There's nothing cynical or sarcastic about it at all. It was sincere and sweet, honestly funny and genuinely warm (without, I should point out, being sappy).
- It did look quite beautiful as a film. Rapunzel's hair was really pretty stunning to watch, and it was interesting to see how they handled it, even as sort of a character itself (though not as a sentient, thinking entity as the previews made it seem). The light and the colors and the sets were all really interesting and notably Disney as well.
- The story was strong and the characters really propelled it. It didn't rely on potty humor (at all) or cliché plot devices. In hindsight, there are hints of previous Disney films reflected in the story (Beauty and the Beast, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Aladdin), which is probably partly why it fits so well in the Disney canon. It was contemporary without being overly-anachronistic, and it really surprised me in a couple of places (since I was pretty much spoiler-free with this one, which is not my usual thing with Disney movies). I won't give it all here, so as not to ruin anyone's future enjoyment, but it really was funny and the ending was surprisingly touching.
- The characters were charming and likeable. Rapunzel and Flynn Rider are an excellent unlikely duo, and their relationship is believable but also really fun. Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi provide both the speaking as well as singing voices for their respective characters, and are both fine voice actors. I was hesitant about Mandy Moore, but as it turns out, she does pretty well with voicework for animation. At times I forgot entirely it was Mandy Moore, she just knew the character so well. Design-wise, she was cute and believably young, naive and optimistic, but still spunky and funny. She had a really nice arc of development, growing up just enough to keep her endearing but making you care about what happened to her. Zachary Levi also played his part with charm and swagger, but also really knew his character and where he was supposed to go. I don't really know him as Chuck, but word is that a lot of people are surprised at his performance in this, especially his unexpected singing voice. His development was a little more subtle than Rapunzel's, but it was just as it needed to be for who he was. Mother Gothel is a standout Disney villain, with a surprisingly subtle and nuanced character, and Broadway veteran Donna Murphy was an excellent casting choice. There was a slew of secondary characters (the "Pub Thugs") who perform their function adequately and amusingly. Also, as a sort of departure for this sort of film from Disney, the animal sidekicks did not speak, but their acting was perfectly clear regardless (which is a real sign of great animation--non-speaking characters emoting and expressing dialogue--see Dumbo and Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron).
- The music! Don't get me wrong, Randy Newman did a fantastic job with his work on The Princess and the Frog, but it was great to see (read: hear) Alan Menken back in action. The man really is the sound of "New Disney," and his writing was in fine form for Tangled. It's interesting because it is sort of a unique sound compared to some of his other work for the studio (a little more pop than his other more Broadway-styled work, think Enchanted rather than Beauty and the Beast), but it's still decidedly Disney. I liked the songs and score when I watched it, but it grew on me even more each time I listened to the soundtrack (which is to say at least once every day since I saw the movie--in fact, I'm listening to it even now). It has all the types of song you would hope to hear in a Disney movie: The main character's "I Want" song, setting the stage and developing the character; a fun and memorable villain song (with its more sinister and dynamic reprise); a random story progression showstopper featuring a band of secondary characters; the love song; a thrilling and moving score. "I See the Light" is a lovely and understated love song, and fits perfectly in the Disney songbook:
Now for just a few minor cons:
- I just kept wishing the entire time it were a traditionally-animated film. I love the look and feel of 2D animation so much, it just seemed in some ways a shame that Disney's "50th Animated Feature" should deviated in such a fundamental way from the artform that the studio is so famous for and perfected. It was pretty enough, and in a lot of ways really played like a 2D film though, so I was able to mostly get over that (after all, it's not like I'm against ALL 3D films, as Pixar has yet to let me down). It was more about the characters and the story than the medium, and it didn't rely entirely on the form of visuals used, but there were a couple of visual/story things that didn't seem to work quite as well. For example, someone flying through the air over a castle tower and landing astride a horse or sliding down a conveniently-placed slope to safety after falling hundreds of feet down a ravine just seem to work when they're hand-drawn, but the element of slightly more realism in a 3D film seems to just make those sorts of things... kind of hard to accept. Also, Rapunzel's eyes are just SO big. It worked with Ariel and Jasmine, because they were drawings, but when it comes to this, it's a little off-putting and distracting. You get used to it, sure, but I muttered to Julie about how big they were more than a few times. Sometimes I see drawings of the characters and just sigh at how it could have been, the drawings are just so beautiful (see here and here and here). Anyway, I could go on, but there you go.
- I still think it should just have been called Rapunzel. I know the reasons they changed the title (a few times actually), or the few reasons they seem to hand out, and they make sense to me, but I just don't think it was necessary. It just doesn't seem like the Disney thing, but then again, neither did the marketing campaign, which, I should say, according to box office reports, seems to have worked.
- It made me the slightest bit sad to see the Disney movie I've been dreaming of working on for over a decade made without me (yes, I have character sketches of Rapunzel from 9th grade), but at least it was made, you know?
As a sidenote, one of my friends from school worked on it, and I was inordinately excited to see the name of someone I know personally in the credits for a Disney movie. He has achieved one of my life goals, now I hope to one day do likewise.
I highly recommend it, but REALLY people, if you haven't seen The Princess and the Frog yet, PLEASE do. I have it on DVD and even Blu-Ray if you need to borrow it.