Saturday, December 15, 2012

D52 - Week 50 - Tangled

Kevyn Rider
Aww, I'm not as interested in writing about a movie I actually like a lot! Usually I latch onto the flaws, but...I'm not sure exactly what's wrong with ...OH! I remember now. There is one thing that really bugs me about this movie. But I'll save it for the end.
Last week I talked about how "Princess & the Frog" seemed to embrace the old-and-even-older school style of Disney Princess movies. "Tangled" does a good job at retaining everything that makes those films enjoyable - such as the storytelling, vivid animation, catchy music, and engaging characters - and takes everything a step further by updating the sense of humor. Thankfully they're not updated in the annoying way (AFRO CIRCUS! BANA-NA! BANA-NANA! AFRO CIRCUS!). And the main characters equally have interesting and believable motivations and feelings. Flynn is humble enough to not come across as a complete Joey Tribbiani type, but yet cocky enough that he's not a bland Dave Seville/Prince Eric type. Rapunzel is a strong female figure and (wants to be) independent, but has perfectly understandable hesitations and doubts. Mother Gothel is a bit of a tricky one though. Has she, as a result of raising her, come to genuinely love Rapunzel after the fact of her manipulation? She may have evil motivations for keeping Rapunzel in the tower, but she's not evil to the point of beating her or starving her or depriving her of entertainment and nice things, and it's not like she has to be nice to her faux-daughter for magic reverse-aging's sake. I'm not saying any of this excuses what she's done, but it makes the idea of her character worth dissecting.When Gothel treats Rapunzel to her favorite hazelnut soup, is it really her favorite or has she just convinced her it's her favorite? If not for the kidnapping, inprisonment, lying, manipulation, and later on stabbing and such, could Mother Gothel have been the good guy? Maybe in an alternate fantasy where she doesn't steal Rapunzel away, she's just the best royal caretaker ever.
So yeah. Great music, great art and animation, great characters, great story (for one involving magic, at least), all packaged together quite nicely. So then what was it that I don't like about this movie? That one thing that bothered me enough that I drew a comic a year ago to address my complaint? Ideally my point came across well enough in it that I can just show you:

I just can't seem to get his nose right!

Favorite character: Max is best pony. Horse. Whatever.
Least necessary character: I didn't need old in-his-skivvies dude. I'm going with my "A character isn't funny just because he's wearing nothing but his underwear" stance here. I would've been okay with Mother Gothel having gotten the necessary information from, oh, anyone else, so that he wouldn't have to exist.
DVD Bonus: Part of what inspired this D52 project was the 50 Animated Features count-up on the Tangled DVD, which helped me realize, "wow, there really have been over 50, haven't there?" It's especially neat now to watch "the whole year" summed up in only a couple of minutes, and yet again notice how quickly the 80s come up.
Overall: If I were to nominate a best Disney Princess movie, this would quite possibly be it. It's a worthy contender with Beauty & the Beast, anyway.

As for my favorite D52 movie of all...well, we only have two left. Could there possibly be one I like even more of those two? Guess we'll just have to see, tee-hee!

Amanda Knows Best

 Yay! Number 50!  I'm so glad that the landmark 50th film in the Disney Animated Feature line-up is such a good one.  But Kevin's right.  Taking a good movie and explaining why it's good is an awful lot harder than taking a bad one or even just a flawed one and picking it apart. 

Tangled offers an excellent opportunity to analyze what makes animation good to a layperson.  Sure, the commentary tracks are always telling you what's hard technically (Hair, Fire, Water, Hair in Water, Explosions, Fabric, that sort of thing), but what about artistically?  To my mind, it's taking an image and clearly expressing emotion and motivation.  Here, it's best demonstrated by four nearly silent characters. Max and Pascal represent the very active and cartoonish end of the spectrum and the King and Queen are the most subtle end of the line.  Both are acted brilliantly and for different reasons.  The cartoonish animals dance a tricky dance between offering nothing but comic relief with their antics, and yet when they emote sincerely, it's still easy to relate.  Contrarily the King and Queen are animated so subtly that I'd say they spend more time being nearly still than they do moving at all.  The solemn stillness of their stance is enough to express one of the most complex emotions of the entire year.  Fear of disappointment and renewed grief mixed with disbelief, relief, and joy. 

As for the rest of the film, well, I've always been a fan of the Broadway Musical and this film would fit in with the best of them.  The theatrics are staged as if it were live action, the lighting is dramatic and flourishy, and the music is as catchy as Menken has ever written.  (In fact, this is the most memorable sing-along-able in nearly a decade for my taste.)

Favorite Character:  Bruiser knits and so does Rapunzel... need I say more?
Least Necessary character:  I hate to copycat, but Cupid thug could have been pretty much anybody else.
Overall: I LIKED IT.  I really really liked it!

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