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Time Out New York Project: Issue #791, November 25-December 1, 2010
Dirs. Nathan Greno and Byron Howard. 2010. PG. 101mins. Voices of Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy.
An independent-minded heroine (Moore) longing to experience the outside world; a dashingly handsome male counterpart (Levi) in need of companionship; some humdrum Alan Menken–penned musical numbers. Welcome to 1989! The House of Mouse’s retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale might as well be titled Little Mermaid Redux — a transparent attempt to fill the Disney coffers by repackaging the masses-pleasing formulas that led to the studio’s early-’90s resurgence. A few things have changed, from a heavy reliance on CG that makes every character look frighteningly plastic to an occasional fallback on Dreamworks-style self-awareness (Levi’s Flynn Ryder narrates the story oh-so-knowingly). But almost everything else remains the same, and the familiarity breeds equal levels admiration and contempt.
Credit neo-Katzenberg executive producer John Lasseter for porting over his Pixar-honed talent for snappy narrative and memorable imagery. Rapunzel’s flowing golden locks — which bestow eternal youth on the shot-tune belting villain (Murphy) who kidnapped the lass as a baby — are thrown around like Tarzan’s vines, allowing for several delirious flights of fancy. The animal sidekicks (horse Maximus and chameleon Pascal) are adorable and action-figure ready, and there’s an especially wonderful sequence where thousands of floating lanterns light up the night sky. Disney knows how to bewitch a crowd, but the sense that Tangled was made more by corporate mandate than artistic spark remains constant throughout. There’s something particularly synthetic about Rapunzel’s burgeoning defiance — you never feel like you’re watching a girl on the empowering cusp of adulthood so much as a selection of attitudes compiled through demographic study. Talk about your Grimm contrivances.—Keith Uhlich
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