Wednesday, December 22, 2010

On a Magical Journey

Based on my new idea to broaden my posting horizons please enjoy a short vingette based on recent modern movie travails....

The past week or so have contained an epic battle-one of good versus evil; of wrong versus right.  This is a battle where truth, justice, and an indomitable will combined to--okay, fine, this week was a battle to get one of my friends to go with me to see Tangled.

Now before you judge me too harshly let me point out a few important facts.  First of all, digitally animated moves are very in right now.  Toy Story 3 got a 99% on the meter (personally, though the movie was great, I think that rating is a little too high).  Secondly, I have to say I have an uncanny ability to pick entertaining movies based solely on previews.  I knew it would be awesome.  And thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, I have never outgrown my love of princesses, animated or otherwise.

Rapuzel and her magic hair
It's true!  I know all the lyrics to all the Disney princess songs.
Unfortunately, I am now considered to be an adult.  So if I were to go see the movie alone, I would be the creepy person in the back of the theater.  None of my friends or close relatives have children, and I am not currently babysitting any suitable little children that I can drag to the movie as an excuse.  Therefore, one of my friends has to go with me.

Rapunzel's castle and some Disney magic.
I informed them of this, and received only eye-rolling.  But I persevered.  It only took several impassioned speeches, five threatening emails, one incidence of blackmail, and a pointed facebook post before finally one of them agreed to come along.  And I promised to buy her margaritas.

Tangled early story sketch

Terrifying Mother Gothel probably appreciated the margs...

So--a pitcher of fabulous frozen raspberry margaritas later (was it inappropriate to drink before a children's film?) and we were off to a 3D adventure.

A side note about 3D.  Is it really all that necessary?  Kind of gives me a headache...

My verdict?  I enjoyed the film, though perhaps not the best princess story I've seen.

Rapunzel and her magic hair
Tangled is the story of a princess named Rapunzel, played by Mandy Moore.  Right before her mother is about to give birth, the queen becomes ill, and the only thing that can cure her is a magical flower hidden in the kingdom.  The flower is watched over by an evil witch, Mother Gothel, played by Donna Murphey, who sings a magic song and therefore uses its powers to remain young forever.  But one day Mother Gothel is careless, the guards find the flower and feed it to the queen.  She gets better and gives birth to Rapunzel, who has the power to heal in her shiny golden hair.  Mother Gothel sneaks into the castle and attempts to snip her hair, but when cut, Rapunzel's hair turns brown and looses its power.  So the evil witch steals her away, hides her in a tower and pretends to be her mother.  Heartbroken, the king and queen release golden lanterns into the air on her birthday every year, hoping that the lanterns will reach their daughter and bring her home.

Magic lanterns around the castle.
Eighteen years later, Rapuzel is determined to set out on her own to seek the lanterns, which have become special to her though she doesn't know why.  Mother Gothel refuses to let her leave, claiming the outside world too dangerous.  Enter Flynn Ryder, played by Zachary Levi, a notorious theif who has stolen the missing princess's tiara from the castle.  But in his haste to get away, he ends up hiding in Rapunzel's tower.  She kidnaps him and refuses to return the tiara until he takes her (and her trusty sidekick, Pascal the chamelion) with him to see the lanterns before Mother Gothel returns.  What follows is a typical chase through the forrest, avoiding both Flynn's pursuers and Mother Gothel's machinations.  Rapunzel learns to grow up and face the world, and Flynn finds himself falling in love with the intrepid princess.  But when Mother Gothel becomes determined to keep Rapunzel at all costs, Flynn must step in to save the day by being true to himself and the one he loves.

They just can't get his nose right.
What did I love?
Zachary Levi.  You probably know him as the title character in the TV series, Chuck.  This film is an entirely new side of him as an actor.  Flynn is the best character in this film, by far.  He is funny, charming, witty, and vulnerable.  Actually, I think I'd rank him up there with Aladdin, another thief with a heart of gold.  Levi manages to make the audience actually care about this Disney prince, when the princess is usually the scene stealer.  And this is supposed to be Rapunzel's story. 

Rapunzel's tower
Another great thing was the scenery.  I saw an interview in which the animators mentioned they were inspired by old Disney films like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.  I can definitely sense the older, more magical vibe of those films.  In many ways the animation harkens back to the golden age of animation, which, with The Princess and the Frog, Disney has been attempting to return to.

Flynn with one of the villians-with-a-heart-of-gold
Less thrilled about... Suprisingly, the music.  This film was scored by Oscar-winning composer, Alan Menken, he of such famous films as Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Enchanted.  I cannot tell you a single song from this movie.  The songs were unmemorable, all realtively similar, and did not help to progress the story line.  The best one is probably the song sung by all the villians in the pub into witch Rapunzel stumbles, and there's also "Mother Knows Best" sung by the evil Mother Gothel.  But when you have a noted singer in your aray of actors, it is suprising when her songs are so completley unmemorable.

Rapunzel with the villians.
Which brings me to Rapunzel...
I've never hated Mandy Moore, though her combination whiney/impassioned little girl acting has recently begun to grate.  But I at least appreciate the effort to be different, instead of routinely banging out syrupy half-baked romantic comedies like so many other actresses these days.  I actually like it when she plays a mean girl.  Much more fun.

Rapunzel and Flynn
But I think her Rapunzel never really gets off the ground.  She has a voice perfectly suited to princessdom (sweet, innocent, and a good singer without being too good) but there are moments where she just becomes too cliqued of a character.  She's just so darn earnest..with everything.  I don't need another five heartwarming "I get achieve my dream if only I try" songs.  Just one or too would have been okay.  She's not bad, but when the prince is much better, you know you have some problems.  Also if your personality is eclipsed by your hair...again...problems.  Look to Aladdin and Jasmine.  They have a partnership that actually seems to snap and crackle and work.

Flynn finds Rapunzel
All in all, not a bad film, although I do think Disney has the potential to create bigger and better films a la The Little Mermaid and AladdinThe Princess and the Frog was definitely a step in the right direction.  This film feels close--but not quite there (Treasure Planet, anyone?).  I look forward to their next attempt...Winnie the Pooh!
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