With the voices of Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy, Ron Perlman, M. C. Gainey. Directed by Nathan Greno, Byron Howard. Rated PG for brief mild violence. 93 minutes.
TANGLED is Walt Disney Studio’s 50th “official” animated release, meaning that the count doesn’t include all those direct-to-video features or other minor efforts/money grabs. Given both the merger with Pixar and the stunning updating of traditional animation that was last year’s “The Princess And The Frog,” one would have hoped that Disney Animation was entering a new era. Unfortunately “Tangled” is a bland and formulaic movie that may amuse the kiddies, but is a huge disappointment for the grown-ups who must accompany them.
Adapting the fairy tale “Rapunzel,” we get a story about a girl who is kidnapped as an infant and is not allowed to cut her hair because she has ingested a magic flower, which the evil Mother Gothel (voice of Donna Murphy) has been using to stay young. Now it is Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) and her hair which is the source of the magic, so she is kept locked in a tower and forbidden to get a haircut. One day the roguish thief Flynn Ryder (Zachary Levi) shows up, trying to elude the law and his thuggish partner (Ron Perlman). Rapunzel gets the drop on him and promises to release him and his booty only if he takes her to see the mysterious lights that appear once a year on her birthday.
You can probably figure out the rest of the story. No one is going to these movies for the plots. No, it’s the animation, the music, and the voice cast that are the attractions, or at least they are supposed to be, but in each case “Tangled” falls short.
In spite of the fact that 3D has added little to even the best animated efforts and the success of the 2D “The Princess And The Frog,” we’re back not only with the glasses but with generic computer animation. The characters look like they’ve been created by the people responsible for those direct-to-video “Barbie” movies, with little in the way of style or originality. You feel like you’ve seen all these characters before, probably drawn in 2D and with more wit.
The music might have saved the film but instead, Alan Menken, who once gave us “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty And The Beast,” and “Aladdin,” now gives us a generic score (with forgettable lyrics by Glenn Slater) that is strictly by-the-numbers. The songs might as well be called “Big Number by the Villainess,” “Production Number by Comic Bad Guys,” and “Romantic Duet Intended for an Oscar Nomination.”
As for the voice cast, Donna Murphy attempts to bring Mother Godel to life, but the character is so nasty and manipulative that she’s just creepy instead of being one of those Disney villains you love to hate. It says something that they went and got such distinctive character actors as M.C. Gainey, Jeffrey Tambor, Brad Garrett and Richard Kiel in supporting roles and they’ll likely go unrecognized. As the leads, Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi do their best with uninteresting characters, but are ultimately defeated by the material.
Thank goodness for “Toy Story 3” and “Despicable Me.” Otherwise, as “Tangled” sadly demonstrates, the year in animation was as forgettable as the most of the live action releases.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind The Scenes Of The Great Romantic Comedies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.