Note: I’m having a long weekend. I’m making my blog posts at least 1,000 words long for the next couple of days. Just to see if I can. You don’t have to read them all. Normal, truncated, service will be back next week.
Tangled is the latest animated film from Disney. It follows in the footsteps of some pretty heavy hitters like Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. Unfortunately Disney has also made some pretty dodgy animated films as well. Anyone remember Lilo and Stitch? In a good way? Opinions in the reviews were pretty sharply divided, with critics either praising it to the heavens or calling it lacklustre and run of the mill. As we sat down with our popcorn I was consoled by the fact that most of the nastier reviews had been in the posh papers.
We were seeing the film in 2D instead of the much touted 3D. This was not because we couldn’t afford the 3D seats (although the difference in price had paid for the drink and meal combo that we carried gingerly into the theatre), but because we happen to prefer to see our movies the way that they are supposed to be made. Flat. There is a very good discussion of why 3D doesn’t work out there on the web somewhere, I recommend that you seek it out (search for “Why 3D doesn't work and never will” by Roger Ebert). Essentially he makes the point that when you watch a 3D movie your eyes have to focus at a fixed distance on the screen. But when you see 3D your brain thinks that the 3D bits are different distances away. The 3D seeing part of your brain then has to override the 2D part of your eyes to make the scene look right. In the 600 million years that the brain has been developing to give us useful 3D vision it has never had to do this before and the resulting mental tussle gives me (and lots of people) a headache after a while. Actually, there is another good reason why we only saw the 2D version. Due to a quirk of fate number one wife and I only have two good eyes between us (fortunately we were given one each) and so we don’t really miss the third dimension much. And anyhoo, although there were a few bits obviously added for 3D (point stuff at the audience and swing it around, lots of tiny particles etc etc) seeing it in 2D didn’t really make much difference. We were pleased to see that the theatre was packed with people who didn’t mind missing 3D either.
But back to the film itself. I’m not giving too much away if I tell you that the film is a reworking of “Rapunzel”, the fairy tale about the girl in the tower with the unfeasibly long locks. And they’ve done a pretty good job. If you know the story you’ll appreciate the stuff they’ve put in to make it interesting. If you don’t you’ll just appreciate the story. The villainess of the piece is very well portrayed, one of the better and more plausible fairy tale nasty’s and the hero and heroine are nicely matched. The music is not intrusive. It’s not a musical film (or of course I would not have gone) but the songs that they do are very well realised and enjoyable in a hum along but then forget after the film kind of way. The best one is the set piece in a lair of ner-do-wells which manages to echo some of the best of the song about Gaston in Beauty and the Beast (I don’t dislike all musicals, just ones that aren’t Beauty and the Beast).
The film is all computer rendered, but looks very lush. The fabric on the clothes is particularly impressive, especially the dress worn by the villainess (I’m wondering if we now call female baddies villains, in the same way that actor and comedian have now gone unisex. Perhaps this is something I’d best not dwell on). But the cloth does look very real, as if there actually was a character wearing clothes, rather than a surface with a texture on it. The characters look good, move well and fit their voices. Disney spent a lot of money on this film and it shows.
I liked the film a lot. It has been unfavourably compared with Shrek, another reworking but of a less popular children’s tale. I think this is unfair. Shrek had the advantage that nobody (or at least me) knew how it would turn out and did have some really standout actors voicing the characters. One big advantage of Tangled is that it is unlikely that we will see any massively inferior sequels, something that was unfortunately not true of Shrek. The critics also compared Tangled unfavourably to films by Pixar, saying that it lacks the wit and invention of some of their efforts. I kind of agree, but the producers are a bit constrained by the fact they are reworking a fairy tale. There is little chance of a cute robot or house dangling from balloons being able to make an appearance, and at least they avoided making any crass references to contemporary culture that can date a film faster than side splitting jokes about Betamax. The characters they have added to fill out the story are good, with a particular call out to Maximus the horse, who would get a film of his own if there was any justice in the world.
So, to sum up I really enjoyed the film. So did the rest of the theatre. If it can keep an audience made up of around 40% kids under 10 quiet (and me) then it must have something going for it. It is a genuinely nice story with well defined baddies and a good solid triumph of good over evil. The computer graphics are some of the best that you will see at the moment and it has the Disney trademark of lots going on in the background that marks some of their best work. The songs aren’t the best in my opinion, but they are OK and you will not leave the theatre feeling shortchanged. In fact you should work out feeling that you have just seen a really good film. I did.