Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Tangled: Movie Review

Because it's been so damn long since I last saw this I forgot any quotes that stick out so just choose one from here.

What is it? Theatrical-release CGI movie and the first movie of the Disney "animated canon" to be both CGI and feature one of their famous princesses.
Where did it air? Given that it's a Pixar movie you'd think it'd air on Disney Channel eventually, like, I dunno, prior to the premiere of Tangled: Before Ever After - and while I think I remember it being on Disney Channel like a year or two ago, strangely enough it was only on ABC a few weeks prior to Before Ever After. So, yeah. Well, that's where I recorded it anyway.
Who stars in it? Mandy Moore who prior to this was afflicted with the "Mandy Moore Curse" where pretty much everything she starred in was a complete bomb (kind of like the "Heather Graham Curse). But unlike the Heather Graham Curse, she eventually broke it with this very movie. So Mandy Moore has had success with movies where she's a voice behind animated characters. Yeah. Zachary Levi's also in it, as well as Donna Murphy (whoever she is) and Ron Pearlman plays one of Donna Murphy's henchmen.
Why are we reviewing this? Because of Tangled: Ever After, and it's also credited with helping to fully carry the "Disney Animated Canon" (as well as the "Disney Princess Canon" - and yes, they're two distinct things though they do overlap a lot) fully into the CGI/3D era without Disney having to rely on Pixar for everything.

...and in order to do that, it had to be a pretty big box office success, which it indeed is. And in order to do that it had to bring a lot of endearing qualities to the table that movie-goers and particularly fans of children's movies, Disney movies and animated movies love in spades and offer something on top of what other animated movies screened at wide-release at the time were offering too.

The big problem is...I just don't see it.

I mean...I have the feeling, given how much I rag on Girl Meets World, even good episodes of Girl Meets World, that maybe my tastes are just seriously out of whack compared to the normal public (I mean, I like Jessie, for crying out loud). I think Cars is one of the most overrated Pixar movies of all time - but I also think Cars 2 is one of the most underrated even though I agree it was a bit of Larry the Cable Guy overload. Wreck-It Ralph and Big Hero 6 (both Disney Animated Canon movies, neither of which are Pixar - those two things are mutually exclusive) are some of my most favorite movies of all time - but I thought Frozen was....eeeeeeehhhhhhhhhh it's ok. I thought The Princess and the Frog was....eeeeehhhhh it was a little bit better than OK though it was very heavy-handed in what TVTropes calls "Anvillicious" (and to be fair a lot of Disney Animated Canon and animated movies in general are like this, especially the ones Millennials would've grown up with and earlier). I liked Up, though I thought it was a bit slow-paced. And you probably get the point.

Though I will add if you even slightly dislike any of the Toy Story movies you might not have a pulse. Yes, even the third one.

Anyway as for Tangled, well...ummm...it's your standard Disney action princess movie. Other than the CGI aspect it doesn't really offer anything on top of what came before. And I guess that's the point - play it safe and all. You see, Disney has almost always had two CGI animation studios, its own "Disney Animation Studios"label (really the same one that was also responsible for the classic 2D animated features as well) and of course Pixar. As you can imagine this was a rather awkward setup (a setup that persists today, but we're getting to that) and it reached a tipping point around the time Pixar became a fully-owned subsidiary of Disney when it was time for contract negotiations. Long story short, someone at Disney thought it'd be a brilliant idea to push for more CGI features from the Disney Animated Studios label - the first of which was Chicken Little, which turned out to be an abject disaster (you can in fact read more about this on that movie's TVTropes page). Disney Animated Studios in fact pretty much put themselves on the ropes through this until two key movies premiered that finally turned things around - Meet the Robinsons, and this movie, Tangled. 

So what happened, and what changed, that suddenly had a studio new to the CGI game that had been churning out duds suddenly have two finally become big hits? As part of those ongoing contract negotiations, Disney effectively just gave up and pretty much completely caved in to Pixar bigwig John Lassiter, in the process giving him so much control over Disney's own Animation Studios (including moving a lot of Pixar personnel to moonlight over there - perhaps most key in that being Lassiter himself who would attach himself as one of DAS' project directors) that DAS and Pixar pretty much unofficially merged in all but name. Hence, nearly all of Disney's CGI movies have had Lassiter attached as either director or producer or something regardless of what studio officially made the film, starting with Meet the Robinsons (where he made massive changes to the script) and Tangled being no exception (including imposing that the movie had to be in CGI - it was originally going to be a 2D animation like The Princess and the Frog, in a style that's at least partially homaged in both Tangled's end credits and in Tangled: Before Ever After - he would also demand the same 2D-to-CGI switch for all the Neverland Fairies movies. Since the release of TPatF, all Disney animated movies have consequently been CGI).

Given the success of the movies under Lassiter's belt, and given how he turned Meet the Robinsons in particular into a success through a heavy script rewrite, it's pretty clear the man really knows his stuff beyond how to render polygons. Also given the immense pressure resting upon Tangled's success (it along with TPatF were the turning point deciding if the Disney Princess Canon was going to continue to be a thing or if Disney was going to completely abandon their famed fairytale storytelling altogether) it's no surprise that Lassiter perhaps just wanted to play it safe - and really, it shows, both in the quality of the end-product itself, and in its success.

So what you have here is a story of the princess in distress, then the guy who accidentally falls in with her, and soon falls in love with her and together they battle the evil forces, and all that. We've seen it with The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, and we've seen it all the way up to Frozen (I have see Moana yet but it looks to be breaking the mold quite a bit, for once). At this point it's really nothing special, especially since...well, our heroine Rapunzel and hero Flynn/Eugene are...rather exceedingly bland. Hell even Maximus, Mr. "I'm A Horse In A Disney Movie Therefore All The Personality is Traditionally Concentrated In Me" is rather, well, bland. 

So, um, there you go. I think Tangled is actually a pretty bland movie. It has some pretty impressive visuals especially with the sky lanterns and Rapunzel's room in Gothel's tower but other than that it's...bland. As heavy-handed in its moral messages as it may be, TPatF had tons of personality. It was seeping at the edges with personality. Mr. Facilier was one of the most personality-dripping villains of the Disney Renaissance Canon (yeah that's another thing) and trust me that says a lot

I'm sorry if that may disappoint you but, hey, I'm just an amateur reviewer with an opinion.

Movie Grade: C+. It's...well, bland. For like the fourth time now.
Movie MVP: Mandy Moore I guess for finally breaking that curse. At least in animated form. You still have one up on Heather Graham at least!

Extra Thoughts:

 - I talked about the wider concept of canon and the Disney Channel Live-Action Universe Canon (or its severe lack of it) about a year ago so you can refer back to that blog post if you're confused about what the heck am I talking about when I keep referring to Disney movies as big shooty-thingies, and also keep misspelling it by leaving a middle "n" out (I also address why the word "canon" is only a third n away from being big shooty-thingies in there, albeit very briefly). If you're mostly just confused by me throwing out all these random canon universes here and there....

The Disney Animated Canon is the selection of films that are "officially made by Disney Animated Studios." They go back all the way to 1930's Snow White, up to the most recent film Moana which was just released last quarter of last year. They don't include every single animated movie that Disney has ever slapped a label on it (including their subsidiary labels), very specifically only the ones Disney pretty much says so. Think of it as Disney's Nintendo Seal of Quality. Equally confusing, equally worthless and gimmicky.

The Disney Princess Canon is even more arbitrary than that, as you might think it's just "oh well every movie of the Disney Animated Canon that has a princess in it." Wrong! It's a very specific selection of princess-themed movies and it's all decided by...well, basically whatever Disney says, based on what movies they simply feel are most marketable especially given empowerment theme-requirements, often years or decades after the fact. The Black Cauldron is a Disney Animated Canon movie, and it does indeed have a princess in it, but good luck getting a Disney exec to cop up to acknowledging its existence. Brave is not a Disney Animated Canon movie (we'll get to why right below) but Disney does consider it to be a part of the Disney Princess Canon.

The Pixar Animated Canon is simply any - and this time I do mean any  - movie officially released with the Pixar label. This means every Pixar movie from the first Toy Story to Finding Dory, and everything in between, no exceptions. Now please note that NO movie can be in both the Disney Animated Canon AND the Pixar Animated Canon! They are totally, completely separate canons that are mutually incompatible! This is the reason why Disney Animated Canon movies nowadays are done by the separate Disney Animation Studio and not Pixar, even if it is for the most arbitrary reasons imaginable and even if the staff of both those studios ends up being the same anyway. Yes, for whatever reason Disney loves the mental gymnastics of all this arbitrariness, I guess. And as we've seen with Brave a Pixar movie isn't disqualified from being a Disney Princess movie, either.

Again, you gotta love how insanely arbitrary this stuff is.

The Disney Animated Renaissance isn't a "canon" collection of movies per se, but it does refer to a specific set of movies that begins with The Little Mermaid and ends more or less with The Emperor's New Groove (the last truly unqualified success Disney had with 2D movies until TPatF). The "Renaissance" part refers to how Disney had been in a major slump with real fears of complete bankruptcy until TLM pretty much saved everything, and things just keep climbing from there (people forget how Beauty and the Beast was nominated for best picture of the year and was the whole reason why separate categories for animation were created) until they reached a new slump and eventually a new "Renaissance" with this very movie being reviewed, as mentioned in this very review above. 

Now there's yet another special group of movies Disney makes that we haven't talked about in this review yet, but it's the one group of Disney-made movies and movies period (well, more or less)  that this blog trades the absolute most in - yes, I'm of course talking about the Disney Channel Original Movies or DCOMs. But it just convieniently happens to be that our very next review will not only be a DCOM but the sequel to this very movie - yup, Tangled: Before Ever After is coming next (of course).

5 comments:

  1. This was actually the last movie I saw in theatres. I remember liking it and absolutely nothing else about it. And I have no interest in the series. (shrug)

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    1. Ugh I swear I typed it in this box. This is why I still hate Blogspot.

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  2. ...so you seriously haven't seen a movie in theaters since? That's a pretty long time, even by my standards.

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  3. "I'm sorry if that may disappoint you but, hey, I'm just an amateur reviewer with an opinion."-Unknown 2017

    To the shock of no one, i have a post on this topic i can link to, kinda. I mostly compare to TPATF. I think both are very good https://spongey444.wordpress.com/2017/03/10/the-princess-and-the-frog-vs-tangled/

    I address everything about Tangled there...so yeah. I've been watching the Disney Animated Canon films (using a randomizer, not going in order) so I've become rather fascinated with their films, and their highs and lows.

    I think the DAC refers to films made specially in house at Disney, while anything not in the DAC is made by other sections of the company. IDK, that's my guess.

    (Also, i'm farly sure they decide what princess becomes an offical one by how popular/marketable the film is. Black Couldren bombed so no princess title, but Pocahontas was a hit despite mixed reactions so in you go. Why they allowed a pixar princess is beyond me though.

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    1. I'm stealing that "I'm just a reviewer with an opinion quote" from SciFi Debris BTW

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