With Dreamworks having already tied up the fairytale pastiche market with Shrek, you have to admire Disney's bravery (foolishness?) in tackling The Brothers Grimm for its latest animated feature. You'll be glad they didn't let the ogre's shadow put them off; Tangled is a joy from very non-Disney start (“This is the story of how I died,” intones our hero Flynn Ryder) to the inevitable happy ending (so they mention death in the opening line, it's still Disney). And when I say "joy", I mean big, goofy, clever, face-splitting, side-hugging joy. In short, this is the best non-Pixar animated movie Disney have made for decades with Alan Menken songs that (whisper it soft) may even trump Beauty & The Beast in terms of showstopping quality. Big claim? Yes. But undoubtedly, irrefutably true.
As the trailer makes clear and the hair-connected name tenuously suggests, the fairytale in question is Rapunzel. Not content with the standard story – evil witch, kidnapped princess, lots of hair, handsome prince – Dan Fogelman has crafted a screenplay that instils a modern teenage sense of rebellion while staying true to its (dazzlingly blonde) roots.
With her mother's life saved mid-pregnancy by a magical flower, the princess Rapunzel is born with locks instilled with the plant's rejuvenating powers. That's good news for her but bad news for the old hag Mother Gothel (Murphy), who was using the flower to stay eternally young. In the absence of the flower, well, the hair must do, so Gothel kidnaps the baby princess, locks her away in a tower and maintains her youthful appearance. Flash forward and the now teenage Rapunzel (Moore) has had enough of her tower "home". Whatever her "mother" might say about the world being a dangerous place, Rapunzel wants to see it and here, in the form of handsome bandit Flynn Ryder (Levi) is her ticket to the big city. Flynn has broken in to the tower, attempting to hide from his crooked partners-in-crime and a seemingly unstoppale palace guard horse called Maximus. Rapunzel has captured him and offers him a deal. If he'll take her to the city, he can go free. It's a simple enough transaction abut of course it's made slightly trickier by the pursuit of Flynn's former business partners, the sly Mother Gothel and a very determind horse...
The result is 100 minutes of animated bliss. The voicework is charming from the leads to the minor characters (particularly the assorted thugs and crooks voiced by the more familiar names in the cast list). The songs are excellent (Gothel's big number "Mother Knows Best" is a bona fide classic, even if it suggests Menken and/or lyricist Glenn Slater may have maternal issues). The pace is electric, with a genuine, thrilling sense of peril during the chase sequences. The jokes are hilarious. The characters are wonderful particularly, in true Disney fashion, the two (silent) animals present, Maximus the horse and Rapunzel's pet chameleon Pascal.
There is one mystery with Tangled however. Why the hell has the Academy ignored its existence? One Oscar nomination for a song? No recognition for Best Animated Feature? What the hell? As oversights go, it's as much proof that the Academy Awards are a load of ploppies as Paul Giamatti and Susan Sarandon not getting acting nods for Sideways and Bull Durham. However you cut it, Tangled is a work of genius, a Disney classic and one of the best films of 2011. Oh, and the 3D's marvellous too.