Tangled Review

We have a thief, a princess, a witch, and the fairy tale backdrop. Tangled falls right in line with the Disney tradition, sure, but it’s clever. This is a blending of old school and new school, producing stunningly beautiful works of art in the background along with brilliant song writing, while mixing in the new age timing and humor modern comedies rarely achieve.

Maybe at some point Tangled will become one of those minor Disney classics; the only real fault is the fairly standard base, flow, and familiarity. If we’re docking Disney for that, not many of those films are coming out of the vault.

That doesn’t dilute or change how snappy and near brilliant Tangled is. It has charm, wit, and about halfway through, that feeling that you’re watching something special. It doesn’t take long for Tangled to click, zippy with its pacing and setting up this familiar fairy tale in montage form so it can get to the good stuff.

It has loads of the latter too, from memorable character designs like Mother Gothel’s impersonation of Cher to a group of secondary character thugs with dreams. There’s plenty of action, Tangled meant for 3D and it’s not exactly shy about it. Most of the intense, brisk chase scenes love those, “toss stuff at the screen” moments, a dam collapse especially spectacular. More importantly, that type of thing doesn’t intrude, carefully inserted without a break of immersion or pacing. They exist within the narrative, not merely as a means of showing off.

In terms of animation, Tangled could be an animator’s worst nightmare, Rapunzel’s flowing golden locks absurd in its complexity, and they even have the guts to get it all wet at one point. Traditional color palettes, from the blues of the dramatic to the chipper reds of the romance, keep the style alive without traditional pen and paper, or at least enough to make the grizzled Disney animation veteran see a bit of the CG light.

Some may see Tangled as a film without risk or guts. This isn’t a movie redefining animation, it’s not gunning to take down the juggernaut of Pixar, and as if it couldn’t be overstated enough, this is standard Disney fare. They’re right you know, but unless they’re still concerned with all of that 30-minutes in, it doesn’t matter at all.

Movie ★★★★☆ 

No, Tangled is not a disappointment like Megamind on Blu-ray, meaning the Blu-ray animation game is still held to a high standard… as if you were worried. Disney’s AVC encode is for all accounts flawless, unless you really want to get into the thick of it and complain the end credit 2D ink drawings show some aliasing.

Of course, that would require ignoring the previous 80 or so minutes of colorful, defined bliss. One of the songs (maybe the best one in the film) called, “Mommy Knows Best,” is cloaked in almost total blackness, lit only by candlelight. Black levels are perfect, delivering a rich, bold, deep, and utterly convincing layer of non-light. When called upon to give characters actual dimensionality, a roundness, and screen-popping depth, they perform too.

The color doesn’t hurt, those immense greens that surround Rapunzel’s tower losing none of their vibrancy. They carry a wonderful, inviting warmth, and much of the design follows this same palette. Scenes pushing the opposite emotion, drenched in rich, vivid blues are equally spectacular in their own way. Nighttime skies show no banding or other fault, and hectic action (especially the dam breaking) never breaks down into visible artifacts.

We’re not even at detail yet, where Tangled keeps its lifeline flowing. The hair (and there’s lots of it) is meticulous in close, while things like the armor worn by guards (or any metal for that matter) are just awe-inspiring for their definition. Even the grass is presented down to individual blades, because that’s what this one can do. Maybe in spots the animation itself doesn’t hold up, this one not quite at the technical acuity of a Pixar, but that’s no fault of this Blu-ray effort.

Video ★★★★★ 

Disney, along with being almost 100% consistent with their home video encodes, is jumping on the 7.1 bandwagon too. That means large scaled home theaters owners may finally be able to count on someone other than Lionsgate for once. Tangled’s take on the additional rear speakers is as impressive as its video, using them not only for action. The songs brilliantly bleed into the surrounds, the wrap-around effect immense, tightly calibrated, and clean. Fidelity is as pure as it comes, those lyrics belted out with grand power and balance.

Action scenes are peppered around, the dam collapse easily one of the highlights of modern Disney animation in terms of just audio design. Rushing water passes overhead, wood splinters as the pressure reaches a peak, and rocks tumble from the force of the water. There is no shortage or holding back of the bass either.

Tangled likes positional dialogue too, one of those vastly underutilized effects that makes it all the more special when it comes up. Rapunzel begins spinning on a tree at 32:35, her yelps and laughing tracking through the fronts with ease. There’s a minor bar brawl too, taunts and general macho chatter split freely from the center to capture appropriate positioning. It’s all as fun to look at as it is to listen to.

Audio ★★★★★ 

Extras kick off with a string of deleted scenes, a handful introduced by the filmmakers. There are two alternate openings as well as additional choices. There’s a clip rundown celebrating 50 animated features from the Mouse House, almost too short (only two minutes) considering the quality involved. A studio standard making-of is easily passed over as the cast discusses their experience. There is a selection of teasers used for promotion too, generally amusing little shorts that you can waste some time with.

Extras ★★☆☆☆ 

Note: Time stamps on these screens will be so off it’s not even funny… unlike the movie. Technology isn’t always cooperative, but the screens themselves are accurate to the source.