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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Tangled

March 28th, 2011

Tangled - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack, or 3D Blu-ray / Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack

Tangled hit quite a snag trying to get to theaters. The film was originally supposed to be more of a faithful adaptation of Rapunzel, but after The Princess and the Frog missed expectations, they decided they needed to refocus the film. This resulted in spiraling costs and in the end, the production budget topped out at $260 million. That makes it the most expensive animated movie of all time and the second most expensive movie ever. Were those dollars well spent? Can you see the quality in the final product?

The Movie

The film starts with a prologue in which Flynn narrates the beginning of the story. In a kingdom there grows a magic flower, one that is being used by an old lady, Gothel, to regain and keep her youth. This continues for a long time, till the nearby king and a queen are expecting their first child. The queen becomes quite ill and in a search for the cure the king's men find the flower and take it back to the castle. The queen is cured and she gives birth to a baby girl, Rapunzel, and to celebrate they light a sky lantern and release it into the night sky. Gothel sneaks into the castle, determined to get back her youth, and finds the flower's powers have been transferred to to the baby's hair. However, if the hair is cut, it loses its power. So she does the only sensible thing. She kidnaps the baby raising her as her own, telling her the outside world is a dangerous place and only Gothel can keep her safe. Every year on Rapunzel's birthday, the King and Queen release countless lanterns into the sky hoping for the return of their daughter, but it has been 18 years.

That's when we are re-introduced to Rapunzel, who has spent 18 years in a tower in a remote part of the forest with her only friend being chameleon, Pascal. On the one hand, sh'e grown up being taught to be afraid of the outside world. On the other hand, she's becoming an adult and the tower is too small for her and she desperately want to see the world, especially where the lanterns come from. Gothel of course refuses to take her, but she does agree to get her a very special paint, even though the journey is long and she will be gone for days.

In the meantime, we meet Flynn Rider, a thief, who along with his two cohorts manage to steal the princess's tiara. While escaping from the authorities, he ditches his two partners, the Stabbington Brothers, and manages to evade all of the guards. He evades all of the guards, but not the lead guard's horse, Maximus. While trying to find a place to hide from the horse, he stumbles upon Rapunzel's tower. Just when he thinks he's safe, Rapunzel subdues him with a frying pan, twice. She does make a deal with him, if he can take her to the floating lights, she'll give him back the tiara he stole. It's a deal he gladly accepts (Maybe not gladly) and they are on their way.

It's not long before Maximus is back on their trail. Unfortunately, the horse runs into Gothel first and that alerts her to the Royal Guard in the area. She immediately runs back to the tower and when she finds Rapunzel's gone and the tiara hidden under the stairs, she sets out to find her.

Now Rapunzel and Rider are on the road with the Royal Guard, Maximus, Stabbington Brothers, and Gothel all on their trail. And of course, there's nothing quite like a road trip to bring out the romance.

This film is a really good old school adventure movie, and not just an old school Disney Princess film, but also the Swashbucklers of old that Errol Flynn made famous. (Given the male lead's name, this was clearly the impression they were going for.) It does have more modern sensibilities with the telling of the legend and Rapunzel and Rider are equals in moving the story forward, unlike in some Princess movies of the past. However, it is also true to the sentiment of past films and doesn't turn the fairytale into a source of parody.

(Although there is something Monty Pythonesque about the singing and dancing ruffians at the pub.)

As for the look of the film, it too is a wonderful mix of the new and the old. The digital animation is top-notch (and should be given the price) but the backgrounds evoke a hand-painted aesthetic.

Overall it's an incredible film and had Tangled earned an Oscar nomination over either How to Train Your Dragon or The Illusionist, it wouldn't have been a real shock.

The Extras

Extras on the DVD include two versions of the original opening, which took its inspirations from the storybook openings of the classics. Each version is about four minutes long. There is also a two minute look at all 50 of the Disney animated films. And that's it. The DVD only has 10 minutes of extras and it is strictly a rental.

The Blu-ray also has three deleted scenes and two extended songs, with introductions by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard, the directors. There is also a 12-minute making of featurette hosted by Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi. It talks about the film's development, as well as where it fits in the overall history of the studio. There are also 9 minutes of promotional material. Normally I don't count ads as extras, but a lot of the material here was made especially for the ads and is not in the movie, so it is a worthy inclusion as an extra. It's nice to get so many more extras than on the DVD, but it's still just 50 minutes in total. I was expecting at least an audio commentary track, and I was hoping for a Cinescope Picture-in-Picture track. It's a little on the disappointing side.

The film's technical presentation is flawless, as one would expect from a digitally animated film like this. The video is incredible with amazing details, bright colors, deep blacks. Meanwhile, not only is the dialogue always clear, but the surround sound speakers get a workout, as does the bass. It is absolutely worth the $5 extra.

I do not have the 3D version to compare, as I don't have a 3D TV, yet. Maybe this year when the Christmas sales start. It costs $10 more, which is inline with the normal premium one would expect to pay, while there are more than a few scenes that would benefit from the added dimension. That and there's so few quality 3D films to buy that if you've spend $3000 on a TV, player, glasses, etc. it's worth grabbing.

The Verdict

Tangled is as good as advertised. It's one of the best animated films of the year; it's definitely in the top five, arguably top three. On the other hand, the DVD has almost no extras and it is only worth a rental. The Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack is worth picking up, and despite the lack of extras that push the technology, it's a contender for Pick of the Week. Finally, there are so few quality 3D movies out there, that if you are an early adapter, the 3D Blu-ray / Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack is almost a must have.

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Filed under: Video Review, Tangled