Disclaimer: LRM was provided a copy of the DVD for review purposes.
The film Tangled holds sort of a near and dear place in my heart. Ironically enough, itâ€™s not necessarily because itâ€™s a great movie (though, it is), but because it was the film that began Disneyâ€™s renewed solidification in the princess genre. In the decade prior to that, theyâ€™d abandoned that identity in favor of other original stories. In 2009, they took another crack at the genre with The Princess and the Frog, and while that was an amazing movie as well, audiences didnâ€™t head to the theaters in droves.
With Tangled, it finally seemed like Disney reclaimed their identity, perfectly transitioning their trademark animated style into CG, something I wasnâ€™t sure was possible. The result was a gorgeous film with a lot of heart; one that defied my own personal expectations (the marketing made it look like a cheesy Dreamworks-esque ripoff). Now, seven years later, Disney has returned to this specific well and has officially transitioned this feature into a series.
The feature they used to kick off the new 2D series from Disney TV Animation comes in the form of Tangled: Before Ever After, a 60-minute TV movie that serves as the base on which the series is built.
The story picks up immediately after Tangled (though before Rapunzel and Eugene get hitched), and follows our now-shorthaired leading lady as she adapts to the royal life. As someone who has spent her whole life locked in a tower, and who has only just gained her freedom, getting â€œlocked upâ€ in yet another tower for her fatherâ€™s fear of her getting hurt doesnâ€™t sit well with her. Going against her initial instinct to stay put, Rapunzel, with the assistance of her lady-in-waiting Cassandra, she escapes the confines of the castle wall at night.
Cassandra leads her to the very place where that magical flower that gave Rapunzel her long hair used to reside, and for some reason, itâ€™s now been covered in black spikes. Because Rapunzel is a curious princess, she touches one of the spikes, and soon finds herself once again, a long-haired blonde (uh-oh). Meanwhile, in the darkest depths of the kingdom, new enemies threaten to take advantage of this new chapter in Coronaâ€™s history to wreak havoc.
So that’s the basic setup of the plot.
Before I get into my impressions, I think it’s important that I’ve always felt that if there was a Disney princess film that could warrant a sequel, I would say itâ€™s Tangled. The reason why is because the natural conflict that would arise in its premise. As mentioned above, the first Tangled essentially took Rapunzel from one tower to another. How would someone like Rapunzel adapt to a new life like this? Itâ€™s an interesting story that I think is worth telling.
So how did this new take fare? Itâ€™s a mixed bag. I donâ€™t think the execution was bad by any means. The major down point here is that this film and the subsequent series were simply not meant for me. I can look at most of Disneyâ€™s animated features, and while their main demographic is children, they are the types of movies pretty much anyone can enjoy. For the most part, they donâ€™t have a lot that parents would roll their eyes at, and the character arcs are universal enough that they transcend age.
While Tangled: Before Ever After is a fun little flick, it does not transcend age. The original Tangled may have been crafted for all ages, but Before Ever After is clearly aiming for a specific young demographic. The jokes here have a tendency to fall flat â€” or rather, they were intended for someone closer to age 10 than I am. Worse still are the broad strokes with which the characters are painted. They kind of take the â€œbiggestâ€ aspects of the existing characters and run with them. Meanwhile, all the new characters are sort of left with singular traits. Cassandra, for example, lives on the singular trait that she is the badass captainâ€™s daughter. She’s not a bad character, and I can easily see her as a favorite among certain viewers, but she’s shallow,and that’s a trend that permeates.
The villains are the worst sufferers of this. Simply put, they arenâ€™t very interesting, and despite an attempt to give a sympathetic backstory near the end, they end up as little more than mustache-twirling in nature.
Now that’s not to say the film is all bad.
The animation takes some getting used to, but once youâ€™ve adjusted, itâ€™s a sight to behold. Between the bright colors and fun designs, itâ€™s enough of a twist on the original look to keep things interesting, but similar enough to feel like it exists in the same world.
Oh yeah, and all the negative things I mentioned? If you are just on board for a fun whimsical ride, they may not matter to you. As such, its target audience will likely eat it all up with a spoon. Itâ€™s charming and fun, and despite my gripes manages to be a nice little piece of escapism. Perhaps most importantly, if you have a kid, chances are theyâ€™ll enjoy the heck out of it. Not only that, but if youâ€™re so inclined to watch something with them, you could probably do a whole lot worse.
So is it anywhere near the quality of the original Tangled film? Sadly, no. But it is clear that it was never meant to stand alongside it, but rather spin off from it into its own little thing. While it may not hold a candle to that original, what it’s been chosen to turn into still has the potential to be something fun and unique in its own right.
Adult Grade: C+
Kid Grade: B+
P.S. Also of note in this DVD release: It comes complete with a cute little leather booklet thatâ€™s apparently a mini version of Rapunzelâ€™s diary, and in the DVD itself comes with a handful of charming little shorts, which feature more in-castle escapades with your favorite characters — Just in case you were wondering if there were any big perks to picking up the DVD.
Tangled: Before Ever After hits DVD tomorrow on April 11, and Tangled: The Series is currently running on Disney Channel.