With the release of Tangled, Disney have double cause for celebration: not only is it the House of Mouse's 50th animated feature, but it continues their impressive return to form which began this time last year with the wonderful The Princess and the Frog.
Some of the credit for this reinvigoration of Disney has a lot to do with Pixar founder, John Lasseter's promotion to head of Disney Animation. If anyone knows what works and what doesn't, and can perfectly blend character, story and action within the realms of animation, it's the team from Pixar. Still, it's somewhat ironic given the success of both The Princess and the Frog and Tangled, that Pixar, for all their considerable success and talent, have yet to produce a female-centric film.
A re-boot of the age old tale of Rapunzel (the film's original title which was changed lest it scare off the young male demographic), Tangled should, despite those marketing doubts, appeal to a wide audience; female and male, young and old.
Rapunzel's (voiced by former pop starlet, Many Moore) journey of self discovery begins when Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi), a charming if somewhat overly self confident thief, happens upon Rapunzel's home, a tower hidden deep in the forest, whilst on the run from the royal guard. Rapunzel, not accustomed to visitors from the outside world (her mother, who is no such thing having abducted her from the royal nursery for the magical youth-defying properties of her locks, has kept her "secured" her entire life), seizes upon the opportunity and makes a deal with Flynn; in exchange for the return of his stolen loot, he will show her the wonders of the outside world.
So ensues an adventure that will charm all but the hardest hearted of cynics and misanthropes, with enough action for the boys and romance for the girls. Not that Rapunzel, despite her sheltered upbringing, is about to quietly acquiesce to the first good looking larcenist to cross her path.
There's also plenty of laughs, most of them provided by Maximus the royal guard horse who, seemingly under the misconception that he's a bloodhound, won't abandon his pursuit of Flynn. Much like Donkey, Dory and Puss-in-Boots before him, Maximus easily steals the film from his animated leads – and all without uttering a word.
Unlike the traditional 2D animated Princess, Tangled is a CG animated feature. It can also be seen in 3D, and as much as I like to dump on that format, Tangled's painterly scenery, which recalls the Disney films of old (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty), doesn't suffer from the murky visuals 3D often produces; it's as colourful and vibrant as intended, with or without the glasses.
For whatever reason, there seems to be a dearth of good kids and family films these summer holidays, of which Tangled is the best. But not by default; it's a genuine delight.