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Originally published November 23, 2010 at 1:58 PM | Page modified November 24, 2010 at 9:53 AM

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Movie review

'Tangled': Disney's twist on Rapunzel is tressed for success

"Tangled," an updated yet classically conceived take on the "Rapunzel" fairy tale, stands with some of the best Disney animated features. The computer animation recalls old-school Disney, and the funny, clever, poignant story will satisfy kids and parents alike.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 3 stars

'Tangled,' with Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy, Ron Perlman, Jeffrey Tambor, Brad Garrett. Directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard, from a screenplay by Dan Fogelman. 90 minutes. Rated PG for brief mild violence. Several theaters.

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Movie review 3 stars

As the 50th entry into the Walt Disney Animation Studios canon, "Tangled" is a lively and vividly rendered piece of family entertainment that captures some of the best elements of Disney standards while nimbly integrating the clever pop-culture winks and dazzling technical style that are hallmarks of modern computer-animated features.

The roots-like quality starts with the source material of Grimm's fairy tale "Rapunzel," albeit with significant liberties imposed by the Disney creative team. But the updated, modified narrative doesn't pander to a hip sensibility just for the sake of a joke the way, say, DreamWorks' "Shrek" franchise does. There's plenty that both kids and their parents will find genuinely amusing with an underlying story that is classically conceived and authentically poignant.

Narrated by Flynn Ryder (Zachary Levi), a thieving rake who stands in for the gallant prince, a brisk prologue sets up the myth of a stolen child sequestered in a tower by a malevolent mother figure who uses Rapunzel's magical hair to keep herself forever young. Though Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) dreams of the lush world outside her balcony, a lifetime of passive-aggressive "love" and psychological abuse by "Mother" Gothel (Donna Murphy) has convinced her that escape means only danger.

When Flynn stumbles into the situation, he sees an opportunity that appeals to him almost as much as his own reflection. The back-and-forth banter of what inevitably becomes a courtship is consistently witty and given extra sparkle from adroit characterizations by Moore and Levi. A clutch of songs by Alan Menken are serviceable, if sometimes diversionary.

The gorgeously atmospheric animation style is awash in a luminous, non-photorealistic palette that suggests hand-drawn cels, but with the delicate nuance that computer imaging lends to facial expressions and background ambience. The 3D effects are integrated with understatement. However, with the possible exception of an extended action set piece involving a bursting dam, they aren't essential for those who choose to forgo the box-office premium placed on what remains essentially a novelty.

The large cast of motley, highly individualized characters includes an appealing troupe of kindhearted thugs and a loyal, royal horse who rides away with every scene. While the script doesn't maintain the effortless intricacy that distinguishes fare from Disney's sister studio Pixar, there's a distinctive cleverness in several running gags and themes woven across characters. An iron skillet that starts out as a throwaway prop becomes a national treasure, and a sea of floating lanterns turn into an ethereal metaphor as they blossom across the sky and screen, sending "Tangled" into heights all its own.

Ted Fry: tedfry@hotmail.com

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