Tangled and 127 Hours

This week I saw two very different movies that had more in common than one may expect.  First, there’s the new Disney animated feature “Tangled,” which is a retelling of the fairy tale Repunzel.  Second, there’s the real-life story of Aron Ralston in Danny Boyle’s “127 Hours.”  Both main characters are forced to make difficult decisions that will affect the rest of their lives.  Of course, one does it with computer animation and show tunes while the other uses hallucinations and a dull knife.  To each their own.

“Tangled”

Repunzel (voice of Mandy Moore) has lived in a tall tower all her life, protected from the evil in the world by her mother Gothel (voice of Donna Murphy).  Gothel tells Repunzel the bad people who live in the outside world want to use her for her magical hair.  When a special song is sung to Repunzel, or by Repunzel, her 70 feet of blond hair glows and can restore an old person’s youth or heal injuries.  Gothel doesn’t really want to protect Repunzel, but only wants to use her abilities to stay young.  Gothel is also hiding a secret:  She isn’t Repunzel’s mother.  Repunzel is a princess.  Just before she was born, Repunzel’s mother, the Queen, fell ill and was near death.  The King’s soldiers searched all over the kingdom for a magical flower, created by a drop of pure sunshine, which could cure the Queen.  Gothel knew the location of the flower, as she was using it to maintain her youth, but she hid it hoping to keep it for herself.  The flower was found and a potion made, healing the Queen who then gave birth to Repunzel who received the flower’s magical powers.  Under cover of night, Gothel took Repunzel from her crib and hid her in the tower, raising the child as her own.  Each year on the princess’s birthday, the kingdom held a festival and released floating lanterns that filled the sky and were visible to the growing Repunzel from a window in the tower.  As her 18th birthday approached, Repunzel asked to leave the tower and see where the lanterns came from, but Gothel refused to let her out.  A thief named Flynn Rider (voiced by Zachary Levi), along with two hulking henchmen, steal a crown from the King’s castle and, while evading the kingdom’s guards and double-crossing his partners, accidentally discovers Repunzel’s tower.  He climbs the outside wall and, upon entering, gets knocked out by a frying pan-wielding Repunzel.  Repunzel hides the crown and offers to make a deal with Flynn:  Take her to the festival so she can see the lanterns and she will give him back the crown.  Not seeing any other option, Flynn agrees.

“Tangled” has the perfect formula of sweetness and slapstick.  We get songs filled with hope and joy while also getting a horse and chameleon that produce almost as many laughs as the human characters.  There’s a love story that is, to borrow a lyric from another Disney flick, as old as time and a cast of thugs who aren’t really mean; they’re just misunderstood.  There’s a beautiful heroine, a dashing, roguish hero, a villainess who’s not too evil until the very end and a happy ending that is actually delivered with a dash of surprise.  Add to the mix some catchy show tunes from Disney’s go-to composer Alan Menken and moving lyrics by Glenn Slater, and you have yourself a crowd-pleasing recipe for a terrific movie.

While “Tangled” is a kid’s movie, there’s plenty here for adults too.  You’ll find yourself laughing at everything your kids find funny as well as a few things the younger set might not quite understand.  That’s not to say there’s anything inappropriate for the little ones, just that they might not get every joke (verbal or visual).  The visual humor is a huge component of “Tangled” and the biggest providers of those laughs are two animal sidekicks who just about steal the show; Pascal the chameleon and Maximus the horse.  It might be something as subtle as a raised eyebrow or as broad as a horse sniffing the ground like a bloodhound, but these two creatures give “Tangled” a level of insanity that is often missing in animated tales.  The recent “Megamind” is a good example of a film that needed an added dose of insanity.  It didn’t quite click for me on the “FUN” meter due to its more subtle humor.  Kids, and secretly adults, don’t respond the best to subtle humor.  Give us a pie in the face and someone slipping on a banana peel.  Now THAT’S funny!  “Tangled” knows its audience well and gives us a film that’s both funny and sweet in the proper amounts.

“Tangled” is rated PG for brief, mild violence.  There are some fights and swordplay.  There is also a stabbing near the end of the film.  We don’t see the blade go into the body, but we do hear it.  There is some blood.

There are films that make you think and films that make you sad, but “Tangled” is neither of those films.  This one just makes you smile.  Every now and then, I like that.

“Tangled” gets five guitars.

“127 Hours”

Aron Ralston (James Franco) loves getting away from the city and exploring the canyons and deserts near his home in Utah.  Packing enough food and water for a day-long trip, Aron sets out for the Blue John Canyon where he meets a couple of lost hikers, Megan and Kristi (Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara).  The trio spends some time exploring and swimming in a hidden pool at the bottom of a canyon.  As they part, the women invite Aron to a party later that night.  Aron plans on attending, but while climbing, a boulder he’s using as a handhold, dislodges.  Aron and the rock fall to the bottom of the slot canyon where his right arm becomes trapped between the boulder and the canyon wall.  Aron uses all his knowledge and the equipment he has with him in an effort to free himself, but fails at each attempt.  The 127 hours Aron has alone with his thoughts forces him to reexamine how he has lived his life and treated his family and loved ones.  Soon, fatigue, dehydration and desperation leave the young man only one course of action if he wants to survive.

Aron Ralston is a real person who really experienced the horror of being trapped in a slot canyon, unable to get free from an 800-pound boulder.  He wrote a book about the experience that has been adapted into this film.  It is a riveting, tense, enlightening movie that should win Franco an Oscar nomination.  His performance is fantastic and should be required viewing for anyone who wants to become an actor.  The performance isn’t showy or overly emotional.  There isn’t a moment where you don’t believe what you’re seeing on screen isn’t how a real person would have behaved.  The character’s deterioration from lack of food and water causes hallucinations which at times even fool the audience.  We sometimes question what was real and what was imagined but soon come to realize the only reality is Aron, his arm pinned by a boulder, facing death and regretting many of the decisions of his life, including not telling anyone where he was going.  The hallucinations offer the audience a method of escape from the cramped confines of the narrow canyon.  They give the same respite to Aron, but cruelly always bring him back to his desperate reality.

I can understand why some may not want to see the movie.  Many may consider it dull as we rarely see anyone other than Franco for a huge majority of the film’s 95 minute running time.  Watching a guy try to free himself from a huge boulder may not be everyone’s cup of tea; but, I beg you to give the movie a chance.  It is an exhilarating experience that will take your breath away.

“127 Hours” is rated R for language and some disturbing violent content/bloody images.  Without giving too much away, the method Aron chooses to free himself is bloody and gory.  I would not recommend the large burrito platter prior to entering the theatre.  Foul language is scattered but the “F-bomb” gets dropped several times.

Director and co-writer Danny Boyle, the man behind “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Trainspotting” and “28 Days Later,” is an unconventional filmmaker who was the perfect choice to tell this unconventional story.  His style and willingness to take risks might cause some viewers to shake their heads in confusion.  I usually find his work to be nearly perfect and enjoy the challenge of Boyle’s artistic vision.  It makes for a thrilling time in the dark.

“127 Hours” gets five guitars.

With only one new film in wide release this week, I’m throwing in a few previously released movies as well as a few art house flicks.  Vote for the next film you’d like me to see and review.

The Warrior’s Way—A warrior assassin struggles to finds peace, contentment and perhaps love in a forgotten western town on the edge of the desert.

Unstoppable—Denzel Washington and Chris Pine must stop a runaway train carrying enough chemicals to wipe out a nearby city.

Due Date—Robert Downey Jr. is forced to hitch a ride with Zach Galifianakis on a cross-country road trip that goes wrong at every possible turn.

Fair Game—Naomi Watts stars in the story of Valerie Plame, a covert CIA officer whose status was leaked to the public by the White House.

Stone—An inmate (Edward Norton) tries to convince a parole officer (Robert De Niro) to grant his early release.

Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any film of his choice currently in theatres.

Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.

Questions?  Send them to stanthemovieman@att.net.  Follow Stan on Twitter @moviemanstan.