Saturday, November 27, 2010

Unsplit Ends

Took Little Miss out to dim sum this morning and then to her first real movie in a theatre.

Dim sum was good, as always; Wong's King doesn't disappoint.

But the pleasant surprise was that the movie didn't either.

I don't have much left in the way of expectations from the Disney factory. Outside of the Pixar shop, most of the horses trotted out of the Disney stable lately seem to have been the broken-down get of the old sire Walt. Given that the man has been dead for decades, it's not surprising that his progeny are starting to get more than a little, well, sickly looking. So I expected something that would be barely tolerable for a four-and-a-half-year-old.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

The story was nothing surprising - you can't exactly break the mold with fairy tales, right? And the "spunky princess" and the "rogue with a heart of gold" are chestnuts off many a tree other than the one in the Disney backlot.But the animation was lovely; bright and cheery in the Disney style but still rich with detail. The main characters, stock company troupers that they were, were rendered with loving care, well-written, and nicely voiced. The supporting "actors" stole the show (as they often do) in the form of the stalwart guard-horse and Rapunzel's little tough-guy chameleon pal.

Even the Bad Guy, who in this case was a Bad Gal, was rendered with care and attention; she was a villainess, yes, but one with flair and relish, a very diva of demonesses.So all together it made a really delightful hour-and-a-half for a dad and daughter to spend as part of a midday Saturday.

I think what made all the difference in "Tangled" was the sense I got of a genuine love of its creators for the two cartoon leads and the world they inhabited. I've sat through some of the worst of the Disney dreck - a father sacrifices for his progeny, sigh... - but much of the recent stuff the outfit produced since losing the Great Helmsman in the middle Sixties wasn't just bad, it was really soulless. By-the-numbers commercial crap with the heart of an adding machine and the soul of a cash register. The people making it hadn't just forgotten how to make a good movie; they'd forgotten how to make any sort of art at all.To make something of worth, you have to care. Your caring might come from love, or hate, revenge, anger, or desire. But if you don't care about your creation it will show, and it did.

The people who made Disney's latest picture may have had one eye on the bottom line; commercial art has to pay for itself, after all. But the other eye was on the characters they brought to life on the screen, and that eye was full of love.

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