Thursday, November 25, 2010

What a ______ web we weave

If I end up seeing Tangled this afternoon, it'll be either because of this awesome poster, or because there's nothing else whose start time matches up well with the time I get off work.

It won't be because Disney is trying to convince me that Tangled is macho.

But let's back up a step or two.

This year I hope to rekindle a tradition that was interrupted last year, which is going to see a movie after my early dismissal from work the day before Thanksgiving. I've done this most of the years of my working life, and when I miss a year, it just makes me want to come back stronger the next year.

Unfortunately, I don't know how "strong" this year will be. I'm not going to have the problem I had last year, when my boss forgot about the early dismissal until I had already worked almost my whole day. (Meanwhile, the guys who got in after me took that early dismissal and ran with it.) No, this year I made sure to get my departure time on the record -- 1:30, two hours early. Now my only problem is that there isn't that much in the theaters I want to see right now, at least not much that matches up well with that 1:30 departure. Because although I've gotten permission from my wife for one of the "guilt-free movies" she awarded me at my birthday, I would still like to get home to her and my son at a reasonable time, which means seeing something that starts within an hour after I get off.

Let's look at the contenders:

Unstoppable - Though I think it looks better than most Tony Scott films, I don't have a burning desire to see it, and the showtimes at convenient theaters are all either 1 o'clock or 3 o'clock.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 - Now that I've caught up on the last installment and will actually be able to feel oriented within the overall plot, this would be a great candidate if my wife and I weren't already thinking of seeing it together in two weeks, when my sister and her boyfriend are in town to meet our son. So I didn't even look up showtimes for this one.

Megamind - This has a perfectly time 2 p.m. showtime at a reasonably convenient theater, but I may let my friend's negative appraisal of it prevent me from prioritizing a theatrical screening.

The Next Three Days - Another case where I think I like the poster more than I'll like the film, and besides, all the showings are between 1:10 and 1:40.

Fair Game - This has a 2:25 showtime at the one theater near me where it's playing, and I'm somewhat intrigued by it, even if just to see the Bush administration painted in a negative light for old times sake. But running nearly two hours and starting nearly an hour after I get off, it'll get me home more than an hour later than I would on a normal release day. Still, it's a contender.

Love and Other Drugs, Made in Dagenham, Burlesque, Due Date, Faster, For Colored Girls - Nah, no thank you. Not right now, anyway.

Tangled - Maybe. It's got a 2:05 start time at a theater that's in a complex that will also allow me to get something to eat beforehand. Plus it's in 3D. Which will probably look pretty good in an animated movie.

A couple months ago, I would have laughed if you'd told me I'd consider seeing Tangled in the theater, let alone seeing it on opening day. Not because the animation doesn't look good -- it does.

No, I was originally annoyed by this film for two reasons: 1) It looked like a chick flick; 2) Disney was trying really hard to convince me it wasn't a chick flick.

And here's that tangled web I was talking about: If you're making a movie about Rapunzel, why not use the extremely recognizable title Rapunzel for the movie?

The answer is because Disney was worried that only little girls would go to a movie called Rapunzel. So, Tangled it was.

I'm not saying they're wrong. But there was definitely a time when it wouldn't have mattered. Just think about all the past Disney movies named after the heroine: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid and Pocahontas, to name the prominent ones and probably forget about several others. Then there have also been the movies where a female title character was matched up with a non-human male romantic interest, such as Beauty and the Beast and The Princess and the Frog, the latter as recently as last year.

But reading up on it a bit, I'm finding that the title change -- it once was actually Rapunzel Unbraided, and then just Rapunzel -- was the direct result of Disney's disappointment with the performance of the critically acclaimed Princess and the Frog. A worldwide box office take of $270 million was just not what Disney was expecting from that film, and their fear was that the emphasis on princesses had turned off young boys.

And so a new title and advertising campaign were born, and now the ads seem to focus a lot more on the male character, Flynn Rider, than the woman without whom the fairytale would not even exist in the first place. In fact, I remember seeing a trailer for it and thinking "Okay, this must be the long-awaited Rapunzel movie," and I only say "long-awaited" because Rapunzel seems like such an obvious candidate for a Disney movie that I couldn't believe it hadn't already happened. You can imagine my surprise when the name "Rapunzel" was not even uttered in the trailer, and the title Tangled came up. "Lame," I thought, immediately knowing what they were doing, and why.

In fact, even as I see a short promo for it now on, which is helping me compare and contrast potential start times, it says "Meet Flynn - He enjoys waterparks, exercise and bungee jumping," punctuating each of his "likes" with a short bit from the film. There's one for each character, I think, but the Flynn ones seem to emphasize the maleness of his pursuits.

So why might I be rewarding Disney with a decision to see the film, rather than boycotting it? Simple: the animation. It looks really good, and does not seem to owe a direct debt to another movie I can think of it. It's an intentional mix of the new and the old methods, which was part of its animation philosophy. It looks crisp and fun and I bet you it will look really great in 3D.

Oh, and I love the hell out of that poster as well.

Happy Thanksgiving, and if you're joining me in cutting out early and going to a movie today, here's hoping it's not a turkey.

No comments: