A teen twist on Rapunzel in 'Tangled'

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With condolences to Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler in "The Bounty Hunter," Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel in "Life As We Know It," Ashton Kutcher and his 70 co-stars in "Valentine's Day," the year's best romantic comedy has no actors at all.

Not visible ones, at least. "Tangled," Disney's animated musical twist on the Rapunzel tale, has a terrific voice cast that includes Mandy Moore as an exceptionally long-haired teen and Zachary Levi (NBC's "Chuck") as a dashing young bandit. It also features Broadway veteran Donna Murphy as Mother Gothel, an astoundingly evil character who clearly wants to join the Psychotic Disney Mommy Club.

Unlike live-action romances that typically rely on "chemistry," mixing stars together and hoping they'll explode, "Tangled" begins with engaging characters and a clever story - a much better formula. It's based on a fairy tale, but isn't that what romantic comedies are?

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In this version, the royal infant Rapunzel is kidnapped by Mother Gothel, who needs the child's magic hair to restore her youth. It works: Eighteen years on, the old lady looks better than Cher. Rapunzel, meanwhile, has spent her life captive in a tower. When the wanted thief Flynn Rider (Levi) climbs in looking for a hideout, she sees her chance for adventure.

These are timeless themes - domineering parent, sheltered child, dangerous boyfriend - all woven together nicely by a crew of filmmakers from the Disney-Pixar trenches. The musical numbers sometimes feel like afterthoughts, but they also lend the movie an irresistibly youthful sparkle: "For, like, the first time ever, I'm free!"

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