What It Is
“The outside world is a dangerous place, full of selfish people.” So warns Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy), determined to keep her young charge, Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) confined to the tower where she’s lived most of her 18 years. What she doesn’t tell Rapunzel is this: Mother Gothel is herself one of those selfish people, having long ago kidnapped Rapunzel as a baby, in order to gain access to the girl’s magical hair.
That hair is all over Tangled, literally and metaphorically. For one thing, and following the Grimms fairy tale on which this latest Disney picture is loosely based, it’s grown to preposterous proportions, long and strong enough to serve as the only means of entering Rapunzel’s tower. It is also the source of Mother Gothel’s eternal youth, remarkable healing powers, and an ethereal glow, all of which Rapunzel — having grown up without exposure to that scary outside world — sees as perfectly normal. She never questions her own origins, her mother’s comings and goings, or even her mother’s apparent addiction to the hair. She only believes what she’s told ... until she’s visited by the astoundingly handsome and very clever thief Flynn Ryder (Zachary Levi), whom she chooses to guide her as she takes her first steps outside the tower.
Those steps are inspired by Rapunzel’s desire to see up close the beautiful lanterns released each year on her birthday by her actual parents, the local king and queen, in memory of their missing daughter. Once outside, Rapunzel and Flynn embark on an adventure that is both bracing and delightful, as they face down thugs (Flynn’s ex-partners, the Slobbington Brothers), the king’s men, Mother Gothel (desperate to recover the magic hair), and an especially persistent and terrifically expressive horse, Maximus, who takes up his own pursuit of the fugitives.
Why It’s Fun
Given the movie’s source story — in which Rapunzel waits to be rescued from a dank prison by a dashing prince — the revised premise is certainly welcome. This Rapunzel is witty and self-aware, encouraged by a feisty pet chameleon, and more than able to take care of herself (when Flynn first pops up through her window, she whacks him unconscious with a frying pan, and continues to menace him with it when he steps out of line during their journey). When she first arrives at an inn and meets assorted brutes and drunks, she’s utterly undaunted. Instead, she engages them all in a song about following your dreams, winning their hearts and sparking confessions of their own dreams (one imagines himself a pianist, another an interior designer, and a third collects ceramic unicorns).
Maximus provides a special entertainment without uttering a word: his facial expressions and bodily contortions are all great fun.
As sweet as her new friends are, the strong and enchanting Rapunzel is best matched in energy by her bad mother, Gothel, who, despite her wickedness and vanity, is also mesmerizing. If the movie’s songs are uneven, Mother Gothel’s are delivered with verve by Broadway musical star Donna Murphy, including “Mother Knows Best.”
Who’s Going To Love It
Fans of girls — including girls, moms, and their male relatives — will be happy to see such a bright, resilient, and dynamic heroine.
Fans of old-school Disney will appreciate the familiar but also updated storyline, about a princess, magic, and animals with very lively personalities. The boyfriend is cute and helpful, the ruffians at the inn quite adorable, however gruff their manner or appearance (they offer one of the film’s lessons: don’t judge people by their looks).
Viewers interested in computer animation will be impressed by the detailed rendering of Rapunzel’s locks. The 3D effects are fine, though not thrilling, and the technology still makes the screen too dark. Opt for the 2D version if you can.
What To Be Aware Of
It’s worth noting that the film’s starting point — the kidnapping of an infant — is both an old-fashioned starting point for fairy tales and a current anxiety, fueled daily by cable news and crime-and-cop shows on TV. And while Mother Gothel is inclined to keep her victim happy and healthy, she does keep her in the dark as to her real family, nurturing Rapunzel’s trusting nature to serve her own purposes. As Mother Gothel lies repeatedly to Rapunzel, we root for the girl to see the truth.
Several pursuits of Flynn and then Rapunzel and Flynn through the forest feature galloping horses, loud sound effects, and rambunctious cutting designed to seem like an action movie.
When Flynn’s hand is injured late, we see blood and a gash: Rapunzel’s magic hair solves the problem. Later in the film, Flynn takes a violent blow aimed at Rapunzel and appears to die: she is very sad, the moment is briefly upsetting, but all leads to a happy ending. (Except for Mother Gothel, who suffers mightily as she loses her eternal youth.)
8 out of 10
Director: Nathan Greno, Byron Howard
Cast: Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy, Ron Perlman, M.C. Gainey, Jeffrey Tambor, Brad Garrett, Paul F. Tompkins, Richard Kiel
Rated: PG (For brief mild violence.)
US Premiere: November 24, 2010
UK Premiere: January 28, 2011