Once upon a time, there was a movie called Rapunzel (and even before that. as a friend reminded me, Rapunzel Unbraided). But after the moderate success of The Princess and the Frog, Disney waved it’s wand and the title “Tangled” was born, creating unrest through the Disney fan kingdom.
Disney’s 50th animated film – no matter what the title, is a princess and adventure film about Rapunzel. The marketing for Tangled was poor, and I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit (so to speak) to see it until positive reviews started coming from advance screenings.
Mandy Moore voices the title character, with huge green eyes that reminded me of a Blythe doll I had in my childhood. Rapunzel’s smile is a little crooked, which made her more endearing to me. Zachari Levi plays the rogue thief Flynn Rider (we find out later that his given name is not quite so smooth off the tongue), Levi has a better singing voice that I’d have expected. For me, the standout was Donna Murphy as Mother Gothel – every time Mother Gothel broke into song, I felt like I was in the front row of a fantastic Broadway show.
Rapunzel is stolen as a baby by Mother Gothel and located to a tower not far from the palace she was born in. Rapunzel’s 18th birthday wish (as it had been for years) is to leave her tower to see the beautiful lanterns floating in the air that she can only view from her window each year on her birthday. The narcissistic (and ultimately evil) Mother Gothel has other ideas – to keep Rapunzel in the tower forever, as Rapunzel’s hair has magical qualities that keep Mother Gothel young.
The animation of Tangled is a visual feast – the star of the show is Rapunzel’s gorgeous hair, which is as useful as it is beautiful. The story itself is a little more shaky. Rapunzel seems way too spunky and independent to have been locked up for 18 years, breathing the outside air and seeing the world from her window but never stepping out on her own – not even for a moment. And when Flynn Rider comes through her window, it seems all too easy for her to leave, not very hesitant or questioning the things she sees on her way to Happily Ever After – except for an amusing "I'm a bad daughter", "best day ever!" banter where she alternates between regret and happiness about her decision. Rapunzel even knows how to talk to Maximus, the trusty horse who starts out against them but eventually helps save the day. If I had one other quibble, it’s that sometimes Tangled occasionally tries just a little too hard to be hip. There were a couple of lines where I was like “I’m not sure I’ll remember what that means in 10 years!”
There are many moments of sheer delight as well, and I rarely didn’t have a smile on my face throughout the film. Who knew that a frying pan was such a useful weapon? I even learned that everyone has dreams – shown in a glorious musical number where Rapunzel and Flynn stop at a tavern full of thugs, and change their own fortunes as well as that of the fortunes of the imposing men.
Another delight was Rapunzel's sidekick Pascal, a chameleon with a lot of personality (both he and Maximus were incredibly expressive without saying a word).
I was a little nervous after hearing the first version of the song "When Will My Life Begin" near the beginning of the film – that was the one dud for me in what was a mixed bag of musical numbers. My mind wandered through the song, but snapped back once it ended. On the other end of the spectrum is "Mother Knows Best", which I found powerful – and is really the only song I really remember from Tangled.
When the film ended, the first thing I said was "I'd like to see it again". So even with it's imperfections, I recommend Tangled this holiday season. I give Tangled a solid B. (We saw it on a 3D ETX screen, though I don't think 3D is needed).