The story of Rapunzel – considerably changed to make it appealing to a wide demographic – is the subject of Tangled, the latest CG/animated feature from Disney. Basically, it keeps the girl, the hair and the tower and changes most everything else. It is a bright, energetic, cheerful film that entertains without doing much else.
Tangled is a version of the classic fairytale, Rapunzel [voiced by Mandy Moore], that has been juked and tinkered with to make it appealing to a wider demographic than usual. Here, Rapunzel is a princess who has been kidnapped for the life-extending power of her hair – at least, as long as it remains uncut. She believes her kidnapper to be her mother and lives in an isolated tower because her ‘mother’ tells her that will keep her safe from the hard, cold, cruel world outside their quiet little valley. Then, while ‘mom’ is away, a con artist/thief named Flynn Ryder [Zachary Levi, Chuck] seeking a hiding place happens on the tower and her life is changed forever.
The concept of Rapunzel’s hair having healing powers that can cure wounds and extend life adds a certain humanity to her kidnapper, Mother Gothel [Donna Murphy], who comes across as vain and very much not wanting to die. She makes a good villain because her motives are completely understandable – and Murphy’s performance is the best thing about the film.
Rapunzel, it seems, is smart and tough – she certainly doesn’t run and hide when Flynn climbs into the tower. She’s also wistful when, each year on her birthday, the night sky is filled with drifting lanterns. She has no idea that they are sent aloft by her real parents – the king and queen of the land – in the hope that they will light her way back to them. Somehow, Moore captures her wistfulness better than her toughness.
Flynn stumbles upon the tower in his flight from both a pair of fellow thieves whom he has double-crossed and soldiers who seek to reclaim the item he’s stolen [a pretty little bauble – a princess’ tiara]. He’s a little too vain to be completely charming, but he’s a resourceful fellow and quick to realize that his charm won’t be enough to win over the girl. Levi handles Flynn’s patter with dexterity and we can believe that he thinks a bit too highly of his own abilities.
Tangled moves well and its 3-D is good enough that, at the screening I attended, some younger audience members could be seen reaching to grasp at various items. The mix of humour and drama was good, though some gags were a bit old, and the songs were solid character bits that also played into the film’s plot.
Overall, Tangled works as entertainment. It’s not sneaking in any hidden messages like The Princess and The Frog, and it’s not as inspired as anything from Pixar. In short, Tangled is perfectly acceptable family fair for the holidays. Nothing more.
Final Grade: B