Now that I think about it, I haven’t seen a majority of Disney’s (non-Pixar) 3D animated films. …So maybe it was weird that I looked forward to Tangled as much as I did. Maybe it’s because Rapunzel is Disney’s first 3D princess. Disney puts so much effort and emphasis on its princesses; after all, Tiana’s role as their first black princess garnered far more attention than the fact that the Princess and the Frog was supposed to be a callback to Disney’s traditional roots. So Rapunzel’s “first” factor probably gives it more weight to it than say, 2009’s A Christmas Carol and 2008’s Bolt, neither of which I’ve seen. The fact that Tangled’s early tidbits and concept art were all very charming also helped, of course.
(this review does not contain spoilers)
Though the film’s opening narration had me skeptical for a few minutes, I warmed up to this re-imagining of Rapunzel very quickly. Disney has had a long history of exceedingly well-done adaptations of classic fairy tales. Short bedtime stories become involved, delightful, and memorable adventures with lively characters and thoughtful execution. Tangled is no exception. What does the average person know of the Grimm brothers’ classic? A girl with long hair is trapped in a tower. But why? I don’t think many would remember. But Disney starts it off right — the “why” comes first; the “girl with long hair” comes later. And I found myself somewhat surprised at the end of Tangled’s dramatic introduction. We have a princess, a villain, and a hero, but their relationships with one another felt fresh and unique, at least in the context of the story of Rapunzel.
In retrospect, the mother-daughter relationship Mother Gothel imposes on Rapunzel should not have been surprising — evil stepmothers is as old a tradition as princesses — but that Rapunzel did not resent her from the very beginning gave it a dimension it might not have otherwise had. Rapunzel believes that Gothel keeps her in the tower for her own benefit and safety and that her desire to escape the tower is selfish. More than anything else, this makes Rapunzel easy to relate to. She has glorious, magical hair, and she is a princess stolen from her kingdom… but she is normal and vulnerable and human because she loves who she knows to be her mother and doesn’t want to break her heart by disobeying.
Gothel’s own selfish intentions are made obvious to the audience from the start, and as the movie progresses, she has some fantastic one-liners to really drive in that point. In songs like “Mother Knows Best” especially (yes, this is a musical), she phrases acceptably protective sentiments in rather devious and sinister ways. That Rapunzel cannot see through the witch’s words sets the stage for an eventual, powerful reveal, but in the meantime, the tension and dramatic irony is great!
Flynn Rider is the humorous antihero and reminded me a little of Aladdin. A manipulative thief, he is nonetheless good-willed and likable… in part due to his blatant willingness to facilitate jabs at the fourth wall. Despite his less-than-heroic origins though, Flynn’s personality does not stray far from the role he needed to fill, and his overwhelming good makes it difficult to doubt his motives, even when they’re called into question. Still, his interaction with the other characters are great and make for some hilarious exchanges. Rapunzel saves him just as many times as he saves her, and the conflicts he has with both Maximus the horse and Pascal the chameleon lead to the best laughs of the movie. Flynn is your typical bad boy gone good, but the archetype is handled well, and Tangled certainly benefits from it.
The supporting cast, especially aforementioned animals, is great. Really, there isn’t much to say beyond that. They are awesome, hilarious, and have very endearing personalities. Perfect for animal mascots! …Or crazy, intimidating, manly thieves hiding out in the forest! They were kind of cute too.
All of the technical aspects of the movie are excellent. The animation was smooth and lively, and it certainly proves that great movies exist in both new and old techniques and technology. The way Rapunzel’s hair was handled in general was a lot of fun to see, considering the huge challenge it must have been. Yes, it came in variable lengths depending on the practicality of the scene, but still! It was a real treat to watch it flow and move and glow. I did not watch the movie in 3D, but I have actually heard good reports about it. I suppose it’s inevitable that the 3D trend work its way up to something worthy of paying a few extra bucks for though.
Disney’s vocal talents are always top notch, and here, Mandy Moore (Rapunzel), Donna Murphy (Mother Gothel), and Zachary Levi (Flynn Rider) do not disappoint. The guy who does all of Maximus’s horse neighs and grunts should also get top honors — they were wonderfully expressive and conveyed the character’s sentiments exactly. The songs are charming, fit with the flow of their scenes, as well as the dialogue they’re bookended with and Alan Menken’s score.
“When Will My Life Begin” is basic introductory fare, but does well to set the stage for the rest of the movie, and Moore does a great job sharing the emotion and hopes of Rapunzel. “Mother Knows Best” is creepy and conniving in the best sort of way. “I’ve Got a Dream” is chorused by some of the most amusing minor characters and set in a really fun scene in general — a little like Mulan’s “A Girl I’m Fighting For.” …And “I See The Light” is beautiful, both musically and visually — it’s one of the most gorgeous scenes in the entire movie, and something Rapunzel has made the audience emotionally invested in wanting to see. (Also, I am a sucker for pretty duets.)
As the story progresses into the late game, Tangled conforms more with fairy tale sensibilities. The characters fall in love (in a day). The villain reveals herself. The hero is tasked with rescuing the maiden. It’s a children’s movie after all, and Rapunzel is a fairy tale. But by then, you have long since become attached to the characters, and it didn’t really matter that things became a little predictable. It helps that the execution doesn’t slack off at all — the emotional tension leading up to the final confrontation is great and wonderfully dramatic. Even knowing that it will turn out all right by virtue of being a Disney movie, there is a moment where you really do worry.
Overall, Tangled is a very fun movie and I highly recommend it to everyone. It’s something both adults and kids can enjoy. The story has all of the great quirks that make Disney fairy tales unique, and the characters are engaging in ways that make you really want them to succeed. I was pleasantly surprised, especially after last year’s Princess and the Frog was only “okay.” It is entertaining and moving in a way I haven’t seen from a Disney movie in a while, and only the outrageous ticket price of movies these days deters me from seeing it again in theatres.