Revisionist update aspects on the Rapunzel story are evident but not tacky. Cheerfully animated, Tangled should keep tykes everywhere rambunctiously entertained while the older crowd should be pleasantly occupied. Over-thinking adults will be musing how this could be a much darker psychodrama if ever played straight. The witch (voiced by Donna Murphy) keeps her would-be daughter (Mandy Moore) locked up in a high tower for one and a half decades. You wonder how Rapunzel could be so loquacious with no formal education and no companions other than the voiceless pet chameleon she talks to. Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi), who goes from thief to guardian of our blonde beauty, is a vivacious hunk of a hero benevolent enough to rescue her from solitude. They engage in song or in the down times they banter. But matched they are to soothe each other’s hearts. Sweepingly romantic by teen standards and light on contemporary pop culture references, mercifully.
The opening scenes are at the most storybook-esque although the narration is a bit hipster. Thank you, Flynn, for filling us in. In the prologue, the witch snatches Rapunzel from her cradle. Rapunzel has been blessed with the gift of Fountain of Youth powers found in her magical hair which the witch will exploit for the rest of human time. Rapunzel grows up not knowing her real royal parents. The witch instills in her to not trust another living person, insisting the outside world is cruel. It must be acknowledged that the meanest aspects of psychological torment are glossed over for… well, crowd-pleasing jokes. It’s a merry time at the movies, an entry that comfortably represents the Disney brand and not Marquis de Sade.
Fairy tales can have it both ways. Flynn is a scoundrel thief but he is also a swashbuckling cool guy who likes loots and attractive blondes – so we look past his scoundrel traits. Flynn is on the run from knights dispatched from the royal palace to get back a crown that he has stolen, until he comes up on a high tower that he can use for refuge. Rapunzel has never interacted with another person so she gives him a whack over the head (cartoon violence is not really violence) and binds him to a chair, later to negotiate to have him escort her to a stargazing presentation in town – her dream, and alas, will be her first embark on the real world.
And only in a fairy tale can a horse, named Maximus, be an adversary who has the jowls to chomp the hell out of Flynn. The roughhouse chases between Flynn and Maximus could be the most pure throwback moments to classic Disney. Maximus wants to arrest Flynn (he can carry him in his teeth) and take him back to the royal palace singlehandedly. There are other lunkhead knights that try, usually unsuccessfully, to capture Flynn as well. It would probably be best for Flynn to ditch Rapunzel and venture on his own way to avoid trouble, but he’s in love. And she’s in love at the same time. There is a certain decree in formula that characters must click two-thirds into the story and not fail each other in any circumstance.
As family friendly packaging, Disney delivers. As said, kids will be enchanted and the older family members occupied. To adults, they should find the pacing of the movie brisk and only patience testing after seeing the on-screen duo go through one too many runs from the law and from the witch. But the filmmakers know how to consistently make things up tempo. The songs are boisterous: the witch gets a scintillating song called “Mother Knows Best,” but our two protagonists share a swell song with “I See the Light” which also marks Rapunzel’s transition into a self-sufficient woman who learns to trust kind strangers in the world. Through verses, there is a well-composed ethics message to be found.
As a seasoned critic, I didn’t get tangled by “Tangled” but it did pry a few smiles out of me. As long as they don’t do a live action remake with Sarah Jessica Parker as the haughty evil mother and Katherine Heigl as the preening Rapunzel, I’m OK with it.
100 Minutes. Rated PG.
ANIMATION / FAIRY TALE / WEEKEND MORNING MOVIE
Film Cousins: “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937); “Cinderella” (1950); “Ever After: A Cinderella Story” (1998); “Enchanted” (2007).