“They’re taking adventure to new lengths.”
Director: Nathan Greno, Byron Howard
Cast: Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy
Synopsis: The magically long-haired Rapunzel has spent her entire life in a tower, but now that a runaway thief has stumbled upon her, she is about to discover the world for the first time, and who she really is.
Tangled, an adaptation of the Brothers Grimm children’s tale Rapunzel, was the Mouse Factory’s 50th feature length animated movie, so it’s perhaps fitting that, despite being created by computer, it harks back to the days when Uncle Walt was still at the helm. That’s not to say the movie measures up to the studio’s output back then, it is in fact a fairly average offering with little in the way of original ideas, following, as it does, a template that was drawn up… well… once upon a time…
The movie is narrated by Flynn Ryder (voiced by Zachary Levi), not a prince, as he was in the Grimms’ tale, but a thief who, with the aid of his two thuggish accomplices, effortlessly steals the tiara of the lost princess, who was kidnapped as a baby. The princess’s mother grew dangerously ill when she was pregnant, and was only revived by drinking a broth made from a magical flower that possessed healing powers and which bestowed temporary youth upon anyone who touched it. This flower passed its magical powers on to the princess — but only as long as her hair was never cut. Gothel, the woman who kidnapped the princess, had long been using the flower to continue remaining young. I don’t suppose you can blame her for being a bit miffed – after all, few women like venturing out without their slap on.
Fast-forward eighteen years, and young Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) is on the cusp of womanhood. Her golden hair trails behind her like a long cloak, and she makes use of it in all manner of imaginative ways. As the movie seems designed to appeal primarily to teenage girls, Rapunzel has all the forthright attitude and mannerisms of a 21st Century teen rather than a medieval princess, and she’s understandably getting a little restless over the fact that her ‘mother’ keeps her in a tower with no stairs or front door so that she can’t interact with the rest of the world and, presumably, learn the truth about her past.
Into Rapunzel’s life blunders Flynn, on the run from his former accomplices, from whom he has purloined the stolen tiara. Terrified by this intruder, Rapunzel knocks him out with a frying pan and ties him to a chair with her hair. Eventually, they reach an agreement that Rapunzel will return the tiara — which she has hidden — to Flynn once he has taken her to see the annual floating of the lanterns across the night sky, a ritual which marks the birthday of the lost princess.
As you can probably tell from the above summary, Disney’s version of Rapunzel bears only a passing resemblance to the classic tale. The changes are, of course, made to tap into the preferences of its target market, but the tale never loses sight of its roots (no pun intended) because of it and maintains that fairy tale feel. The action and humour is sprinkled with a number of songs, all of which are fairly bland and unmemorable. For some reason, Disney seem to have lost their knack for finding catchy numbers the way they used to. Perhaps they feel that the musical numbers are no longer an integral part of the stories the way they once were. Tangled certainly wouldn’t lose anything — apart from fifteen minutes from its running time — if it dispensed with them.
The humour is also a little hit and miss, and Rapunzel is saddled with a mute chameleon called Pascal for a sidekick who contributes so little to the proceedings (other than theoretically cold-bloodedly murdering one of the other characters) that you wonder why he’s there. Where Tangled does score is in the animation, which somehow manages to make use of the latest computer generated wizardry while retaining much of the charm of hand-drawn animation. There was a time — way, way back in the dim and distant 1990s — when computers were incapable of rendering a realistic depiction of human hair, but now Disney are so confident of the realism they can achieve that they built an entire movie around it.
I don’t think Tangled will be considered classic Disney in years to come — it’s a little too generic for that — but it’s a solid enough entry in the studio’s back catalogue which at least demonstrates that it continues to know its market and understand its demands.