Rating: A- / When Tangled first came out and the promos started pouring in, it really didn’t look like my cup of tea. It seemed to me like an attempt to replicate the success of Shrek and other hip, self-aware fairy tale satires. Frankly, I had had enough of Shrek and it’s sequels. Not only that, I had had enough of the whole screwball fairy tale reimagining genre. But Tangled wasn’t the movie I expected it to be. It was a take on fairy tales, in a sense; in particular one fairy tale (Rapunzel,) but it was also charming and sweet and featured one of Disney’s most eerily effective villains. Not only is Tangled a good movie for the kiddies, it might just win the hearts of the grown-ups in their lives too.
Once upon a time, there was a princess (voiced by Mandy Moore) who was abducted in infancy by an evil witch (Donna Murphy) who cared only for the magical powers the girl’s enchanted (and famously long) hair contained. The child, Rapunzel, grew up to be a lovely young woman who tried to make the best of her life hidden away in a tower but suffered regularly from loneliness and the sting of unanswered questions. When charming thief Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) shows us at the tower, Rapunzel convinces him to take her on the adventure of a lifetime in order to investigate the floating lanterns honoring the lost princess that soar through the sky every year on Rapunzel’s birthday.
Predictably, Rapunzel and Flynn Rider promptly fall in love after a brief period of mutual dislike, but Rapunzel’s sinister captor Mother Gothel isn’t through with her yet, and Rider’s life of crime is about to catch up with him. Upon first glance, Tangled seems like the kind of movie that would only appeal to the demographic of little girls under the age of ten; but it actually has a lot to offer for people of any age. Tangled wisely forgoes cheap fart jokes and wink-wink double entendres for the adults to tell a story that is genuinely charming, immersive, and as funny as it is visually beautiful.
An example of the humor Tangled has to offer is the portrayal of the horse, Maximus. Maximus could just be another annoying sidekick but due to his funny characterization, every moment with him is gold. Maximus is a horse who acts like a dog (which is kind of funny in of itself if you think about it) and although he never says a word, you can always tell exactly what he is thinking and feeling. Same with Rapunzel’s chameleon friend Pascal; he doesn’t need a celebrity to voice him. Brilliant animation dictates that Pascal will have his own funny and colorful (no pun intended) personality.
One of the film’s greatest strengths is the villain, Mother Gothel. She barely has to apply any measure of intimidation for Rapunzel to heed by her rules. She does a complete and utter mind-fuck on the poor girl, smothering her with what is presumably supposed to be maternal concern (as far as Rapunzel is concerned, Mother Gothel is her family and her only family) while warning her of the evils of the outside world. Her brilliant manipulation is what makes her so dangerous and such a wonderful bad guy. Donna Murphy voices Gothel to perfection and sings a great song (Mother Knows Best, which will go down in my book as one of the best musical numbers sung by Disney villains.)
Tangled is an outstanding family film and it’s appeal shouldn’t be restricted to one gender (if they can get past the fact that this is a ‘princess movie,’ little boys should love it.) The visuals are astonishing, the characters are vividly drawn, and the humor should crack up anyone with a pulse, whether they be eight or eighty. Even though this got less hype than Frozen, I think this is the superior motion picture, and it runs circles around the mediocre The Princess and the Frog, Disney’s attempt to show it could be inclusive that lacked real appeal or purpose. This movie is a winner, and I see no reason why kids shouldn’t be completely delighted by it. If you go in with an open mind, you should be, too.