There’s a long, storied history of Disney films that involve princesses. With TANGLED, Rapunzel has finally joined the pantheon of animated princesses. The film is a loose retelling of the fairy tale, but with enough sprinkling of Disney magic to elevate it beyond the source material. TANGLED is far from perfect, but it is an enjoyable story that kids will fall in love with.
In TANGLED, Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) is kidnapped as a baby and forced to live her life stuck alone in a tower. The kidnapper, Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy) is obsessed with having eternal life – something that Rapunzel’s magical hair can give her. But when Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi), a thief with a heart of gold, crashes into Rapunzel’s world, the two are able to strike a bargain – if Flynn will help Rapunzel escape her tower and visit the nearby kingdom to see the annual release of the sky lanterns, Rapunzel will return the crown he stole from the kingdom. With their deal in place, the two begin their adventure together.
There is a lot of great character work to be found in TANGLED. Rapunzel isn’t a typical Disney princess – she’s naive, but also very caring and trusting. In addition to her nurturing side, Rapunzel also has a feisty spark that really gives her character agency. Similarly, Flynn is also much more than a typical Disney male lead. Flynn has a lot of character – and he’s probably the standout character of TANGLED. He’s extremely funny, perfectly blending physical humor with a conceited view of himself and brash outlook on life. The two creature sidekicks are also very fun. Maximus, a palace horse, is probably my favorite character in the film – a big horse that acts like a dog. Most of the film’s biggest laughs are thanks to Maximus. There’s also Pascal, Rapunzel’s chameleon, who provides lots of laughs too. I think that Maximus and Pascal rank amongst the best silent sidekicks that Disney has created.
I was much less enamored with the villain of TANGLED. Mother Gothel never seems threatening. While I did chuckle at the scenes where she is very passive aggressive in her comments toward Rapunzel, I never feared her. By giving Mother Gothel a light-hearted approach, it robs her character of any of the intimidating qualities that a memorable villain needs.
My biggest disappointment with TANGLED was the poor quality of the film’s music. None of the songs found in the film are memorable – which is odd, since Rapunzel is voiced by Mandy Moore. The songs are easily the weakest aspect of the film – and when they do appear, the film grinds to a halt to accommodate them. I think the film would have ultimately worked better without the inclusion of the songs.
As someone who grew up with the Disney animated classics of the 1990s, I look at TANGLED and see a continuation of that great tradition. The film may look different, thanks to the 3D animation, but the heart and soul are still intact. It has great characters the kids will enjoy, and plenty of physical humor that all ages can laugh at. TANGLED isn’t perfect, but it has enough heart to make it a worthwhile Disney film.