There are many iterations of the Rapunzel fairy tale, but all of them revolve around a young lady with long, long, long golden locks. In Disney’s take on the Brothers Grimm classic, Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) was nabbed at birth by Gothel — a witch that I kept mistaking for a cartoon version of Cher — and held captive in a tower ever since. Rapunzel has been raised to believe that Gothel is her extremely overprotective mom, and that the world outside is full of evil people who’ll surely want to harm her, should she ever escape–er, leave.
But this energetic teenager can’t shake the feeling that something’s off… that she’s meant to explore the world and see up close and in person the annual festival of lights she’s spied from her tower window year after year. And so, on her 18th birthday, she asks if she can finally spend a day outside. Gothel responds in song — my favorite of the film, in fact — reminding Rapunzel that “Mother Knows Best” and that she just needs to stay put.
But then Rapunzel devises a way to get her faux mum out of the picture for a few days, and shortly thereafter a rascally thief — Flynn Rider (Chuck‘s Zachary Levi) — scales the tower in order to hide from some fellow ne’er-do-wells. Rapunzel strikes a deal with Flynn: If he takes her to the festival of lights and then helps her to return safely, she’ll give him back the precious, jewel-filled (and stolen) tiara he’d brought to the tower.
And so they’re off… Rapunzel is finally in the real world, and her joy at feeling the grass beneath her feet is only balanced by the swift and heavy guilt that kicks in once she starts thinking about how upset her mother would be if she knew she’d disobeyed her direct orders. One of the best scenes in Tangled is actually this Gollum/Smeagol-like tug-of-war between Rapunzel’s “good” and “rebellious” personalities. As for Flynn, he quickly identifies his companion’s deep mommy issues, but is not heavy-handed with advice. That’s part of what makes Tangled so delightful; once Rapunzel decides to move forward with her Day Off, there couldn’t be a better character for her to tag along with than Flynn. He’s no Prince Charming — he’s a bandit who’s made a lot of enemies because of his big ego and tendency to back-stab in order to get what he wants. He takes the naive Rapunzel straight to a pub full of scary-looking, mostly toothless brutes… and of course she immediately charms them all and, in yet another hilarious musical interlude, convinces many of them not to give up on their dreams. Even the guy who wants to be a mime.
As with almost all Disney movies, some of the best characters are the ones who can’t speak: the animals. This time we have Rapunzel’s pet chameleon, Pascal, and Maximus, a noble steed who’s not too fond of Flynn. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the Disney animators are nothing short of geniuses with how they can convey so much through the expressions and movements of non-human characters. I predict super-sales of Pascal and Maximum stuffed animals and toys!
Last year I wrote about how the Mouse House was eager to attract boys, as well as the usual “Princess” demographic, to Tangled. I believe whatever formula they used worked. While there is still a romantic subplot in the story, and while Rapunzel is, in fact, a princess, overall Tangled is more of a music-filled adventure film. Young boys will like Flynn and all of the action scenes. Girls will love Rapunzel and her envious mane. And EVERYONE is going to adore Maximus and that crazy chameleon.