Before I start, I must say that because Tangled is a Disney film does not mean I will instantly like it. For some that will be true, for others almost the opposite. For me, some Disney films are great and others terrible. Bolt was awesome but Meet the Robinsons was no better than the trailer. Having heard good things, I hoped that this would be closer to Bolt, but it far exceeded it in my opinion. This is the return to the renaissance period of Disney classics that we’ve all wanted.
From the trailer, you can see that it’s a modern reinvention of Rapunzel, so Shrek comparisons are inevitable. It doesn’t however fall into the traps of the sequels, but respects its fairy tale roots and merely uses modern lingo to connect with the target audience. This works really well for the most part, but sometimes left me feeling a bit old and alienated. However, it really isn’t aimed at me; the first song is a tweenage guitar ballad. It is not purely for the girls though, as Disney changed the name from Rapunzel to mark the fact it was a two hander. And this is true, not as many feared, merely a marketing move to counteract the small return from “The Princess and the Frog”.
Visually, Tangled is beautiful. One of the features that has received particular praise is the lighting, and although an odd thing to complement a film on, this one really deserves it, as the light plays an important part in the story and helps make the world look wonderful and fantastical. The fact it’s computer animated will not be to everyone’s taste, but personally I feel 2D animation is almost entirely dead now. It looks nostalgic and it will only work for a select number of films (eg. the Illusionist); this is a modern retelling of a fairytale and needs to have that modern style.
While these are good things, it’s the story and characters that you fall in love with in a film, and in order to discuss these fully, I need to mention spoilers. So, please watch it first and then read on.
——BEWARE, HERE BE SPOILERS——–
The film starts with an introduction to the beautiful Kingdom and the problems of childbirth are once again mentioned in a kid’s film. Unlike Up however, this has a happy ending and the Queen is merely sick. She needs a magic flower, as nobody trusts doctors, but an old woman has hidden it for herself. Fortunately, she slips up and they manage to find it and a beautiful princess is born. Her hair can heal people and glow, if someone sings a specific chant nearby and to celebrate the birth of their child, the King and Queen launch a lantern into the sky. The old woman however tries to steal the hair for herself, but when she cuts off a piece, it loses its power, and so she takes the child. Raising Rapunzel as her own in a tower hidden in the forest, the princess grows up not knowing her true identity. Hoping that their beloved daughter will return, the King and Queen continually release lanterns on her birthday, and Rapunzel notices these, and dearly wants to go and see them. Her “mother” (Mother Gothel) forbids it however and Rapunzel accepts and believes that she wants to protect her and her gift. This is the set up of the story, and it is from here that the film begins.
What you should have picked up from that is that this film is very plot heavy. This is not a bad thing, as the story telling is superb, but very little is introduced which does not have an impact on the story. Song lyrics and visual gags all serve to advance the story and tell you more about the two main characters. The editing is almost vicious in its need to advance, making the past face and everything fun, which is the main complement I have for this film. It was genuinely a lot of fun. The comedy sidekicks are very cute and comical, and the songs are hilarious. The old woman has one of the best villain songs Disney have ever done and the dream song in the bar wouldn’t feel out of place in a Monty Python film.
It’s not just a light fluffball though, and does deal with the deep emotional moments really well. When Rapunzel first leaves the tower, against Gothel’s wishes, there is a fantastically comical yet tragic sequence where she is conflicted between exuberance and regret, switching between saying “I, am a horrible daughter” and “Best. Day. EVER!” Rapunzel’s parents never say a word, yet the tenderness they feel for their daughter is tangible, and their scenes are some of the most moving. The romance too is very well done, and shows that although they are attracted to each other from first sight, it’s not quite love. Not the movie hatred of so many rom-coms, just a connection that isn’t explained, easy or unbelievable. Another serious side is that the villainess has no powers but that of deception. Although she is occasionally referred to as a witch, she never shows any magic powers except those gained from Rapunzel or the flower. This for the teenage girls watching hints at the dangers that the real world offers and in fact is really quite terrifying to dwell on.
The real question though, as is asked of all Disney princesses, is she a good role model? Well, the main thing she does is rebel against her evil mother, which while arguably a good thing, is also not entirely honourable. The story is essential her leaving home, breaking out against her “parents” wishes and falling in love in the process. She breezes through the world with the only difficulties being because of Mother Gothel, but this is hinted to be because of Rapunzel’s attitude to the other problems. One of the most wonderful scenes of her is when she goes into the city for the first time, and her reaction is to essentially try to bring people together. After living a life on her own, upon seeing so many people in one place, she instantly wants to celebrate with them and dances about the street, inviting others to join her. This is the side of her I would say was wonderful to see, and her personality on the whole was very pleasing. The rebellion side sits a bit uneasy with me, but her final decision to bend to Mother Gothel’s will to save her man was certainly redeeming.
All in all, this film is superb. My instance reaction was that I wished it was longer and I went to see it again at the cinema. It tells a very beautiful story very well and introduces some new characters to the Disney line-up. I doubt there will be a sequel, as the ending almost certainly rules one out, but as it stands, this is close to perfection. If this marks the start of a revival of Disney’s successes such as the Lion King, I can safely say that I’ll be in line. With Pixar set to release their own fairytale next year, I’ll be impressed if they can compete with this. This may therefore be the final nail in the Pixar coffin, as they fall and Disney rises again. I’d certainly prefer more like this than Up or Toy Story 3.