The Disney Princess Project: “Tangled”

Frying pans. Who knew, right?Previously:
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Cinderella
Sleeping Beauty
Beauty and the Beast
Pocahontas
Hercules
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
The Little Mermaid
The Princess and the Frog
Brave

For the moment we end The Disney Princess Project with “Tangled,” the 50th animated feature released by Disney. “Tangled” is a retelling of the fairy tale of Rapunzel, but this time with a thief instead of a prince and some lovable rogues thrown in the story.

The film starts off with a prologue where we find out a magical flower was formed by a drop from the sun falling to the earth. An old woman named Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy) finds the flower and uses the properties to help her stay youthful forever. Hundreds of years later a king and queen are expecting a child when the queen falls ill. The citizens of the kingdom go searching for help and find the flower, taking it back to the kingdom. The powers of the flower help save the queen and she gives birth to a beautiful daughter with blonde hair. The princess, Rapunzel (Mandy Moore), holds the flower’s power inside of her which means Mother Gothel breaks into the castle one night to steal the baby. Mother Gothel then takes the baby to a tall secluded tower in the middle of the forest and raises the princess as her own, never letting Rapunzel go outside.

At the time of Rapunzel’s 18th birthday, Rapunzel asks Mother Gothel if she can see the festival of lanterns that happens every year on her birthday. Unbeknownst to her the lanterns she sees every year are to bring her home, but she sees them every year and wishes to see them up close. Mother Gothel forbids her from doing so as the world is a dangerous place. Shortly after this happens, Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) climbs up Rapunzel’s tower to escape his fellow thieves, the Stabbington Brothers (Ron Perlman and John DiMaggio), and the palace guards. He is knocked unconscious by Rapunzel who questions Flynn before deciding to have him take her to the lanterns. The two leave the tower and head off on a journey through the forest where they grow closer while Mother Gothel schemes to keep the princess to herself.

After the release of “The Princess and the Frog” Disney changed the title of this film as it initially was going to be “Rapunzel.” According to the Los Angeles Times this was because a lot boys shockingly did not want to see a movie with the word “princess” in the title. Disney then decided to amp up the presence of Flynn Rider in the marketing campaign as part of the intention to get more young boys to see the film. Because of how Disney marketed the film, you might be tempted to initially approach the movie as having Flynn as the main character. I advise you to not do this because the film isn’t great if you approach it as him being the main character. If you approach the film as having Rapunzel as the main character, it is a fantastic film.

The main problem with viewing Flynn as the main character is in some parts he feels a bit underdeveloped. As the movie develops we learn more about him which does help give him depth, but for most of the movie he really doesn’t feel like a compelling character. This is also the chief problem with the film as there are numerous characters who steal the light when they’re in a scene with Flynn, including Rapunzel’s pet chameleon Pascal and a horse named Maximilian who is with the royal guard. But Flynn does manage to become an interesting character by the end of the film, which is more than some Disney movies have managed to do.

“Tangled” is the first and so far only non-Pixar film released by Disney that has managed to have realistic computer animation. Not only is it realistic, but it manages to look completely stunning. The film does retain a cartoonish quality to the look, mostly with how large the eyes are for many of the characters, but there’s a distinct feeling some things wouldn’t have looked as good in previous Disney films as they do in “Tangled.” In a traditionally animated film, Pascal blending in or changing color would have never elicited a response of a chuckle while it does in this movie. It manages to go beyond a character trait and become a cute thing to look for in the movie. I also think every minute of seeing Rapunzel’s hair has some of the best hair animation I’ve seen in any animated film.

“Tangled” also manages to use anachronistic humor to a charming degree, particularly in the number “I’ve Got a Dream.” In most animated movies, including “Brave,” these jokes come off as a joke to appeal to the kids. In “I’ve Got a Dream” we have a thug with a hook who sings about wanting to be known for his showtune medley, which comes off as a sweet thing in a toe-tapping number rather than a joke to keep kids awake during the film.

As for the score, by Glenn Slater and Alan Menken, it’s not among the best scores for a Disney film. Menken’s music is very memorable, but some of Slater’s lyrics are a bit lacking. I even find the big love duet in the film, “I See the Light,” to be a bit boring. There are great songs in the film, including “Mother Knows Best” and “I’ve Got a Dream.”

The puzzling aspect of the film is Mother Gothel, who manages to simultaneously be a great villain and a bit of a weaker villain. She is a great villain because of how she manipulates Rapunzel and others for maintaining her vanity and she’s clearly driven to obtain what she wants. At the same time, Mother Gothel feels like a less-menacing version of Frollo in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Both take a baby and raise it as their own, hiding it away from the world and telling the person the world outside is cruel and won’t understand them. But Mother Gothel doesn’t take Rapunzel to extract revenge on the king and queen, she only does everything she does because she is an incredibly vain person. Perhaps Mother Gothel shows us what happens when vanity is taken to an extreme as it ultimately results in her downfall.

But is Rapunzel a Good Role Model for Children? Yes.

Rapunzel is the most bad-ass princess in a Disney movie. Although Mother Gothel would like for Rapunzel to think she’s a helpless maiden in a tower, Rapunzel shows on multiple occasions she can fend for herself. Thanks to Rapunzel’s repeated use of a frying pan as a weapon it ends up being the weapon of choice for the entire kingdom as many characters realize it’s actually a great weapon. Rapunzel is the clear hero of the film as she has the smarts to take on numerous dangers facing her in the film. She is evidence the argument that Disney princesses will lead to girls becoming damsels in distress is very weak. If there’s anything parents should be afraid of children doing after seeing this movie it might be children whacking each other in the face with frying pans.

Although “Tangled” as a film isn’t among Disney’s finest it manages to be a great film to watch while having the best actual princess who is part of the Disney Princess line-up. Although “Brave” the biggest award, “Tangled” is a film that is the most enjoyable and worth multiple viewings.

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