Director: Nathan Greno, Byron Howard
Writer: Dan Fogelman (Screenplay), Jacob Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm (fairytale)
Stars: Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy
Rapunzel is one of the last fairy tales to be Disney-fied, and sheâ€™s a classic Disney Princess in the making. Gone are the days of the passive (often downright unconscious) heroines like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. Rapunzel is sheltered and earnest but courageous and ballsy in her quest to finally see the outside world her mother has kept her away from. But this being a fairytale, her mother is no pie-baking friendly matriarch. Mother Gothel is actually her kidnapper, who snatched the baby Princess Rapunzel in order to use the childâ€™s magical hair to keep her eternally youthful.
But this isnâ€™t just Rapunzelâ€™s story. The title refers not just to her hair (which is a source of countless great gags and stunts) but also to the mess she gets into when her captive life clashes up against the free-wheeling thief Flynn. After one of Disneyâ€™s least conventional boy-meets-girl sequences, the two find themselves on a quest to the city so that Rapunzel can see the mysterious lanterns that fill the sky every year on her birthday.
In many ways, Tangled is classic Disney. Thereâ€™s a villainous mother-figure, some comedy animals (in this case an over-protective chameleon and a scene-stealing police horse that thinks itâ€™s a sniffer dog), some song and dance numbers, romance and a heroine who longs to break free of her limiting life. Thereâ€™s barely a single gag in the entire film that would go over the heads of children and the film is cheerfully free of the darker, more adult themes that lurk in the backgrounds of Pixar movies.
Having said that, there are clear departures from the Disney animations of old. The tone may be light but it is also very modern, and the film presents Rapunzel and Flynn as a relationship of equals, bantering like a rom-com couple with some great dialogue. The villain is also a surprisingly big departure, more recognizable and insidious than the mwah-ha-ha villainy of the Maleficents and Cruellas of this genre. Mother Gothel, brilliantly voiced by Donna Murphy, keeps Rapunzel in line not with bars on the window but with well-placed, confidence-destroying barbs alongside singsong cries of â€œlove you most!â€?. Tonally, it has more in common with mismatched couple-on-an-adventure films like Romancing the Stone than with a fairytale. Itâ€™s fast-paced, exciting and funny with great action sequences to keep the romance-phobics entertained.
Itâ€™s also worth mentioning that the animation is gorgeous. In initial talks, the animators mentioned that they were taking inspiration from the art of stained glass windows, and while that may not be evident from the character design it becomes very clear when you see just how beautiful their use of light is. Rapunzelâ€™s hair shines so realistically you want to reach out and touch it. Curtains are thrown open and snapped shut, every scene is defined by the beauty of the light or the complete lack of it. They make great use of 3D too (Iâ€™d recommend shelling out extra for the bulky glasses just to see one scene in particular), and prove that 3D is not just the sole reserve of flashy but heartless sci-fi visuals.
The songs are the only things holding the film back from reaching the glory days of The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast. With a couple of exceptions (a bar-room ditty and Mother Gothelâ€™s creepy â€˜Mother Knows Bestâ€™, which recalls Ursulaâ€™s â€˜Poor Unfortunate Soulsâ€™) the songs donâ€™t really add anything to the film. But when youâ€™re watching what is hands-down the best Disney film since Aladdin, you really donâ€™t care that a couple of the tunes arenâ€™t quite up to scratch.
By Abigail Chandler
Tangled is out Friday 28th January courtesy of Disney Pictures.