Tangled Looks and Feels Great, So Why Is Disney Selling It Short?
Great, sighs the wicked witch in Tangled, a CG-animated spin on the Rapunzel story, now Im the bad guy. Mother Gothel, the frizzy-haired, sharp-featured enchantress with the inimitable voice of Donna Murphy, is Disneys first villainess whose chief crime is being an underminer, and the heroine of Disneys 50th animated film its first co-dependent princess. Tween girls may have some tough questions for their moms on the way out of the funny, brassy Tangled: Hey, how come Mother Gothel said the same things about Rapunzel's weight that you say to me?
Those moms might answer as Murphy does in her finest number, Mother Knows Best, a Mama Roseworthy tune (by famed Disney composer Alan Menken, with lyrics by Glenn Slater) in which the witchwho kidnapped the magical Rapunzel as a toddler so that her long blond hair might keep Gothel forever youngexplains all the reasons why Rapunzel doesnt want to leave the tower on her 18th birthday. Sure, there are ruffians, thugs, poison ivy, quicksandbut the real problem, Gothel tells the girl, is that Rapunzel is too silly, too uneducated, too unsophisticated to survive the trip.
Of course, when Rapunzel finally does get outin the company of good-hearted thief Flynnshes a mess. The films wittiest sequence cuts between Rapunzels emotional highs (feeling grass under her feet for the first time ever) and lows (Im a terrible daughter!) to great comic effect. Tangled is unusually attuned to the emotional frequencies of mothers and daughters, considering that, like basically every Disney/Pixar feature, its writer (Dan Fogelman) and directors (Nathan Greno and Byron Howard) are a bunch of dudes.
When it strays from its filial drama, Tangled is mostly unsurprising, though not without its charms. Rapunzel and Flynn are just as vanilla as their respective voice actorsMandy Moore and Chucks Zachary Levi. Rapunzel gets a traditional Disney I Want song, but where Beauty and the Beasts Belle wanted more than her provincial life, Rapunzel doesnt even know what life is yethers is titled When Does My Life Begin? As for Flynn, hes all pratfalls and wisecracksI dont do backstory, he advises, when asked about his childhoodwith floppy hair and (naturally) a late-breaking sensitive side.
The movies real accomplishments are in its look, which was generated inside a computer but is as warm and rich as a painting. Rapunzels endless blond locks must have been a nightmare to programthe credits cite a Hair Animation Lead, who earned every pennybut the movie uses that hair (as swing, as obstacle, as weapon) to great effect in its lively action sequences. Rapunzel and Flynns romantic interlude is lit by a thousand floating lanterns; while Tangleds 3-D is mostly unobtrusive, the lights swooping over the audience might be the most crowd-pleasing three-dimensional filigree Ive yet seen. If the movies a hit, expect a nightly floating lantern show at the Magic Kingdom by summer 2011.
Sadly, though, Disneys been undercutting poor Tangled just as badly as Mother Gothel does her charge. Stung by the middling box office of last years The Princess and the Frog, the Mouse scotched this pictures original title, Rapunzel, and launched a lousy ad campaign stressing the movies rugged leading man (and shying away from the songs). It wont work, of course; boys will smell the movies princess-y perfume a mile away, and stay away in droves.
With its fairy-tale origins and its Menken score, Tangled reaches for the heights of the companys early-90s masterpieces, Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid. But its a shame that Disney cant embrace Tangleds charms, and that an audience full of appreciative girls may not be enough anymore.
Get the Film & TV Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.