This movie gets better everytime I watch it.
“Tangled” started out rating just an “okay”, it progressed to”pretty darn cute,” and now after the third viewing I want to own it. While it will never win prizes for its cleverness or brilliance or depth, but it hits just the right mix of funny, sweet, cute, and moving. On the whole, it is a nice little ball of pleasant and giggly comfort. Huzzah!
There are several reason that I like this movie: it is real Fairy Tale, (unlike most modern “Fairy” movies,) it appeals to my off-beat humor, and it manages to set up all the typical Disney tropes, (friendly animals, spunky heroines, rebellious teenagers with strained parental relations, sexy heroes, and converting a room full of bad guys with only sweet cheer and resilient dreams,) and then both mock them with some well-placed cynicism and to redeem them!
G.K. Chesterton offers a loose definition of “Fairy Tales” as stories in which ordinary people meet extraordinary circumstances and rise to the challenge, all the while advocating a stretching of the imagination and an outlook of wonder. A lost princess might not be immediately recognizable as “ordinary,” but Rapunzel manages to be a modern girl whose slightly annoying innocent determination makes her relatable to me. She is a simply a young girl trying to find out how she relates to the world, and her naiveté is fun because both allows her to marvel and delight in everything around her, and to take risks that a more worldly-wise person would never even acknowledge. And her adventures do take a turn for the extraordinary in a quite understandable way. Well, understandable for Elfland.
My one quibble is that there is no specific moment of catharsis or growth. The Heroine triumphs with her awesome sweetness and charismatic temper, and the Hero is revealed to be at heart a good guy who merely needed the chance to prove himself. This is both rather improbable in the point of the tale, and yet somewhat in keeping with Fairy Tale paradigms where appearance and character have a one-to-one correspondence, (like a Dante-esque metaphor, yay!). While I do wish that Flynn, (the cynical thief-revealed-as-romantic-hero,) had a moment of repentance and resolution to change, I do appreciate the consistency in Rapunzel. In a day where stories like differentiate between, say, “the king and the man,” this lady is a born leader; her character is a princess because she has the skills, the acknowledged “grace and wisdom” to inspire a people and create a purposeful community. She can inspire a pub of smelly uglie-wugglies to sing and dance, (despite the cynical looks from Flynn,) and bring the people in the town together for dancing and fun festivities. Who needs a catharsis if the characters are really good people all along?
The humor is well-played, usually using witticisms and expressions. It cannot be easily translated into a written review, because often it is the combination of character physical and verbal reactions. (Just go watch it. And feel free to giggle like a seven-year old.) I do like the persona of Flynn, whose confidence, shock, and sarcasm are all amusing.
And as for the tropes . . . a horse that acts like both a dog and a person? Deliberately using the classic images of the helpful flocks of birds . . . only to have the birds fly away? Running away from an overbearing parent . . . to find the real (and loving) parents? I do love that Rapunzel does not set out purposely to rebel, and is conflicted over the hurt she would be doing to her “mother”. And the horse Maximus, (who can speak only in facial expressions, thankfully,) was at first slightly cliché, but by the end his efforts and ‘help’ earned him a legitimate place in the character roster. He was not just there to provide the “animal interest,” but was an important and hilarious part of the plot.
Romance (Chestertonian wonder and love) triumphs, the bad guy is actually punished properly, and the entire kingdom profits from the Hope and Dreams of its Princess. The characters are unabashedly two-dimensional, but hey, this is a fairy tale, not psychoanalysis! The magic is only a plot device,and does not really interfere with the people in the tale. Unlike the movie “Enchanted,” in which the attempts to apologize for and yet validate the “Fairy Tale” archetypes were annoying to the point of distraction, “Tangled” does not hesitate really BE a fairy tale in all its wonder and excitement while at the same time not taking itself too seriously.
While I enjoy this ability to make fun of itself, I do think that the movie would not have hurt from a little more gravitas. The changes made to the traditional “Rapunzel” story do have the impetus and possibility to hold more weight than the easy-going “Believe in Your Dreams” message. Like, maybe, “Always have Hope”? or “Act out of love and not selfishness”? There is a clearly identified Vice (selfishness) set up as the core of the Evil Side, so it would have been nice to see a Virtue placed in opposition.
In terms of Art; the animation was amazing, and the music never rose above mediocre. The graphics were beautifully made, and allowed for a nice range of physical (ie: facial expression and body language) humor. But the songs were disappointing. None were so bad that I hated the movie for them, but none made me catch my breath and leave humming. In fact, the I can’t remember any of the tunes even after three viewings.
Compared to other Disney Princess films, “Tangled” is a light-weight, non-epic, tale. But it marks a return of some Romantic sensibilities, an easy humor, and a celebration of Innocence and Hope! If little girls are no longer wanting to grow up to be beautiful and be-gowned Princesses, this movie still offers the possibility of being strong, hopeful, and feminine.
Also, it advocates the Art of Frying Pan Fighting. Can it get any more awesome than that?