A handsome rogue gets rehabilitated. A trapped princess regains her freedom and her throne. Swashes get buckled. Derrying gets done. A wicked enchantress reverts back to her ugly roots. And there’s a little song and dance thrown into the mix that will help secure the sale of soundtracks and merchandise for a brief theatrical run and possibly set the stage for a Broadway adaptation by Julie Taymor.
Yes, Disney’s latest reworked fairy tale is upon us, but despite all of the typical trappings, the film Tangled may likely keep our cynicism at bay during the unfolding of the story. Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore – where has she been?) stands on the eve of her 18th birthday, locked away in a high tower with a (thankfully) silent animal sidekick to keep her company as she cooks, cleans, paints and reads her life away, in between visits from her “adopted” mother (Donna Murphy) and run-ins with the evil witch intent on keeping her due to Rapunzel’s innate magical abilities (her uncut locks can heal injuries and prolong life – which makes me wonder how the child ever aged at all, but that’s just me over thinking things a little too much).
It’s only a matter of time before the dashing Flynn Ryder (Zachary Levi) interrupts her cloistered space and drags her kicking and screaming into the world where she will discover the true extent of her powers to heal, hurt and love. The wild and crazy bantering, the show tunes and the cartoonish bouts of violence recall everything from Moonlighting and Remington Steele, to La Cage Au Folles, to the first Shrek, but it is the last reference that bears further examination. That fractured fairy tale retained enough darkness in the comedy to make the magic real for the adults who accompanied their kids to the screenings. Lean too far towards the mature sensibilities and you’ve alienate the kids, go the other way and parents will balk (or worse yet, merely drop the kids off without buying tickets of their own).
But Tangled hangs and swings with zippy old-fashioned nods to early movie serials and a sense of a world where magic is real, but emotions and humanity matter even more. And these last two elements cannot be manufactured so easily in animated frames. Tangled doesn’t effortlessly and expertly toy with our feelings, but it finds clever ways to trip us up long enough to enjoy its pleasures. (tt stern-enzi)