There seems to have been something of a decline in “girl movies” over the past couple of years. I haven’t seen as many movies with female protagonists. It makes me wonder if some writers are afraid of incurring the wrath of feminists if they use a young woman as a dainty, ladylike hero. Tiana in Princess and the Frog (2009) was a workaholic, resolute on making her dreams come true herself. She was a delightful and refreshing character, and I hope she helped set a standard for female protagonists and other “girl movies.” I think it is thanks to Tiana (and a few other independent-minded Disney Princesses) that we were given a complex, compelling, intelligent, and self-sufficient protagonist in Disney’s Tangled (2010).
The infant Rapunzel, born to a king and queen, received healing powers from a magical flower at birth. Baby Rapunzel is kidnapped by Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy). Gothel knows that the flower’s magic now resides in Rapunzel’s golden hair. To use this magic and remain young, Gothel locks Rapunzel in an isolated tower and raises the baby as her own. Years later, Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) is now a teenager, and her hair has grown 70-feet long. She has been held in the tower all her life, and is naturally curious about the world outside. One day, Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) scales the tower while escaping the Royal Guard after stealing some of the crown jewels from the castle. Rapunzel strikes a deal with the charming thief to act as her guide and take her to see where the floating lights come from that she has seen every year on her birthday. Flynn tries to steer them away from the Royal Guard and other thugs he’s crossed while Rapunzel agonizes over disobeying Gothel by leaving the tower. When Gothel discovers Rapunzel is gone, she unfurls a deceitful plot to lure her back with a guilt trip rife with lies and plans to lock Rapunzel up for good.
Tangled is mostly character driven, and it has some great, fun characters. Rapunzel is bright, talented, cute, and independent. She has been lied to and manipulated all of her life by Gothel into being afraid of the world and distrusting of people. When she plucks up the courage to leave the tower, she is tormented by inner conflict; she is overcome with the joy of adventuring beyond the tower and experiencing new things, while also being overwhelmed by guilt and shame from disobeying Gothel whom she believes is her mother. In fact, the only real reason Rapunzel thinks she needs Flynn is because of the “dangers” Gothel warns her about; ruffians, thugs, poison ivy, quicksand, cannibals, snakes, and the plague. As she grows to realize the world isn’t as she was taught it is, Rapunzel’s self confidence and independence blossoms, making her all the more interesting.
Gothel was a really good, nasty villain. Most villains are undoubtedly bad, but Gothel is downright evil. I kept expecting her to whip out some magic spells or a hidden power of some kind, but she didn’t. All she had was lies, deceit, and manipulation; but these were used so well that she was still a formidable force to be reckoned with.
Tangled is also humor driven. This movie is absolutely hysterical! Every character, even the villains, get funny lines. The humor is very diverse; puns, jokes, exaggerated expressions, and plenty of slapstick is delivered at regular intervals. In one scene a horse from the Royal Guard has a short sword in his mouth by the hilt and is attempting to attack Flynn who is defending himself with a frying pan; Flynn quips, “This is the strangest thing I have ever done in my entire life!”
The art direction in this film was gorgeous. A lot of the scenery and architecture had Germanic-Gothic influences; everything from the Royal castle, to the town’s buildings, to the style of clothing the characters wore. Not only did it give the movie an old romantic fairy tale quality, but it also heralds back to the German setting where The Brothers Grimm originally found the classic story of Rapunzel.
Tangled is a CGI animated feature, and while the characters did have some very cartoon-ish qualities in their movements, they also seemed to have very natural movements that fit within the setting. All the characters had very large eyes that reminded me of Anime characters. One of the more interesting scenes is near the end when Rapunzel has returned to the tower, and she is piecing together subtle little clues around the tower coupled with the information she has learned outside. The way they visually depict Rapunzel’s thought processes without dialogue and without a flashback slideshow was really interesting. Not only did this develop the plot, but it still depicted Rapunzel as an intelligent young woman; not a naive ditz who must rely on others to solve her problems.
Tangled was a great movie that had progressive attitudes about female protagonists, fantastic animation, fun characters, a good story, and was highly entertaining. I’d recommend this to anyone; young girls will like the princess fairy tale, young boys will enjoy the action scenes, teens and adults will enjoy the story, and everyone will enjoy humor and the musical numbers that are hallmark of Disney classics. I’m sure that Walt Disney would have been proud of this production. I want to get a copy of this for my personal collection; it is certainly one worth owning.