I have long steered clear of Disney Princess movies. After The Little Mermaid , they just didn’t do it for me anymore. I couldn’t handle the “damsels in distress”, or alternately, I couldn’t handle the writing for a “strong empowered woman”, who inevitably got herself in trouble and still needed to be rescued. So along comes Tangled , a retelling of the story of Rapunzel (it was more of a guideline really; a mere suggestion) that seemed somehow… different. First was the trailers, the focus on the male lead, rather than how beautiful the Princesses world was. Then it was the giant-eyed, innocent girl with serious skills with a steel skillet. Then it was the fact that there seemed to be no singing (I was wrong about this, but it’s not horrible). Finally, it just didn’t feel concocted. It was this last one that made me grab my jacket, head out of the house and get my butt in the seat at the theatre. What I got when I arrived was a well scripted, equally well executed, buddy-comedy-romance movie that could really turn the corner for this type of children and youth storytelling.
Tangled is the story of Flynn Rider, a thief with a long resume and an equally large bounty on his head. Rider has just finished the heist of a lifetime, stiffed his partners and is now on the run from both them and the Royal Guard. Stumbling into a clearing that has been hidden for years he discovers Rapunzel, at the top of a very tall tower, who has been confined to there by her mother (although her mother is really a witch who stole baby Rapunzel from the King and Queen because Rapunzel’s hair has the ability to keep the witch young forever). At first Rapunzel is very hesitant to get involved with or trust Flynn, but when she sees an opportunity to leave the tower, she seizes on it. So the two set out on a journey in search of the source of the floating lanterns that appear every year on Rapunzel’s birthday, pursued by the witch, Flynn’s ex-partners, the Royal Guard and a very persistent horse.
The most refreshing thing about Tangled is that it doesn’t play any of the games other typical Princess movies do. Flynn doesn’t have undiscovered nobility, so that once they fall in love they can overcome the “Princesses [quote_left]Rapunzel is innocent, but not an idiot. She’s capable of doing things for herself, dependent on no one and is highly intelligent.[/quote_left]can only marry Princes” clause in all traditional fairy tales. Rapunzel is innocent, but not an idiot. She’s capable of doing things for herself, dependent on no one and is highly intelligent. The witch does lots of things that make her “evil”, but she doesn’t have any more power than Rapunzel gives her. In fact, one of the most satisfying moments in the film comes when Rapunzel finally takes back the lasts of the power she’s given to the witch, and it doesn’t come while she’s cowering in a corner. The relationship between Flynn and Rapunzel doesn’t come at a cost for either of them. They’re very much equals in all the decisions made in the story — something that is demonstrated by their both being on the poster, highlighted in exactly the same way. The best thing? This wasn’t a star vehicle. Remember the days when animated films were just animated films? Not just an opportunity for a huge name A-lister to do some easy work? Well Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi are the two leads in this film, and you’ll never know it until the credits.
Finally, my favorite thing about this film is that it was written for children. Sounds stupid, right? It’s not. Not all children’s movies are written for children, and often I’ve found that there is so much emphasis placed on finding jokes for the adults that the childlike innocence of the story is almost fully lost. The writers of Rapunzel, however, didn’t make this choice. Instead they wrote a film that has enough depth that it can be enjoyed at whatever level you’re operating at. Whether the best thing about the film is the funny, yet silent, chameleon sidekick, or that you realize the complexity of the emotions that pass between Rapunzel and Flynn on an adult level, this is a film that has lasting appeal. In my mind, it’s truly a “Disney Classic”.