Disney’s first computer-animated princess film coming off so soon after The Princess and the Frog, and at this point, everybody must of been thinking two things: one, can the princess fairytale genre be translated into this 3D animated medium? And two, can Disney return back to form after what had to be considered disappointments in Pocahontas (1995), Mulan (1998), and The Princess and the Frog (2009)? I’m pleased to say that the answer to both of these questions is a strong yes.
Tangled establishes all necessary plot threads right from the get-go, and although it does not carry the same effect of Beauty and the Beast’s fabled introduction, it certainly is concise, giving its audiences hope that maybe the magic hair of Rapunzel will make this movie equally as magical. We are introduced to our heroine Rapunzel by way of song, similar to how Belle was introduced. I’m going to keep making Beauty and the Beast comparisons because these similarities certainly exist and hopefully illustrates why Tangled is as good as it is. The next statement I’m going to make may seem racist, but please give me a chance to explain: I’m glad that Rapunzel is white. After Belle, Disney clearly attempted to diversify their ever growing list of white princesses, but Disney simply doesn’t care enough about other cultures to depict them without over-exaggeration. And with Rapunzel, it is very refreshing to see Disney return to its comfort zone.
The best thing about pre-Rapunzel-leaving-the-tower is that she actually has a lot of spare time on her hands, so it’s not like she has any real reasons to hate the tower. But, being the hopeless romantic she is, Rapunzel is set on seeing the lights that always go up on her birthday, even if it may be mere coincidence. When Flynn Rider, the bad guy who has a pretty good sense of humor for being a bad guy, chooses to hide in Rapunzel’s tower while her fake-mother is away, he gets hit with a frying pan: hilarious. Rapunzel shows determination and independence in her pursuit of what seems to be a trivial dream, and bargains with Flynn Rider to show her the lights. It eventually gets revealed that both of them have been keeping secrets away from each other: Rapunzel wasn’t supposed to leave the tower, and Flynn Rider is a thief. What pursues is a very entertaining journey, including awesome non-stereotypical villains who sing I’ve Got a Dream, the best Disney horse in Maximus, and… what, Flynn Rider says he can’t sing? A prince who can’t sing; would you look at that?
The journey takes a last-minute pit stop at Rapunzel’s kingdom, and I say its Rapunzel’s because she is the missing princess whose real-parents send the lanterns up on her birthday. Stuff does happen here at this pit stop, mainly targeted at developing the brewing love between Rapunzel and Flynn Rider, but for how good the rest of the journey has been, I sort of wish this was just omitted. To be honest, Rapunzel’s kingdom isn’t all too interesting, and the movie drags at this particular spot. Nonetheless, by the end of the adventure, you will have already had more than a fair share of lighthearted laughs, theater-scaled action sequences, touching moments, heroic acts of independence, and enjoyable character development, which makes this portion of the movie forgivable.
Now it is time for the big moment of the movie: the lights. Will it disappoint Rapunzel and her lofty expectations? Will Disney’s constant reference to this scene set this up for failure? No. This scene is perfect. Much like how the ballroom dance sequence of Beauty and the Beast was the main center piece to which the romance was building up to, the lights makes for some beautiful imagery to go with a great song and… oh my god, Flynn Rider can sing! What a liar!
Disney doesn’t like to have the expectations raised on them. In fact, they personally complained about the complaints directed at Pocahontas, claiming they were un-done by their successes in the early portion of the Disney renaissance. Just look at what they did with Flynn Rider, making us expect little out of him in terms of vocals. But here, Disney does not shy away from the challenge of delivering a scene artistic enough for their imaginative princess, and man, if you didn’t like the movie by now, you have to at least be impressed.
From this point on, however, it just sort of unwinds in a predictable manner. Barring one exception, the rest of the movie feels obligatory and drawn out, having nothing left to strive towards after peaking at its climax a bit too early. While Beauty and the Beast still had something to offer its audiences with an adrenaline-driven fight that would put a decisive end to its love triangle and an enchanting transformation we all were waiting for, the ending of Rapunzel finds itself running short on Disney magic.
Despite the minor problems here and there, Tangled is what we have been waiting from Disney since 1991. It is only fitting they would return to the roots of my favorite Disney movie, and maybe that is why I like this movie as much as I do. If you are in the majority of people who liked Beauty and the Beast, I give strong recommendations to its more modern rendition which I consider to be tangled in the best cinematic elements of Disney.