Review by Steve Matuszak
Disney got to their 50th animated film, “Tangled”, by doing something right. And they did a lot of that something right in “Tangled” itself. And that is why Disney is so successful at making animated films – because their stories and storytelling have something for every generation in the room. Which is why they draw every generation to the room in the first place.
I saw “Tangled” in a theatre with 25% kids, 25% adult couples and 50% college students. What other moviemaker can do that every year? I saw “The Little Mermaid” in college. When Triton turned Ariel’s “fin” to legs there wasn’t a dry eye in the house – a full house!
After their problems with “The Princess and the Frog”, mainly that the Princess in the title kept the young boys away, they chose “Tangled”, rather than Rapunzel, to attract the boys as well.
And sure, Flynn was dashing and everything great about a Disney male hero. He was handsome and yet, most importantly, he was flawed. I love it when characters are written with depth. And Disney can write an animated character with depth while also making him “animated” and simple for younger audiences.
But it was Rapunzel that I was enchanted with. She was a true teen. And teenagers run the gamut of emotions and desires. They walk the tightrope between parental obedience and yearning to be adult and thus, free. In the animation, direction and acting, Rapunzel flirted with every conceivable idea and emotion, just like any teen would.
But, most importantly, she struggled with being loved for who she was, rather than what she did or had. That is why Flynn’s act of kindness in the end is moving (SPOILER ALERT).
It is a common struggle for teens to break from the bonds of parents. The daughter-mother relationship is especially hard to break. And that is what “Tangled” so eloquently touches upon when Flynn “frees” her from not only her mother, but also a lifetime of being needed for only she can provide, rather than just who she is. Flynn loves her for her.
All of the characters are richly written and drawn. Rapunzel’s real parents, although given little screen time and even less dialogue, still convince us that the pain of losing a child never dies. Their dedication to keeping her memory alive is both written and DRAWN well! I believe they miss her. And now that I have a daughter of my own, Disney found yet another way to draw me in to the narrative and to CARE!
Instead of basic “happily-ever-after,” in “Tangled”, Disney managed to make all the “ever-afters” matter. I cared that her parents reunited with her. I cared that Flynn dealt with his past. I cared that Mother “got hers.”
The characters were believable because they had believable reasons for what they did and felt. Even the Stabbington Brothers wanted revenge because they were first wronged.
The Thugs were charming as well. The song and notion of tough guys having a dream was hilarious and reminded us that there is “more than meets the eye” to anyone we meet.
Mother Gothel, the real villain, was also written well with a fatal flaw. She was not evil for evil’s sake. She had a drive to be young and sacrificed Rapunzel along the way to her obsession. Evil never sees itself as evil. It always thinks its ends justifies its means.
Pascal the chameleon is a confidant and true friend to Rapunzel. It is their friendship that gives her the courage to not only leave home, but to face all ensuing adventures. Teens need that one friend that offers love, even in the face of loneliness and ridicule from others.
The moment the captain of the guard’s horse, Maximus, stops with Flynn on his back, Disney threw us an engaging new twist. Maximus becomes as powerful and protective as the proverbial frying pan which also takes on a power of its own. Yes, even a culinary instrument is given screen time, utility and depth!
Everything in this movie mattered to me because everything in this movie mattered to the characters, the plot and the outcome. I am sending a lighted candle bag into the air with a message for all of you “Go see ‘Tangled’” – no matter how old you are. And dream again!
Directed by: Nathan Greno, Byron Howard
Release Date: November 24, 2010
Run Time: 100 minutes
Distributor: Walt Disney Animation Studios