Directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard (Disney, 2010)
Like dozens of its predecessors, Disney’s 50th animated feature film transforms a fairy tale about a princess in distress into a sweet, heartwarming musical painted with a palette Monet would envy. Chockfull of Broadway tunes and endearing animal sidekicks, this lushly animated and decidedly un-Grimm version of Rapunzel is, well, Disney-esque. The one-two punch of beauty and charm still works some pretty sweet magic, and Tangled does not disappoint.
Like Snow White, Cinderella, and so many other Disney heroines, the lovely Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) is a captive handmaid of a witchy stepmother, a beautiful lass imprisoned in a castle tower and forced to cook, clean, and tend to the villainous Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy), a vain crone who cares only about keeping her hands on the young girl’s dazzling golden locks, which turn into a fountain of youth every time Rapunzel breaks into song.
Still, this damsel in distress is no hothouse orchid. Brandishing a cast iron frying pan like a Louisville Slugger and swinging about on her golden tresses like Tarzan’s Jane, the sweet but decidedly spunky Rapunzel gives as good as she gets in the adventurous trek over the river and through the woods to the magical castle of her youth and freedom.
And though a dark, handsome stranger breaks into her lair and helps her escape Mother Gothel’s grip, Tangled is not really a romance, but a personal adventure about following your dreams and going out on your own. Even more, it is about escaping the entanglements of controlling and dominating relationships, about learning to stand on your own two feet and cut the ties that bind and control.
More than seven decades after Snow White, Disney is still telling princess stories. But Tangled is the tale of a princess who takes off on the kind of coming-of-age adventure we used to tell only about boys.
This review appeared in the February 2011 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 76, No. 2, page 42).