This is kind of a review and kind of not. Mostly what I want to say about Tangled is about story. First though, let’s get a few things out of the way:
- Tangled is a retelling of Rapunzel
- It’s a Disney animation
- Yes it has songs (just 3 and mostly at the start)
- If it’s your kind of humour then you’ll enjoy it a lot regardless of age
- Maximus the horse is fantastic
Plot-wise it’s pretty much what you’d expect: protagonist goes on a journey of discovery and along the way there’s danger, romance and (naturally) a happy ending.
Surprisingly for a movie from a studio that likes beating an audience repeatedly with the ‘moral stick’ it’s light on moral messaging. The ‘follow your dream’ message fades in and out of focus without really driving the story.
What I liked about this story, aside from laughing myself silly, were the characters. Including the two animal companions who express an awful lot through gesture and expression without talking (that’s right, they are blissfully speechless).
The love interest is cast as the loveable thief. Unlike many such thieves though he’s really not much of a rogue and he’s pretty quick to be honest and open with the main character. He also doesn’t have any qualms about giving up his old greed for his new love – no tedious inner conflict for this guy!
At the end he’s also genuinely heroic. Which is kind of refreshing as there aren’t a lot of characters’ in animation that have to give up anything hugely important.
Rapunzel herself was kinda interesting, because apart from being magical she was actually really ordinary. As a character she was just a sheltered teenage girl rebelling against parental rules to follow her heart and in the process grows into a young woman sure of her own resourfulness. She showed she could defend herself, and step in to save the thief where needed, but not in a bad-ass-ninja-girl way or in a sassy-nothing-is-too-big-a-challenge way.
When she meets the ‘real world’ beyond her tower she manages to charm it into submission with a kind of innocence and inner strength. I was very glad to see her figuring out for herself the secret of her origins without any intervention from talking animals or fairy persons.
It’s interesting that the human characters pretty normal people, but that the show-stealer is then an amazing horse. Maximus is a big part of the comic relief, but he also crucial to plot and as a character he brings valour and a great heart.
As I said, I loved the humour… sight gags, a few great one-liners and, of course the horse, had me laughing loudly more than a few times… but what engaged me was the characterisation and an avoidance of many of those things you expect from animated kids flicks.
On a final note: I think the darkness in the otherwise sunny world of this story was very subtle and well done. The character of Gothal, who pretends to be Rapunzel’s mother, is disturbing. Rather than working the girl to the bone or beating her, her cruelty is in the lie itself and in the ways she emotionally abuses her. Again this is an almost ordinary kind of evil – it’s a very ‘real world’ kind of horrible.