It’s with much sadness that I observe how Disney has turned away from cel-based animation in favour of CGI, and its classic fairy tale fare towards franchises like Tinkerbell and Winnie the Pooh. Tangled is their CGI take on the tale of Rapunzel, the story substantially rewritten but including elements from the original folktale that I hadn’t been aware of.
Mandy Moore seems to have avoided the spectacular slide into self-destruction that other teen pop-singers have suffered, and she puts on a fine performance as the spunky but naive protagonist. Her alternating elation and guilt when she first escapes the tower is hilarious. Rapunzel is an appealing character, despite being the Shrek parodies being aimed squarely at her kind of movie. Mother Gothel is a fascinating villain, (arguably wronged by the King and Queen in the prologue, though the story skips over this ethical question) an overprotective, manipulative mother-figure. Her very close relationship with Rapunzel differentiates this movie from most other fairytale retellings.
The animation is actually pretty good – the character designs aren’t annoying, and there are some standout pieces: Rapunzel’s tresses look great (particularly when it starts to glow) and the way she uses her hair to perform tasks is pretty clever, the way Maximus moves and behaves brings an unexpected amount of character to a horse, and the entire scene with the lanterns on the lake is beautiful. Visual motifs are sown throughout (the lights in the sky, the sun) and the dam scene was a surprising set piece I didn’t expect from an animated movie.
Tangled is a strong fairytale movie, certainly modernist in its character focus and concern with adolescent independence. Some contemporary twists detract from the charm of its source material (Flynn Rider’s “humorous” commentary- particularly in the prologue – diluted the fairytale wonder with plain smart-assery, and an anthropomorphic horse is a distraction), but the whimsical interpretation of Rapunzel’s character makes up for it in other ways.