The ever-present binary of good and evil never gets old when it comes to telling a story, but the real challenge for filmmakers these days seems to be how not only to make it believable, but to not make it overly predictable. This being as true a case in the animated format as much as live-action, Disney’s Tangled takes the familiar story of Rapunzel and manages to squeeze out some impulsive gut reaction from audiences that the original nineteenth-century tale might not have thought entirely feasible at the time, considering its – ahem – Grimm nature. By revamping the story into a workable musical format, Tangled manages to retain the goods (by “the goods” we mean the stuff that whitens the knuckles and pulls the heartstrings). Fairy-tale or not, the end result is literally, or at least hopefully, what everyone hopes for.
Rapunzel’s (Mandy Moore) golden locks, bright green eyes, and propensity to belt out a song is more than enough to appeal to the younger set, but it’s her over-use of a frying pan in sketchy situations – among other traits – that make her a character that most everyone can relate to. Raised in a tower away from a royal family she has no knowledge about, she is aware of the outside world, if not entirely wary of it. Raised by the figurative wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing Mother Grothel (Donna Murphy), she accepts her life tucked away in her tower, although she requests to leave it for one day on her eighteenth birthday. Afraid that she might find out who she really is, Mother Grothel works to keep Rapunzel wary of the world, and requests that she never leave the tower. Of course this only drums up more of a desire for adventure (aka teenage rebellion). Defeated, Rapunzel further accepts that her life and, therefore future birthdays, will continue to be spent within her tower walls with her pet chameleon, Pascal, and feet upon feet of hair. That is, until life manages to make its way to her — unfiltered, unbridled, and raw.
The introduction to Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) takes place earlier in the film in the form of folklore; however, when he physically enters Rapunzel’s tower as a thief and a outright ladies’ man, it is almost proper that he is met with, of all things, a frying pan to the skull. It is here where the technical aspect as far as visual, physical and emotional conveyance come together on a mutual, believable bridge within the context of the film. Think The Three Stooges but more refined. Overall during the film, there’s no bleeding, bruising or breaking of anything; however, there are eye twitches, shudders, visible hesitation, inhaling and exhaling. It sounds generic and expected, but the real beauty of it is that it is anything but. Everything feels and looks so real that it seems almost impossible, even with the advanced technology that put it there. And yet the end result is the most raw of expressions that make a way for characters whose roles are less audible than others to still have an effective presence within the context they’ve been given. The attention to detail is almost frightening as much as it is delightful, even in its forest floor background — a rustling leaf, a blade of grass. The human and real-life qualities balance out the cartoonish, two-dimensional aspects in such a way that it’s all there and nearly tangible — or at least that’s what the animators aimed for and more than succeeded expectations during the process.
Not only does Tangled tackle the visual aspect, but it is purposeful in its storytelling in that not one of its characters are expendable. It’s funny, touching, far from presumptuous, and doesn’t insult anyone’s intelligence — especially that of its younger viewers. Themes of loss, hope, discovery, and death make appearances throughout the film, and is done so with minimal to no sugar-coating. The film takes care not to cater to one particular audience; therefore it doesn’t exclude anyone from taking something from it. Tangled nails it on all counts, but most especially in areas of the heart, translating into a contemporary tale about self-awareness and following one’s dreams despite any outside attempts to squash them.