Blondes may have more fun, but brunettes are marrying kind. At least that’s the position Disney’s latest animated picture, Tangled, takes on the politics of hair – a controversial topic for any age group. It’s possible that this resounding mnoral will elude some of the movie’s youngest audience members, but who’s to say when we really start shaping our identities based on what’s represented on the big screen? This liberal interpretation of the classic German fairy tale "Rapunzel," in which a hapless girl who spends her youth imprisoned in a high tower finds herself rescued by a handsome prince when he cracks her captor’s code, imbues blondeness with a kind of Samson-like majesty that may have the power to restore lost youth and heal fatal wounds, but also keeps its wearer under the envious thrall of those less fortunate. The title not only describes a literal feature of what can happen to hair that hasn’t been cut for 18 years, but also indicates the emotional state of our heroine, who cannot operate outside captivity without suffering severe internal turmoil.
Of course, on the surface, it’s a lot lighter than that. This is a happily-ever-after tale, and Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore) is a feisty, empowered young woman who, for the most part, takes her fate into her own hands, wraps her flowing locks around it, and swings on down to safety, without a whole lot of help from the “prince,” who, in this retelling, is merely a skilled thief who agrees to provide moral support for the aspiring runaway while she does all the heavy lifting. It is Rapunzel, in fact, who is royalty by birth, but was kidnapped from her parents’ castle by an old witch who discovered that her hair had rejuvenating powers, provided it was never cut. The Disney movie picks up where the Brothers Grimm left off – Rapunzel lets down her hair and escapes from the tower, using her new, distinctly un-prince-like friend, Flynn Ryder (Chuck’s Zachary Levi), as an escort and guide. The two are on the run together – Rapunzel from the panicked witch, and Ryder from the guards of the village’s castle, whence he has stolen a precious crown. After a few animated action sequences and inevitable romantic developments, the two get down to a never-before-told denouement, which, nevertheless, everyone will see coming except the kiddies.
Obvious romance aside, no Disney story would be complete without a host of goofball supporting characters, especially anthropomorphized animals – here a highly skilled chameleon and a principled stallion who has a serious problem with anyone who doesn’t go by the book. These characters serve their purpose but seem about as necessary as any of Disney’s unlikely pets since Sebastian the crab tried to keep Arial "under the sea." At least these two don’t talk; their charm is largely in their facial expressions. The movie’s musical numbers (yep, Disney always has ‘em) are sparse enough to avoid being distracting, but there doesn’t seem to be a single one worthy of gracing the Oscars this year, despite Moore’s powerful voice.
Parts of Tangled are definitely fresh, vibrant, and even original, and it’s a pretty formidable retelling of a classic fairy tale. However, there’s really nothing juicy enough here for adults, or even older kids, to sink their teeth into. If you’re looking for a type of entertainment for a slightly more sophisticated audience, do yourself a favor and go see Megamind instead.
Starring: Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy, Ron Perlman
Directors: Nathan Greno, Byron Howard
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
Runtime: 100 minutes
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