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Sunday, October 17, 2021

Review: All ‘Tangled’ up

One might think a demure Disney princess and gallant displays of male bravado would characterize Disney’s new movie Tangled. But Tangled at once provides unexpected twists while breaking with traditional gender roles.

Alan Menken, who was responsible for the music in The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, composes the songs in Tangled, all of which contribute to a sprightly musical. Be ready for whimsicality, outstanding CG animation, and some curveballs: this is not a fairy tale you’ve heard before.

Based on the classic Grimm fairy tale, Tangled retells the story of Rapunzel, a girl born with 40 feet of magical golden hair. With its power to heal and save, this hair stirs envy in Mother Gothel, who steals baby Rapunzel so she can exploit her hair for the purpose of remaining eternally young. Rapunzel remains locked in her tower until a thief, Flynn Ryder, whisks her from her cloistered world and into a land where adventure awaits.

Flynn is a thief rather than Prince Charming. His personality is at once quirky, endearing, and believable – different from the typical bland, one-dimensional Prince Charming.

Perhaps the most striking break from traditional Disney fairy tale plotline in Tangled is its upheaval of the obvious gender roles. In many Disney movies, damsels in distress are to be rescued. A poignant moment that challenges this age-old notion of masculinity shows the king taking off his crown and shedding a tear. Also not on par with traditional masculinity is how in many instances, Rapunzel actually rescues the prince rather than vice versa.

Different from many of the more passive Disney princesses, Rapunzel is hungry for adventure, eager to leave the tower and accompany Flynn.

Often Rapunzel’s hair is what salvages the pair, leaving Flynn astounded by its curative powers. “You’re being strangely cryptic as you wrap your hair around my injured hand,” he says.

The animation is truly outstanding. When Rapunzel makes her way out of the prison with Flynn, she is seeing the world for the first time. We as viewers embark on that journey with her, guided along by the 3D animation, vibrant colors and enlivening songs. There are some parts where the colors are so vivid and there are so many objects popping out at you that you just can’t help from reaching out and trying to grab them.

A particularly striking scene is when Rapunzel and Flynn are sitting in a boat. A multitude of floating, glowing lanterns encircle them. Magenta sky floods the horizon. The lanterns seem to envelope the audience, making them part of this idyllic occasion. When we see such lush, vivified scenery, we almost want to say to ourselves: is this more like a pleasant fantasy, or is this how Disney wants us to believe the world looks like to someone who’s been locked up for so long? Are we seeing through the lens of a formerly sheltered girl who now sees everything in Technicolor?

Amusing parallels can be drawn between Flynn and Rapunzel’s fairy tale relationship and modern-day dating. The beginning stages of relationships, that I-like-you-and-I-think-you-like-me-but-I’m-not-sure-and-even-if-you-do-who-knows-what-that-means stage, are endearingly, if predictably, touched upon in a campfire scene where the two sit close, make eye contact, and hold an electric conversation while still feeling too nervous to touch or kiss.

Every Disney movie needs some comic relief. Tangled has its share of laugh-out-loud parts in addition to its more serious ones. Many of these laughable instances include interactions between Flynn and Rapunzel’s horse pal, who does not like Flynn and often expresses nonverbal annoyance toward the bumbling character. Much humor can be enjoyed from the horse’s facial expressions alone, during which Flynn’s sincere attempts to win the horse over result in simply more annoyance on the horse’s behalf.

Enter a colorful world of 3D animation and musical elation, where 40 feet of golden hair grants power and autonomy to a modern-day heroine. The music is cheery and the colors are dream-like, but don’t let those qualities fool you: Tangled is far from un-nuanced and un-sophisticated. Instead, Tangled is a cinematic conglomeration of humor, music, female empowerment, and characters portrayed as humans interacting candidly, rather than caricatures reading scripts.

ELENI STEPHANIDES can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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