Starring: Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy (voices)
Directors: Nathan Greno, Byron Howard
I don’t know if Rapunzel is officially a Disney Princess yet, but I’m sure that as far as the Disney Royal Family is concerned, she must at least be the hair apparent.*tumbleweed*
It’s quite hard to talk about this film without mentioning the NAMING CONTROVERSY, so I might as well get that out of the way at the beginning. As a general rule, I’m not really in favour of the Lindsay Naegles of the world having undue influence in…any sort of decision, and I can see why some people were displeased at the idea of changing the title to appeal more to young boys (though whether this was the reason for the change will probably never be confirmed), but I think it was probably a smart move in the end. Rapunzel probably wouldn’t have had that much marquee appeal, and while Tangled might be a slightly bland title in itself, it does hint at mischief and hijinks and wholesome family fun in a way that makes the whole prospect that little bit more intriguing.
Anyway, on to the film itself: I’ve wanted to watch this for a while, and I’m slightly surprised it’s taken me this long to see it. I wanted to see it in the cinema but never got around to it, then my niece got the DVD for Christmas and I never got a chance to watch it with her, but obviously the universe decided that I was destined to see it one way or another, and ultimately LoveFilm delivered. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised – Moore and Levi give the lead characters plenty of warmth and charisma, and the visuals throughout the film are genuinely beautiful. It sounds like an obvious thing to comment on, but I was particularly impressed with how they handled the hair, considering that having a character with miles of blonde locks trailing after her for (spoiler) most of the film would appear to be an animator’s worst nightmare, but they managed to make the hair full of character without making it sentient or anthropomorphic or anything overly cutesy like that. I liked that Rapunzel had honed a number of uses for it over the years, and that it became a pretty formidable weapon alongside her trademark frying pan.
As you’d expect from a Disney movie, there’s a strong supporting cast in here too: Rapunzel’s “mother” is a curiously compelling villain who gets the best musical number by far (and no disrespect to Moore and Levi, but as soon as Murphy starts singing, you can tell she’s the only one of the main cast with serious Broadway experience); Rapunzel’s pet chameleon Pascal is pretty much only there to be the cute non-speaking animal that all the kids can fall in love with, but hey, it worked on me; and the various reprobates who hang out in disrepute at the Snuggly Duckling but yearn to be doing something artier with their lives are all perfectly charming – yes, even the mime.
My main criticism is that the musical numbers are a little weak – they’re all perfectly serviceable, and as mentioned above ‘Mother Knows Best’ is a standout, but they’re not especially memorable and none of them have the breakout potential of an ‘Under The Sea’ or ‘Be Our Guest’. However, I’m happy to overlook that drawback since the film makes up for it with an engrossing storyline and layered characters – while every effort may have been made to get boys in to the cinema to idolise the suave Flynn, Rapunzel turns out to be no pushover herself and a worthy role model for any young girl watching. Although I was disappointed that we didn’t get to see more of the ventriloquism that she was practising during her time alone in the tower – maybe they’re saving that for the straight-to-DVD sequel.