Hairs to A New Classic: A Review of Disney’s Tangled
Rapunzel is the latest legend/fairytale of old to get the Disney treatment. And, unfortunately, it got the musical treatment as well. As with The Princess and the Frog, Disney decided to give the classic story a not-so-classic twist, attempted to make the female lead a more feminist-pleasing independent character, add music, and pawn it off as the potential beginning of a new Disney Renaissance. The Princess and the Frog failed to do so, and while Tangled (because keeping the original name wouldn’t attract that much-needed-to-succeed male demographic) was a fun little piece of Disney ingenuity, I feel that ultimately, it will go the same route as its predecessor.
This is not at all to say that Tangled was bad or forgettable by any means. It is due more to the fact that Tangled follows a by-now very standard Disney formula that has long since run its course (which is the reason the Disney Renaissance ended in the first place). The Alan Menken-penned musical numbers were relatively forgettable and arraigned in an astoundingly predictable way. You could predict where the love duet would occur, the silly song would pop up, and where the ‘I Want More’ song’s reprise comes in. Disney certainly isn’t one to make too much of a stretch in that department.
And, of course, we have our very, VERY standard death-fakeout towards the end and our deus-ex-machina pulled out of the writer’s touchas that saves the victim (I, for spoilers’ sake, won’t say who it is) followed by the town rejoicing and the lead couple exchanging vows. I have to admit I rolled my eyes and asked whether or not Disney really expected us of the original Renaissance-era to fall for that one for the…um…ninth (?) time. Again, it was clear Disney spent more time attempting to resurrect a bygone era with this film instead of creating a new one.
But…I’m not calling this one a failure. And here’s why:
Again, as with The Princess and the Frog, Tangled made a major effort to make its female heroine an actual self-sufficient, I-don’t-need-rescuing, not-Cinderella-esque archetype. And I feel that Tangled’s effort paid off. Rapunzel was enjoyable, and actually pretty real. I found the typical Disney-sue characteristics in her pretty easily, but they were present in fewer quantities than most of the others in recent past (like, for instance, both of her parents are alive, well, and mentally-sound).
She even reminded me, both physically and in some bits of personality, of my Dungeons and Dragons character J, who has long blonde hair, doesn’t wear shoes, and has a hobby of hitting people over the head (in J’s case, with a mandolin).
*Seriously, do you think I have a chance at a successful lawsuit?*
But, for the record, J is a lot darker and much less plucky than Rapunzel. And she’s in love with a mindflayer.
Also, props for not making the animal sidekicks talk. The little chameleon had spunk without a vocal portrayal, and he had a perfect amount of said spunk, not so little that he was irrelevant and not so much that he was as annoying as Meeko from Pocahontas. Though, the horse named Maximus did give me a rather suspicious memory flashback to Altivo from The Road to El Dorado, and anyone who’s seen both movies are probably nodding their heads in agreement with me right now.
Many of the other characters hold their own as well. The male hero Eugene aka ‘Flynn’ (yes, probably as in ‘Errol Flynn’) is the Disney-standard jerk-at-the-beginning who is reformed upon falling in love with our heroine, but there was still something about him that made me not totally hate him. I loved the little running joke with his ‘WANTED’ posters getting his nose wrong.
The villainess, Mother Gothel, seemed like an, again, less-dark version of the already-established Frollo from Hunchback of Notre Dame. Their stories, according to Disney, at least, did evolve and happen very similarly, and hell, both of them end up dying the same way (I DID say spoilers, after all). Gothel, however, lacked the creative-spins many of the other characters got, and while The Princess and the Frog’s Dr. Facilier made my list of ‘successful’ Disney villains easily, Mother Gothel fell short.
And I will explain my rubric for what makes a successful villain another day.
The story was moderately formulaic, but the little details and jokes made me forget it, and I guess that’s what Disney was going for, so I’ll let it slide this time. Animation was, as usual, impressive. Let’s just pray this one doesn’t fall victim to one of Disney’s infamous make-money-quick, direct-to-video, half-assed sequels written by people commissioned from fanfiction.net.
Tangled is a plucky, cute film to add to the Disney canon. However, don’t expect it to rise to the standards of Beauty and the Beast. If they want to get the edge over Dreamworks again, they’re really going to have to go big or go home. And Tangled wasn’t quite big enough.
But for now, that’ll do, Disney. That’ll do. I’ll give you a B, and I’m a damn tough film critic.