Rapunzel, the girl locked in a tower with only her long, golden locks for company, gets a sassy, spirited screen treatment from Disney with "Tangled," an animated fairy tale musical from the Not Pixar corner of the company.
Disney has turned her into a missing princess — naturally — and it’s not a prince who waits below and calls out “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.” Her hair has magical powers of healing in this version, but only if she doesn’t cut it. Otherwise, they play the story pretty much straight out of the Brothers Grimm.
Soldiers pull up a magical flower to help an ailing queen through a difficult childbirth. But the witch who needs the plant to stay young steals the royal infant in revenge and raises the child as her own, never letting Rapunzel leave her high tower in the middle of the forest.
“Why can’t I go outside?” always gets a “Mother knows best,” and “It’s a SCARY world out there” from this fake-mom (Broadway’s Donna Murphy). Naturally, she sings that sentiment.
Rapunzel, voiced by Mandy Moore, sings her wish song, “When Will My Life Begin?” Her life begins, it turns out, when a robber and rogue named Flynn (Zachary Levi) stumbles upon her and is blackmailed/threatened into showing her the great wide world. Flynn, meanwhile, isn’t at all smitten with the long-haired beauty. Not at first.
“The only thing I want to do with your hair is get out of it — literally.”
The reluctant pair go on their quest, the witch pursues them and sics Flynn’s cheated fellow robbers on them. Every so often, somebody sings.
The story borrows elements from “Beauty and the Beast” (a rousing drinking song at the local tavern) and every fairy tale with a wicked, selfish witch in it. It’s all about letting kids grow up, building up a child’s self-esteem and having a dream. The Alan Menken songs are pleasant, if instantly forgettable.
The comic elements shine in this ’toon. Crackling timing makes Rapunzel’s every use of her weapon of choice — a frying pan — Looney Tunes loopy. Chases and fights are animated with flair.
Then there’s the horse. An imperial warhorse named Maximus is part German Shepherd, part belligerent clown as he tracks the elusive Flynn like a bloodhound, gets into brotherly slap fights with the thief and steals the movie.
“Tangled,” like most of Disney’s in-house cartoons, suffers most when compared with the best of Pixar. Animated musicals are only as good as their songs, and this one isn’t on par with “Beauty and the Beast.” But the laughs make the tunes pass by quickly, the emotional moments pay off and this version of Rapunzel deserves a place of honor with all the other glorious Disney “princess” tales.
* * *
Cast: The voices of Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy
Directors: Nathan Grenno, Bryon Howard
Running time: 1:33
Rating: PG; brief mild violence