Walt Disney Pictures' 50th animated feature, Tangled, is a re-envisioning of the Brothers Grimm's classic story of Rapunzel. Umm, so why isn't it called that? And what's with the rough-and-tough guy who dominates many of the commercials? The answer to both questions: Marketing.
As the L.A. Times reported, Disney discovered a year ago with The Princess and the Frog that princess movies don't sell so well with boys—especially not ones with a girl in the title. So Disney changed the film's title and showcased the swashbuckling Aladdin-meets-Robin-Hood character who replaces the original story's prince in asking for Rapunzel to let down her hair.
Luckily, these marketing moves don't compromise Tangled's phenomenal storytelling or considerable charm. In fact, under its boy-sensitive marketing lies the classic Disney princess story—full of magic and dreams coming true. Still, the movie wisely takes a page from Pixar's playbook to fill the movie with so much well-done slapstick humor, action, goofy characters, and genuine fun that boys won't feel like the ads gave them the old bait-and-switch to trick them into a "girl" movie. After all, the boy-meets-girl love story is second to the story of a girl finding her real parents. (In fact, while this male viewer loved the audience-pleasing humor and action, it's entirely possible that he teared up way more than many girls will.)
Suffice it to say, Walt Disney Pictures has added yet another touching and enchanting favorite to its very rich animated collection.
The movie (which feels most like The Little Mermaid meets Snow White) begins in Beauty-and-the-Beast storytelling mode to set up the film's fable. Once upon a time, a drop of the sun caused a magical flower to grow in a faraway kingdom—a flower with the power to heal the ill and bring youth to the old. When the queen experiences trouble in childbirth, her subjects scour the land and find the magical flower, which saves the queen's life and leads to the healthy birth of her new daughter.
But not all is well. With the flower now gone, a wicked old woman named Gothel has lost her secret ticket to everlasting youth. Or did she? Gothel discovers that the baby princess now has the flower power in her sun-colored hair. Gothel kidnaps and hides the girl in a tower to be her own personal fountain of youth—all the while masquerading as her doting mother. That arrangement is threatened when a teenaged Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore) starts asking questions about the outside world, and Flynn Ryder (Chuck's Zachary Levi) climbs into her tower looking for a place to hide from the royals he has robbed.
There's good thematic grist to explore. The filmmakers seem attracted to the idea of sharing gifts with the world versus keeping them to oneself. Gothel does the latter by deceptively telling Rapuzel, "A gift like yours has to be protected." But by protected, she means hoarded, and she does so through scare tactics like exaggerating the evils of the world and downplaying the young girl's ability to handle them. In fact, poor Rapunzel is so misinformed that she's shocked to discover that men don't have pointy fangs.