DVD Review: 'Tangled'

Filed under: Movies

Rated ON For Ages 5 and Up

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this reimagining of the classic Rapunzel tale is one Disney "princess" movie that's sure to entertain both boys and girls. Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore) isn't the typical princess in need of rescuing; she does her fair share of saving Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) -- who's no Prince Charming. There's a lot of romantic chemistry between them (flirting, gazing, and eventually hand-holding, embracing, and a kiss or two), as well as a couple of creepy scenes in which the youthful-looking Mother Gothel uses her beauty to lure men to do what she wants. Expect some brief but memorable cartoon violence -- one character dies, another one nearly dies after being pierced by a knife, and there are plenty of last-minute escapes from arrows, horse-mounted soldiers, fire, etc. The movie's messages about girl power and seeing beyond appearances are positive and inspiring; kids will learn that we all have dreams, and we should do everything we can to make them come true.

The good stuff

  • Educational value: Kids learn the importance of seeing beyond appearances -- all those "thugs" in the pub had sweet, generous dreams "deep down inside."
  • Messages: The movie has sweet messages about honesty, friendship, and love. Rapunzel did love Mother, even though Mother never truly loved her, and Rapunzel's own parents loved her so much that they never gave up looking for her. Rapunzel sees past Flynn's reputation as a thief to the brave, kind-hearted man she eventually falls in love with, while Flynn realizes that Rapunzel's naive optimism is good and inspiring. She sees the best in people, including him, and that helps him act like the best man he can be. There's also an empowering message for girls: They'll learn that it's not just the boys who save princesses; princesses can do the rescuing as well.
  • Role models: Even though Mother isn't a positive role model -- she's the epitome of selfishness and cruelty -- Rapunzel is quite the opposite. She's perpetually optimistic, looking for the good in any situation. She feels guilty when she thinks she's broken Mother's rules, she gives everyone a chance, and she inspires those around her to act more righteously. She's kind, loving, and selfless.

What to watch out for

  • Violence & scariness: Cartoonish action violence includes chases, close calls, and a lot of escapes -- evading arrows, steadily rising water, fire, and a big group of the king's soldiers. Mother comes across as creepy and is mean to Rapunzel; she also tries to kill Flynn (he's pierced with a knife and appears dead). A character falls to her death but sort of vanishes before she hits the ground. Some kids may be disturbed by Mother's transformation and her eventual demise.
  • Sexy stuff: Rapunzel and Flynn flirt, exchange longing looks, and eventually hold hands and kiss. Mother uses her youthful appearance to lure men to do her bidding.
  • Language: Infrequent rude language like "stupid" and "dumb."
  • Consumerism: Even before the movie registered on kids' radar, Disney had licensed dolls, books, and toys that are constantly promoted.
  • Drinking, drugs, & smoking: Characters go to a restaurant where tough-looking characters are eating and drinking, and one character slurs his speech a bit and acts "drunk," but young kids probably won't pick up on that -- to them it will seem as though he just looks and acts silly.
What's the Story?

Based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, "Tangled" follows the story of Princess Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore), who -- thanks to a special flower that her mother the queen ate during a difficult pregnancy -- has magical, ever-growing hair with the power to heal and rejuvenate. But it's only used to keep her Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy) -- a deceitful old crone who kidnapped Rapunzel as a baby -- looking young and beautiful. Locked away in a hidden tower, Rapunzel's deepest wish is to see the beautiful "stars" that light up the sky on her birthday every year. When a rogue thief named Flynn Ryder (Zachary Levi) discovers her tower, she keeps him trapped in her hair until he promises to take her to see the soaring lanterns ... and get her back to the tower before Mother Gothel returns from a three-day errand. In exchange, Rapunzel vows to return the jeweled crown that Flynn stole. On their adventure, the two grow closer and closer -- but Mother Gothel and Flynn's rivals will do their best to keep Rapunzel from realizing the truth.

Is It Any Good?

It's a relief to see that Disney can still conjure up a princess movie to rival its all-time greats. In 2009 there was the lovely, hopeful Tiana in The Princess and the Frog, and now there's another fairy tale heroine who's worthy of adoration: "Tangled's" Rapunzel. She's guileless, strong, and beautiful -- and so breathtakingly good that you can't help but weep with her when she thinks all hope is lost. And her chemistry with Flynn is so heart-flutteringly good that you don't even need to use the kids as an excuse to go: This is a perfect date-night pick. Their relationship is built on mutual respect and trust, something completely missing in many earlier Disney movies. And it's Flynn who nearly dies and requires Rapunzel to save him, not the other way around! What a refreshing turn on the age-old damsel-in-distress meets dashing-prince story.

As for the dramatic tension, it's best in the form of Mother Gothel -- brilliantly played by Murphy, whose signature Broadway voice (on fabulous display in the amazing number "Mother Knows Best") adds the necessary punch to Moore's sweet, airy vocals. Mother is, at least as princess film villains go, a personal favorite. In a youth-obsessed culture, who couldn't extend the tiniest bit of sympathy for an ancient, shriveled old hag who'd rather look like a young Sophia Loren-meets-Cher? Composer Alan Menken's songs -- from Murphy's show-stopper to Moore's eternally optimistic "When Will My Life Begin," the inspiring "I've Got a Dream," and the love song "I See the Light" -- are all great, as is singer-songwriter Grace Potter's theme, "Something I Want." "Tangled" has it all -- lovable characters, fantastic songs, and a powerful message about how your life can change if other people believe in you and your dreams.

This review of "Tangled" was written by Sandie Angulo Chen.

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