A teenage girl who yearns to leave her tower room and attend a lantern lighting ceremony. A handsome crook who only wants some respect (and some money in his pocket). An aging woman who’s determined to stay young by any method necessary. An extraordinarily well-trained horse who’s entirely focused on capturing his quarry. A smart chameleon who’s extremely loyal to his best friend, the aforementioned teenage girl.
Take this motley cast of characters and throw them into a beautifully realized fairy tale world. Add a few well-written songs and stir well. What do you come up with? One of the greatest animated films of all time. That film is Tangled!
I just saw Tangled for the first time last night, after hearing nothing but effusive praise from friends (including my fellow RotoWriters and RotoEditors). I went into the movie feeling a little apprehensive. Surely, I thought, no movie could really measure up to the amount of praise I had heard.
Boy, was I wrong. I came out of Tangled thoroughly in love: with the well-constructed story, the multidimensional characters, the technical beauty of the animation, and the catchy songs peppered throughout the film. I was also filled with a fresh sense of awe for Glen Keane, Byron Howard, Nathan Greno, and the other filmmakers who helped pull all these elements together and create something great.
In fact… dare I say it? Yeah, I think I will: I prefer Tangled to Frozen.
What is it that makes Tangled so special? It walks a line that few movies manage to tread: it plants itself in a classic genre while still keeping it fresh. It doesn’t reject or mock the classic fairy tale conventions we’ve grown up with. Instead, it looks at those conventions in a new way. It does something unique within a classic story.
There are many ways that Tangled goes about re-inventing the fairy tale. In my opinion, however, it all begins with the characters. Each of our three leads fills a classic fairy tale slot: Rapunzel is our Beautiful Princess, Flynn Rider is our Dashing, Handsome Hero, and Mother Gothel is our Evil, Scheming Villainess. However, each character is so well drawn, so human, and so lifelike that they become more than archetypes. They become people.
Let’s start with our protagonist, Rapunzel. Like every Disney princess, she has a dream she longs to achieve: attending the lantern lighting ceremony that occurs on her birthday each year. Also like every Disney princess, she has a huge obstacle that she needs to overcome in Gothel, her overbearing “mother.” However, Rapunzel differs from the prior princesses in her spunk and moxie. She is the force that propels the story forward. Even after streetwise Flynn Rider agrees to take her to the lantern ceremony, Rapunzel continues to call the shots and proves to be an unstoppable force even for a clever crook like Flynn.
Speaking of Flynn Rider… as much as I love Rapunzel, I have to say that Flynn is my favorite character in Tangled. As I watched Flynn, my mind kept going back to Han Solo; like Solo, Flynn is handsome, sarcastic, opportunistic, and dashing. However, Flynn has another side that keeps him from being just another lovable rogue. As we learn more about Flynn’s life as Eugene Fitzherbert, we discover that the roguishness is just a facade. Deep down inside, Flynn is just a guy who wants to be respected and loved. In short, he wants what all of us want.
That brings us to Mother Gothel, our villain. Like Flynn, she wants something that many of us want. She wants to remain young and attractive forever. However, Gothel resorts to methods that even a crook like Flynn wouldn’t use. She locks Rapunzel up in her tower, closing her off from the outside world. She withholds praise and love until Rapunzel uses her magic hair to restore Gothel’s looks. She’s manipulative, cold, and selfish. However, Gothel’s desire is so universal that, even as we deplore her, we understand why she does what she does.
These three characters breathe fresh life into every other element of Tangled. You want an example? Here’s one: the beautiful lantern lighting sequence. Every part of that scene is perfect. The animation is breathtakingly beautiful, the warmth of the lighting lends romance to the scene, and “I See the Light” is definitely the best song in the movie. However, what really makes the scene special is the relationship between Flynn and Rapunzel. We’ve come to know their desires and we’ve watched as the two have gotten to know each other. We want to see this couple come together! That’s what draws us into the scene.
Ultimately, every moment of the film is enhanced by these three characters and the way they deal with their situations. Flynn, Rapunzel, and Gothel are such unique, modern characters that they breathe fresh air into each scene they’re in. They are what makes Tangled such a successful blend of old and new.
Personally, I think that blend of old and new is what makes Tangled a new favorite for me. It taps into my feelings of nostalgia, while also exciting me with things I’ve never seen before. Any movie that can do both those things is a special movie indeed! From now on, Tangled will always hold a special place in my heart.
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes