As I mentioned before, The Princess and the Frog got people excited about Disney films again. The advertisement for Disney’s next flick also got a lot of people excited. This one is different, seeing as how it’s a CGI film, the ragtime music has been replaced by pop music, and there’s less racial diversity. The films are also similar, however, seeing as how they are princess movies, adaptations of classic fairy tales, and they give us the traditional Broadway musical type of film. Now if you thought I wasn’t looking forward to The Princess and the Frog when it came out, I REALLY wasn’t looking forward to this movie! A Disney movie about a blonde-haired, blue-eyed princess with pretty colors and guitar-playing pop music? Yeah, I’ll pass. My sister saw the movie long before I did, and wouldn’t stop pestering me on how good it was. She and I finally sat down to watch it almost 3 years after its cinematic release, in the summer of 2013. After finally haven seen it, I think the movie is…good. It’s good. I don’t go fan-boy crazy over it like everybody else, but I think it’s good. To be honest, this just isn’t my type of movie. I admit that a lot of things in this movie is good, but it’s just not for me. There are also a lot of things in this movie I just find OK. To be honest, I’m really surprised that this film was a greater financial and commercial success than the last movie! Personal feelings set aside, I think that’s the stronger film! I’ll tackle why I think this film performed better, but let’s be fair and look at this movie by itself first.
ANIMATION: I’ll be honest, computer animation doesn’t excite me like it excites other people. I like it and respect it, but if I wanted to see a Disney CGI film, I’d watch a Pixar film. On one hand, the colors and look of the movie are just too pretty for me. It doesn’t go dark enough for my taste. There are moments we get dark, like when Mother Gothel talks to Rapunzel in the woods, but almost everything else just looks bright and happy. I like brightness and happiness, but it doesn’t balance out as well here – at least not for my taste. One the other hand, though, what I like about the animation is how unique it is. Of course, Disney’s been blending traditional animation with computer graphics since the ’80s; we’ve seen hand-drawn characters interact with computer animated items or in a computer animated environment. Here, we actually get the opposite. The characters are computer animated, and they like in a hand-drawn environment. The backgrounds are hand-drawn. I find that very fascinating! You wouldn’t know this film is part CGI and part hand-drawn, and it all looks well! It looks like one world! It’s great to see that Disney hasn’t lost its touch in unique animation styles!
SONGS/MUSIC: The good news is Alan Menken’s back! After his work on Hercules, his last Disney project was the film that killed hand-drawn animation for a while, Home on the Range (Will Finn and John Sanford, 2004). Instead of being joined by lyricist Stephen Schwartz or David Zippel, here we have a man named Glenn Slater. I am so glad to see Menken working with Disney again! He basically recreated how a song and a score should sound for Disney during their Renaissance…OK, we didn’t hit gold with the Hercules soundtrack, but that’s OK. To be honest, though, I can say almost the same thing for this soundtrack. I can’t remember most of these songs! If you told me the titles to any of these numbers, I might remember them is I think hard enough. To be fair, that might just be due to the fact that I’m not really fond of guitar-playing pop songs. There’s nothing wrong with them if they’re good, but they don’t do much for me. And I don’t see how that type of music fits in the world of this movie. If we want to be…well, for lack of a better phrase, stereotypically White, then yes, this music works. But in a fairy tale that combines action with princess and fantasy, I don’t really get it. With that being said, though, the music alone does not create a bad song. Let’s discuss each of them individually.
1) When Will My Life Begin/(Reprises 1 & 2): I’ll discuss my problem with this song first. It’s boring. I get just as bored as Rapunzel gets from being cooped up in the same environment. I can see how bored she is just fine; I don’t need a song telling me she’s bored. Then I become bored! The only thing more boring than listening to someone singing about how bored they are is that person singing about what they did today. I DON’T CARE! This is the problem I have with a lot of modern pop songs. I don’t care to hear you singing about your daily activities unless there’s substance to it – unless there’s a point. Where is this going? Have you ever asked someone how their day at work was, and they went on and on and on in this never-ending story about information you don’t really care about? That’s this song for me! Now that I’ve gotten that out, I’ll state the positive. As far as what a song is supposed to do in a musical, this song is not bad. We do get some exposition on our environment and our main character. Rapunzel is stuck in her tower all day…All life. She doesn’t really have a life outside her tower. She has a teenage appearance and a child-like innocence. Her world is good, but mundane. She loves life, but at the same time it’s predictable. She’s happy with everything in her tower, but she wants to know what lies outside the tower, in the real world. That’s why I say she’s “stuck” in the tower and not “trapped” in the tower. The term “trapped” would indicate that she’s not happy; this song clearly shows that she is happy. She’s making the best of what she has, but she still wants adventure outside. It’s a decent song.
2) Mother Knows Best: I’ll talk about the good things first. I like seeing Mother Gothel manipulating Rapunzel. I like seeing her trying to convince Rapunzel why the world is a dark and scary place. I was kind of upset before that the song sounded too campy and too happy, but I get it now. Mother Gothel is still trying to come off as the good guys to Rapunzel. She’s still trying to make herself look like the caring, loving, and fun mother Rapunzel’s known all these years. By keeping up the persona, Rapunzel doesn’t have to fear her. That’s rather clever for a villain song…a “villain song,” I should say. I do have some problems with this, though. If it is our villain song, like some people say it is, why does it sound like every other song in this movie? The villain song should be menacing and threatening. This is not. Again, I understand why, but then it is no longer the villain song. Also, is this the first time Mother Gothel has sung this to Rapunzel. I don’t remember the dialogue from the film, but logic would dictate that she would not be singing this to Rapunzel for the first time. Rapunzel just turned 18 – she’s been a teenager for 5 years already! A lot of teenagers (not all of them, but a lot of them) would have just rebelled and left the tower by now! Is this really Rapunzel’s first time getting this song from her evil step-mother? Also, Mother Gothel has a good singing voice, but there are a few times she goes for goofy and silly. And, of course, why didn’t she catch on fire as she was walking down the stairs of candles? For the good that this song does bring, the number is OK.
3) I’ve Got a Dream: I get the joke. Really, this song is one big joke. I get that. It’s a funny joke. However…I don’t think this joke works that well. The joke is, obviously, a bunch of cut-throat and intimidating Vikings have a soft spot for dreams and silly musical numbers. Fair enough. Again, it’s funny; but there’s one important reason this song doesn’t work. Disney songs (and songs in musicals in general) traditionally (should) do 3 things well: continue the story, provide character development, and/or be one huge fun experience. This song doesn’t do any of those things. The story just stops at this moment, so it doesn’t continue. These Vikings’ goals aren’t important at all, so we don’t really get much character development. The song is a fun experience, but it’s not a HUGE fun experience – not an EPIC fun experience. “Be Our Guest,” for example, was a huge number. It didn’t contribute anything to the story or characters, but it was so grand and spectacular that you don’t care. The same can be said of “Under the Sea,” “Friend Like Me,” and some could argue “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” (although I’ll continue to argue that song did give us important character development). They were such grand spectacles through the lyrics, music, vocalists, and animation that they gave their films important identities. If you cut those songs, the stories would have been the same. but the identity of the films would not be what they are today. This song, I feel, could have been removed without losing the essence of what this movie is. It’s not big or grand enough to have that kind of impact on the film. It’s fun, it’s even funny, just not grand.
4) Mother Knows Best (Reprise): YEAAAAAAAAAAAAH MAN!!!!! THIS song has me smiling! THIS is the song I remember the most! THIS is the song I love the most from this film! THIS is the true villain song in the film! It’s intimidating! It’s threatening! It’s daring! It’s bold! I love that even though she’s become darker and harsher in her approach, Mother Gothel still maintains her character. She’s still sly, sarcastic, and witty; but now she’s more commanding and more antagonistic. I love how cruel she is toward Rapunzel. She really talks down to her, regarding why Flynn is with her. “Dear, this whole romance that you’ve invented…” “Why would he like you? Come on, now, really? Look at you! You think that he’s impressed?” Who would say that to their daughter? I also love that this song continues the story! We see an important sequence regarding the story unfolding here. This is what the Disney songs do great, and that is one of the purposes of a song in a musical. This number has a point, there is a reason it is here. We see the story continuing, and we see another side of Mother Gothel. I love this number! I love everything about it! It’s fantastic!
5) I See the Light: …On one hand, I don’t think I get this song. I don’t know if I’m missing something or if I’m thinking about it too hard, but I don’t get it. When I hear it, it makes sense, but I get confused when I watch it. What our couple is basically saying is that they’re looking at the world around them – the same world that’s been there the whole time – with a brand new perspective. Everything seems different, it looks better and more beautiful than it did before. That’s nice, it’s basically our new Disney love song. But I don’t know if I get some of the artistic choices here. Mainly, why didn’t Rapunzel and Flynn start off by singing together (open their mouths and let words come out)? It’s clearly the same voices singing. I know they’re probably thinking to themselves, but they could have been singing to themselves as well – would it have changed anything? Second, how did Rapunzel go from singing about the lanterns in the sky to singing about her attraction to Flynn? I don’t know if that flowed seamlessly in the lyrics. All in all, it’s not a bad song. It’s not as good as the other Disney romance songs, but it’s a decent number as both a stand alone song and a song for the film. Speaking of romance…
ROMANCE: The romance is good. To be honest, I’d probably put it in the same category as Tiana’s and Naveen’s romance; both romances are basically the same. I like seeing the two leads together. There is a charm and a chemistry between them. Part of that comes, of course, from the characters themselves. I don’t want to talk about them in too much detail now, but Rapunzel is basically the Disney female. She’s the princess we expect to get in every Disney princess movie. Flynn, on the other hand, is the person who’s been dragged to a Disney movie. He’s the one who roles his eyes at all the enchanted magic, or the one who questions and challenges everything. That makes the chemistry both unique and funny. I like them ending up together, but the relationship isn’t as interesting to me then. I like Flynn being sarcastic and kind of rude. That’s where a lot of the comedy came for me. The romance is good, though. It doesn’t grab me as much as it grabbed other people, but it’s good.
CHARACTERS: The first time I watched this film, I had the same feelings toward the characters that I had about everything in this review thus far: they’re good, but they don’t grab me in the least. After watching the film again, however, these guys surprisingly grabbed me a lot more than they did before. I sympathized with them, I was entertained by them, and I wasn’t bored by them. They actually were a lot better than I remember them being! Let’s go ahead and talk about them.
1) Rapunzel – OK, so here is our main star. Rapunzel (who has green eyes and not blue eyes) is the pretty, young, blonde-haired, quirky female who wields her frying pan and has a dream…If that’s not the greatest Disney mainstream pandering I’ve ever heard, I don’t know what is…That’s what I thought before I gave this movie a chance. After watching it and thinking more about Rapunzel, she’s actually not that bad of a character. She’s not the most engaging character, but she’s nowhere near bad, either. I know I said in my last review that Disney leads have an annoying habit of rebelling. While I would still like to see Disney move away from that, I can see why Rapunzel would rebel here; it makes sense. She has never set foot outside the tower before. She’s almost 18, and she doesn’t know anything except her mother, her chameleon, and her tower. Not only that, but she believes the lanterns she keeps seeing every year have something to do with her. She has to go see them. Yes, I can see the cause for rebellion. What I like is that, like a good young person – good, not perfect – is that she actually stops and thinks about the results of her actions. It’s shown in a comical matter, but there is a scene that shows her contemplating how her mother would react. She wrestles with whether or not she should return home. I like that. She’s a good person. She’s much better than Ariel, who wouldn’t have given a rat’s butt what kind of consequences her actions would cause…Why do my reviews often slip into an angry Ariel rant?…Aside from all of that, Rapunzel’s OK. She brings action, she’s clumsy, she’s naïve, she’s a romantic (in love with freedom AND attracted to Flynn), she’s passionate, she’s determined – she’s a Disney princess. She’s not bad, but the qualities I mentioned before are what make her interesting to me. I like her.
2) Flynn Rider – I know that’s not his real name, but it’s his title throughout most of the film. There’s some depth to Flynn. He tries to maintain a persona, a reputation. The reason for that is because of what he’s chasing. There’s a lifestyle he wants to have: he wants riches and wealth, he wants to be edgy, and he wants to be a lady charmer as well. His name “Flynn Rider” exemplifies that greatly. Rather than being who he really is, he keeps pursuing the persona of a legend. That’s cool and all, but what makes me drawn to him is how entertaining he is. Like I said earlier, he is like the guy who’s been dragged to a Disney film. He doesn’t want to go on an adventure! He doesn’t want to be stuck with some girl he just met! He doesn’t want to sing! Why in the world is he fighting with a horse? How in the crud does this magical hair work?!? It’s all too bizarre! It’s too cheesy and ridiculous for him to fathom…and that’s what makes it so great! I heard someone once say that Flynn knows he’s in a Disney movie, and that’s really the best way to describe his attitude throughout the first half of the movie. The quicker he can leave this movie, the better for him. I like him stating the obvious. I like his humor. I like his sarcasm. He’s not my favorite Disney leading man, nor do I think he’s the most entertaining, but his entertainment does draw me. I love it! I like him.
3) Mother Gothel – YEEEEEEESSS!!!!! I LOVE Mother Gothel! When I made my Top 10 Favorite Disney Villains list, I was actually debating between her and Hades as Number 10. Even after the first time I saw this movie, I still loved Mother Gothel most!…I’m learning more and more that villains are often my favorite characters in Disney movies…Anyway, I love pretty much everything about this lady. I love her actions, objectives, and super objective here. There’s a reason for keeping Rapunzel in the tower. There’s a reason for growing the hair longer. There’s a reason for manipulating Rapunzel into thinking the world is a bad place. On top of that, her character is delightfully entertaining! Of course we’ll see her dark and evil side, but that’s not a character and that’s not all we see. She’s witty. She’s charming. She’s dramatic. She’s delightful. She tries to be nice and pleasant, but if she’s pushed past her boundaries then her short fuse will go out. I love her! I love watching her, and I love being with her! She easily has the best singing voice in this film, voiced by Broadway star Donna Murphy! I love Murphy, and I love Mother Gothel!
4) Maximus – This will be quick. Maximus is OK. He doesn’t excite me or consistently make me laugh, but he’s amusing. He goes to such great lengths to catch Flynn. Whether he falls from great heights and somehow survives, moves like he’s part bloodhound, or hovers over Flynn with blood thirsty eyes (I gotta try that someday), he will do anything to get the job done. He’s cool.
5) Pascal He’s decent. He’s not bad, but he is kind of annoying. Clearly he’s just here to be the sidekick/comic relief. I do find it interesting that he doesn’t talk. It makes sense and I like it, but I wonder why the filmmakers chose not to have him talk in this flick. In any case, he supports our main character, so he’s a good guy…But he did kill Mother Gothel, didn’t he? Wow, that’s dark!
STORY AND THEMES & MESSAGES: The story is the best element about this movie! The set up is brilliant, and the rest of the story flows very nicely as well. I do admire how the filmmakers updated the Rapunzel fairy tale in this way. Again, there’s a reason the girl is kept in the tower all her life. There’s a reason her hair is so long. There’s a reason – a couple of good reasons – she wants to leave the tower. If it were mere curiosity, that’d be one thing. But she has a spiritual connection with the lanterns since they are lifted every year on her birthday. That’s great! It makes sense! Rapunzel’s plan to see the lanterns once Flynn comes in the tower is clear and logical, and the way Mother Gothel returns to an empty tower is also logical. The story, for the most part, is outstanding!
There are a few things regarding the story, though, that I question. I know a lot of people question how Gothel figured out the song that causes the flower’s healing power, but, honestly, we can give it a bit of a pass seeing as how it’s a fairy tale. But here are my questions: 1) How did Mother Gothel get into the palace to kidnap Rapunzel? 2) If the King and Queen were in the same room, why didn’t they try to save their daughter? They sat up in bed and watched an old and creepy Mother Gothel leave. GO AFTER HER! Make sure the guards catch up to her! 3) Is it more than convenient that the guards in the palace had their backs to the crown Flynn took? I know it makes sense, but if they put that many guards in there then the very least they could do was have at least ONE of them facing the doggone thing! 4) In the end, Rapunzel’s tear saves Flynn. Is this the first time she’s learned that? Has she never cried before? Did the magic healing power go into her tears after her hair was cut off? How the crud does this work?! Those are just my questions.
I’m trying to think of what I can say about Flynn’s rebellion speech in the middle of the film. It’s something I’ve been thinking Disney has been saying for years. Is Disney indicating rebellion is a good thing? I don’t know if it is. Granted I’m not a parent yet and I’m not trying to tell anybody how to raise children, but…is this something I want to teach my kids? I understand rebellion. We rebel when we’re young in order to get an understanding of the world around us as well as our own identities. In Rapunzel’s case, she knows nothing about the world, so she’s trying to understand what all is out there and how she feels about it. But is rebellion always a good thing? Let’s look at another character who rebelled: Simba. When Simba was a boy, he deliberately disobeyed Mufasa by going to the elephant’s graveyard. Not only did he disobey, but he also got him and Nala killed. That’s nothing to take lightly or pass off as an innocent mistake; he just put two people’s lives on the line – THREE is you want to count Zazu! Is that really what we want to teach our kids? I don’t know. In the end, I know kids are going to rebel, but I don’t like that mainstream exploits it and says, “No, kids, it’s a good thing! Rebel!” Maybe if it weren’t so exploited, I wouldn’t have a problem. Maybe if the message was, “Your parents have a reason for what they teach you,” and “Talk to your children and share your reasonings as you see fit,” then it would be OK. Am I saying this movie is saying it’s OK to rebel…I don’t know. Disney does exploit rebellion, but, at the same time, Flynn said this to Rapunzel as a way to manipulate her into getting out of this adventure. I’m just talking about why Disney and rebellion bothers me. Yes, characters often rebel for good reasons (like Pocahontas, Quasimodo, Mulan, and Rapunzel), but I still don’t like what kind of message that gives to our society. That’s just me, though.
Often times, as I said earlier, I don’t always get the choice of not letting a character talk or sing. Sometimes it does work. If the King and Queen had talked, or if Pascal or Maximus talked, it’d be a different movie. But in moments like the song sequences, why don’t our main characters move their lips? If Rapunzel sang along in the opening number, what would that have changed? Nothing. Then why didn’t she do it? I don’t know, but I questioned it throughout the film…
OK, so now we have to get into it. Why was this film more successful than The Princess and the Frog? In many aspects, they’re very similar and very different simultaneously. The only real issue with The Princess and the Frog was the story; it was good, but it was too detailed. The best thing about Tangled is the story; and while everything else is good, they’re not very engaging or special. From an analytical point, The Princess and the Frog is a much better movie. So, then, why did this film thrive in popularity? Well, I’ve got several theories. 1) A lot of people were somewhere between in the air and angry that The Princess and the Frog had a predominately Black cast. Yes, race does play into this a bit. It’s not the main factor, but let’s not pretend that EVERYBODY in the world was in favor of it. Many people avoided this film because it featured Black people – because it featured a Black princess. And, let’s be honest, what do you think of when you hear “Black” over any type of entertainment media? “Black TV show,” “Black movie,” “Black music” “Black cast,” “Black people” – are you attracted to those titles? If you are, great! But, again, a lot of people have reservations about them. 2) The music is a huge element in Disney films. When one movie advertises it features New Orleans ragtime and jazz and the next movie says it has pop, which do you think a large mainstream artist will be more attracted to? That’s why it’s called “pop” music…It’s pop…ular. 3) CGI. Computer animated films are grossing huge amounts of money nowadays – even horrible CGI films like The Lorax (Kyle Balda and Chris Renaud, 2012)…I hate Dr. Suess movies so much…But the reality is, sadly, computer animated films are what audiences crave for now. Hand-drawn animation is not as popular as it was. I do hope that changes, though. Wasn’t the animation in The Princess and the Frog just frickin’ amazing?!!! Finally, 4) “Princess.” Both of these are princess films, yes, but The Princess and the Frog has the word “princess” in the title. This makes boys think it’s not going to be for them. There’s nothing a boy can like in a princess movie! It’s too girly and feminine for them. By keeping “princess” and even the main character’s name out of the title of Tangled, Disney was able to market this film to both girls and boys. Apparently it worked. It also worked for Frozen (Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, 2013).
CONCLUSION: I’d be lying if I said this is my favorite Disney movie, or these are my favorite Disney characters. However, I do have to acknowledge that what’s good is good. The animation is good. The romance is good. The characters are good. The story is great! The songs are…OK. It’s a good flick. There’s something here that a lot of people can enjoy: the romance, the action, the writing, the comedy, etc. Like it, love it, watch it, listen to it, sing along with it – do whatever you want to do. It’s not a film I’m going to be watching over and over again, and, yes, there are a lot of Disney films I prefer over this one. However, I’m not as bitter toward this film as I once was. It’s good, and I did enjoy watching it.