Disney’s 50th animated motion picture and first to use a three-dimensional computer animation style. Leading the voice cast are Mandy Moore (A Walk to Remember) and Zachary Levi as Rapunzel and Flynn Rider. (Disney changed the title from Rapunzel to Tangled to make it gender-neutral with the hope to attract boys to watch the film). It’s also considered part of the Disney Revival and is a return to the musical set-up that Disney is known for (Alan Menken, from The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Pocahontas returned to compose for the film).
The film is occasionally narrated by Flynn, opening with “This is the story of how I died.” But he’s quick to add that it’s a fun movie and goes into the tale of the golden flower. It held magical healing abilities, and with the right words, also had the ability to keep one looking young for an eternity. A selfish old woman, Mother Gothel, hid the flower from sight for hundreds of years, so she alone could benefit. However, the current queen fell ill as she was due to deliver a baby. The flower was found and saved the queen. She bore a princess, Rapunzel, who had golden hair, like the flower. The old woman snuck into the castle, intent on using the infant’s hair. Yet, when she went to cut the hair to take with her, it turned brown and did not contain the magic. So, being a selfish woman, Mother Gothel kidnapped the child and hid them away in a tall tower. She raises Rapunzel as her own and warns her that “the outside world is a dangerous place, filled with horrible, selfish people.” The king and queen light lanterns each year on their daughter’s birthday, hoping for the day she’ll return.
Fast forward several years, Rapunzel is on the brink of turning eighteen (older than some other princesses). Her pet chameleon, Pascal, urges her to venture outside, but she insists that they are happy in their tower. They both know she’s lying. Rapunzel explains (sings) her daily schedule, which includes a lot of painting and brushing her hair, and wonders When Will My Life Begin? Mother Gothel returns home and calls for “Rapunzel, let down your hair!”, the classic line. And I further dislike the hag for her use of mean teasing; it’s a pet peeve of mine. One has to wonder how Rapunzel turned out sweet and kind with that kind of influence.
Rapunzel informs her mother what she wants most desperately for her eighteenth birthday is to see the floating lights. Mother Gothel attempts to dispute her wish by stating they are stars; Rapunzel has been busy in her tower and has tracked stars; these lights cannot be stars since they only appear on her birthday (and as it’s been pointed out; why did Gothel not change Rapunzel’s birthday?). Gothel insists that the world outside is scary and Mother Knows Best. At the end, she commands Rapunzel “don’t ever ask to leave this tower again.”
We break away to meet Flynn Rider and his accomplices, the Stabbington Brothers (really Disney? Stabbington? Far too obvious) as they steal the crown from the palace. Flynn despairs about his wanted posters and their ineptitude of getting his nose right, double crosses the brothers and keeps the crown for himself, but runs into a very determined guard horse, Maximus. On the run, Flynn finds Rapunzel’s tower and climbs in order to escape Maximus. He’s greeted with a blow to the head from a frying pan. Rapunzel gives a little squeak at her actions. She cautiously approaches her captive, and discovers, contrary to her mother’s warning, this man does not have pointed teeth. She briefly investigates the satchel and discovers the crown, and tries it on. For a moment, it seems like memoires might be returning, but she puts the crown down, then hides the man in her closet, very pleased with how she handled herself.
Gothel returns and Rapunzel brings up the lights again, to which Gothel sternly yells “You Are Not Leaving This Tower…Ever!” Gothel plays the victim; it was Rapunzel’s fault for upsetting her. Rapunzel backtracks and asks for special paint for her birthday; a trip that will take Gothel three days.
Once Gothel is gone, Rapunzel puts her plan into action. Flynn wakes thanks to Pascal’s tongue in his ear, to find himself strapped to a chair, by hair. Rapunzel reveals herself, asking “Who are you and how did you find me?”, believing that he is there for her hair. Flynn starts very charming, then falls into more modern flirting, which is a bit humorous (I do like that he is not like any other prince or leading man and he’s very sarcastic). But he’s concerned for his satchel. He guesses Rapunzel’s hiding spot, so she knocks him out again (that never gets old) and he’s woken by Pascal’s tongue again. Rapunzel feels that fate or destiny brought them together, Flynn cracks “a horse,” and points out that it’s terrible idea to simply trust him (works out this time, but not a theory to be tested often). She strikes a deal with Flynn once she finds out he’s not after her hair; he takes her to see the lanterns, she’ll return his satchel; without her help, he will never find it. Flynn attempts his “smolder” [I side with Rapunzel; not terribly impressed]. He agrees, Rapunzel drops him on his face: “You broke my smolder!” [ha ha! That is always funny].
Rapunzel marvels at everything in the outside world; “for the first time every I’m completely free.” She’s ecstatic to be outside, but begins to think about how she is disappointing her mother. She goes back and forth and Flynn tries to convince her to go back to the tower so he can have his satchel and be on his way, telling the young woman that rebellion is a natural part of growing up. Rapunzel insists on seeing the lanterns. They venture to the Snuggly Duckling. Meanwhile, Mother Gothel comes across Maximus and is frightened to find a palace horse so close to her tower. She races back home and when Rapunzel doesn’t let down her hair, she has to unblock a door and climb up the long way. Rapunzel is not home when she opens the door. Gothel too discovers the crown and is even more afraid…she could lose her ticket to everlasting life. In the satchel with the crown is one of Flynn’s wanted posters; she knows who to search for now and grabs a knife.
In the Snuggly Duckling, Flynn and Rapunzel are faced with ruffians and thugs, as Flynn expected. He is recognized from his wanted posters and they begin fighting over him, but Rapunzel steps in and pleads with them to stop; she has a dream to see the lanterns and needs Flynn to accomplish. “Haven’t any of you ever had a dream?” Indeed, they have; deep down, they all have soft spots. Gothel appears in the window at one point as Rapunzel sings of being free. The fun is cut short when the warning comes that the palace guards are on their way. The leader of the ruffians shows Flynn and Rapunzel a secret passage, encouraging Rapunzel, not Flynn (because his dream stinks) to fulfill her dream. The pair gets a bit of a head start, but not long when Maximus shows up and points the way.
Everyone; the guards, Flynn and Rapunzel, and the Stabbington brothers, end up at a dam. Rapunzel gets away first, handing her frying pan to Flynn, who then fights the guards and Maximus, who holds a sword in his teeth – somehow. She rescues him and they escape into a cavern, which is shortly blocked by a huge bolder, thus allowing the chamber to fill with water. Facing their death, Rapunzel moans that it was all her fault. She apologizes to Flynn, who corrects her that his real name is Eugene Fitzherbert. In the spirit of sharing secrets, she reveals “I have magic hair that glows when I sing.” Which gives her an idea! They manage to find a way out and now Eugene has to keep calm. Rapunzel heals his scratched hand; we’re better able to hear the lyrics to the little song: Flower gleam and glow/ let your power shine/ make the clock reverse/ bring back what once was mine. Heal what has been hurt/ change the fate’s design/ save what has been lost/ bring back what once was mine. She then explains the backstory she was fed by Mother Gothel, that a gift like what she has, has to be protected. Eugene questions whether she will go back. Her initial response is “no,” but she’s really not sure; it’s complicated. Eugene shares that he’s an orphan and got the idea for Flynn Rider from a book he used to read to the younger kids, tales of a great hero with money to do whatever he wanted; for a kid with nothing, it seemed like a better life. Rapunzel states that she likes Eugene better than Flynn, but won’t spoil Flynn’s reputation.
Meanwhile, Gothel meets the Stabbington brothers and promises them a reward bigger than a simple crown and revenge on Flynn Rider besides. She finds the couple’s camp and when Eugene goes to gather firewood, she has a conversation with her daughter, demanding they return to the tower. Gothel counsels Rapunzel that she can’t trust Eugene; it’s demented to think that he likes her. She should have never left the tower; she’s too naive. When she starts to say “Mother knows best,” Rapunzel interrupts, insisting, “no.” Oh, now Rapunzel knows best. Well, if she’s so smart, she should give Eugene the crown. Gothel cautions, once he has the crown, he’ll leave her in a flash. Gothel disappears into the woods. Rapunzel doesn’t give Eugene the crown quite yet.
Morning dawns; Eugene is woken by a dripping Maximus. Rapunzel to the rescue, again. She charms Maximus and bargains that she just needs Eugene for the day; afterwards, they can chase each other to their hearts’ content. Now Maximus has joined their party into the kingdom. It’s quickly discovered that incredibly long loose hair is not good in a town center; Eugene enlists the help of a few young girls to braid Rapunzel’s locks. They have wonderful little adventures throughout the day; Rapunzel showing off her art skills, reading books in the sunshine, learning about the lost princess in front of mosaic of the royal family, culminating in a dance [my favorite part of the soundtrack]. Eugene and Rapunzel finally end together at the end of the dance, but before they have a chance to act, the call goes out to head to boats for the lanterns.
The next few sequences are beautiful. Though the king and queen never speak, the animation is such that you can plainly read all the emotion in their faces, their despair for their lost daughter, almost not wanting to participate in the ceremony, but still clinging to hope. Eugene takes Rapunzel for a romantic boat ride, to get the best view. She’s quiet at the time draws closer; what if it’s not everything she’s dreamed? What if it’s better, Eugene poses. Then what does she do? She finds a new dream. As the sky lightens from the multitudes of lanterns, the couple sing how at last I See the Light. Before they set their own lanterns aloft, Rapunzel reveals that she has Eugene’s satchel. She’s no longer scared. Eugene just smiles and lowers the satchel; the lanterns are more important. It becomes clear to both of them, that they are better around each other, their feelings are reciprocated: “And at last I see the light/ and it’s like the fog has lifted/ and at last I see the light/ and it’s like the sky is new/ and it’s warm and real and bright/ and the world has somehow shifted. All at once/ everything is different/ now that I see you.”
Eugene is about to kiss Rapunzel, but he catches sight of the Stabbington brothers, lit by a creepy green light on shore. He takes the satchel, telling Rapunzel he just needs a minute to take care of business. She hesitates, but believes him. Eugene goes to hand the crown over to the brothers, but they ask about Rapunzel instead. They knock him out and go after Rapunzel. They tell her that Eugene left her, pointing to a figure on a boat in the fog. Gothel saves Rapunzel from being captured by the brothers. Thinking Eugene abandoned her, she willingly goes with her mother, crying that she was right about everything.
Eugene was tied to the boat and comes to when he reaches the dock. He’s immediately taken into custody, Maximus hearing the whole thing. Eugene is far more worried about Rapunzel than himself, straining to get back to her. He’s locked in a cell and the next morning is collected; “it’s time,” the leader states. He sees the brothers locked up as well and demands to know about Rapunzel; who told them? One reveals that it was an old woman. Eugene instantly knows that Gothel betrayed her daughter. He fights harder to get free to save her.
Back in the tower, Gothel removes all of Rapunzel’s flowers from her braid, like it never happened. Dejected, Rapunzel lays on her bed, examining the small cloth she held onto of the crest of Corona. Her eyes drift between the sun and her paintings. And she realizes that there are suns all through her paintings. Small memories click; she saw the crest as a baby in her cradle. Hazy images of her parents and she deduces that she is the lost princess. She stumbles out of her room and states her discovery to Gothel; “I am the lost princess.” All this time, she had been hiding from those who would use her hair for evil and she really should have been hiding from Gothel. Gothel crushes any idea Rapunzel would have of going to Eugene, revealing that he will be hung for his crimes (we even catch a glimpse of the noose…continuing to be shockingly blunt, aren’t we Disney). Gothel goes to comfort Rapunzel, but the teen won’t have it anymore. “You were wrong about the world, and you were wrong about me. And I will never let you use my hair again.” She forces Gothel away and she crashes into a mirror. “Alright, now I’m the bad guy.”
We cut to the ruffians rescuing Eugene, which is quite humorous. They flip him onto Maximus and the horse takes off. They come to the tower and Eugene calls up for Rapunzel. When he gets no answer, he begins to climb, then the hair descends. He climbs up, but is met by a chained and gagged Rapunzel. Gothel comes behind him and stabs him, her secret will die with him. Rapunzel works out of her gag and struggles against Gothel. She will continue to do so, forever, unless Gothel lets her heal Eugene. If Gothel allows it, she will never fight; she promises. Gothel gives in, but chains Eugene to a post as a precaution. Eugene can’t let her heal him; she can’t let him die. But if she heals him and goes with Gothel, she’ll die, Eugene asserts. He asks her to wait a moment and leans closer…and uses a broken shard from the mirror to cut off her hair. Rapunzel wonders and Gothel freaks out. She quickly ages (a la Donovan from Last Crusade) and Pascals trips her as she backs towards the window (Rapunzel reaches for her). She’s dust before she hits the ground.
Rapunzel turns back to a still Eugene. She tries the song, but it doesn’t work. “You were my new dream,” are his last words (yes, he dies). He was Rapunzel’s new dream as well. Rapunzel softly sings the song again. A tear drops onto his cheek, and glows. His wound begins glowing and soon the tower is filled with light. Eugene’s wound is healed and his eyes slowly opens. Did he ever mention that he has a thing for brunettes? Rapunzel is ecstatic and throws herself in Eugene’s arms. Breaking apart, she pulls him in for a kiss.
A guard bursts into the king and queen’s chambers and simply nods. They race to the balcony and greet their grown daughter. The small family is tearfully reunited, sinking to the ground in a loving embrace. The queen pulls Eugene into the hug. The young couple narrates the ending, stating that the kingdom rejoiced at the return of their princess; Rapunzel went on to rule as kindly as her parents; the ruffians got their dreams; but most importantly, they did get married (there is a short that was released, showing their wedding).
Eugene is healed at the end because of the true meaning of the song. Yes, “make the clock reverse,” is typically used by Gothel to reverse time and make her young, but it also means reversing the damage done to Eugene by the knife. “Change the fate’s design/ save what has been lost” easily translates to saving Eugene. “Bring back what once was mine,” is Rapunzel’s plea. I thought it was very smart of the writers to phrase the song in such a way that it makes sense for Gothel; or when she finds it, she only reads it the way she wants, but it also has the deeper magic to change more momentous events.
Another aspect of the writing that I enjoyed in this tale of Rapunzel is that Rapunzel does a lot of the saving. It can be argued that she saves Eugene from himself, but I shan’t be delving that deep into the story. But I thought her actions at the dam were impressive and Flynn/Eugene is no slouch either. The frying pan is a hilarious touch. Rapunzel and Eugene are a more modern couple and relevant to today’s audience. Gothel’s control issues and manipulation also flesh out the story, but make me really dislike her (someone with a psychology major could have fun dissecting her; I do not hold that major, so I shan’t). Overall, the music of Tangled is not my favorite, but it has a decent story that I enjoy re-watching.
As always, let me know if you have any questions or comments.
Next Time: Brave