Rapunzel gets a makeover in Disney’s ‘Tangled’

Disney makes maximum effort in "Tangled" to make the venerable fairy tale Rapunzel hip enough for a modern audience.

Why, I wonder.

Modern audiences WANT the fairy tale, the cornier the better. My wife has already made it clear she'll have complete control of our big-screen television until Prince William and Kate Middleton are married, and no amount of buzz-stomping, reality-invoking sarcasm (he has to propose now, before he's a comb-over) will dissuade her.

If "Tangled" were smart, and it ultimately is, it would find some way to work a royal wedding into the story of Rapunzel, who in the traditional version of the story is a peasant. Here, she's immediately upgraded to princess, though stolen from her crib by a wicked, old hag (one reason to love Disney: you get to use the word "hag") named Mother Gothel.

She prizes Rapunzel's magical hair, which gives the old woman endless youth as long as she keeps the girl locked in a tower in a remote part of the forest. Rapunzel's hair has other advantages - though it grows to a length of 20 feet, it has a permanent Pantene shine and never needs washing. It's so long that Rapunzel (voice of Mandy Moore) can use it as a whip, rope or pulley, and she does so in the action-packed, 3-D "Tangled."

Most of the alterations from the classic story have been made to please young boys, many of whom could not be dragged to a love story, even a 3-D one.

So Rapunzel's beau, for instance, isn't just a retread Disney prince. He's Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi), a Capt. Jack Sparrow-ish rogue, on the run from soldiers when he takes refuge in Rapunzel's tower while the wicked Gothel is away.

Disney presents the Rapunzel/Flynn relationship as gag-strewn romantic comedy - she hits him several times with a frying pan before they have their first conversation. Once they do start talking, however, writers and animators fashion some fairly decent road-movie chemistry - Flynn takes the sheltered Rapunzel out to see the world (and perhaps meet her real parents) in a protective way, she punctures his exterior of false bravado, they fall in love.

Disney animators provide the usual gallery of cute/funny supporting characters - a soldier's horse with an overdeveloped sense of law and order who chases Flynn, a little chameleon who gives the lonely Rapunzel someone to sing to.

It is a musical, with songs by Alan Menken. They're not bad, but they're not very memorable, either. You can tell Menken misses his inspired collaboration with the late Howard Ashman, who helped with the music for "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast."

The artwork (especially the climactic lantern scene) is first rate, though the 3-D I saw tended to blur at the top edge of the frame. I don't think the movie will lose a lot in 2-D, so if you don't feel like paying the premium or wearing the glasses, you're probably safe. I can't imagine that most of the preteen target audience is going to care.


Tangled

Directed by Nathan Greno, Byron Howard. With Jeffrey Tambor, Paul F. Tompkins, Brad Garrett, Mandy Moore, Donna Murphy, M.C. Gainey, Ron Perlman, Zachary Levi. Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures.

Running time: 1 hours, 40 minutes.

Parent's guide: PG (for brief mild violence).