A power-hair princess and a creme rinse of broad appeal
A fractured fairy tale in the spirit of Enchanted, Tangled is a boy-friendly version of Rapunzel, more of a hair-raising adventure than a yearning romance. While it is a diverting Disney animation - the studio's 50th - it lacks the emotional undercurrents of a movie from the studio's Pixar division.
In this musical, which boasts a handful of generic songs by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater, Rapunzel (voice of Mandy Moore) is the daughter of a king whose queen has endured a troubled pregnancy.
Gothel (voice of Donna Murphy), an immortal sorceress, provides the monarchs with a sun lily that possesses healing properties. It restores the ailing queen and gives baby Rapunzel magical golden locks.
Her hair possesses the solar energy that the cronelike Gothel relies upon to maintain her immortality. So Gothel (who actually is a bit Goth in appearance: Think renaissance-fair Cher) spirits Rapunzel away and hides her in a tower, where the baby grows up to be a lovely girl with tresses like a Niagara of gold.
Rapunzel's power, like Samson's, is rooted in her hair. She can spin it like a lasso, snap it like a bullwhip, swing it like a climbing rope. (The film's 3-D effects make ample use of her hair's projectile properties.)
Meanwhile, out in the kingdom gallivants Flynn Rider (voice of Zachary Levi), square-jawed and self-regarding. He is a burglar who, with hulking accomplices, steals Rapunzel's crown from the palace. It is fated that the thief with the diadem meets the princess on whose head it fits.
Turns out that the self-educated Rapunzel, who paints and sculpts like a Florentine master and has a solid grip on literature and the sciences, wields a cast-iron skillet like a knight his lance. She longs to experience the outside world, but is anxious about defying Mother Gothel.
However enjoyable, Tangled has the feel of a film where the story was expressly tweaked to appeal to a broad demographic spectrum.
With her exclamations of "Worst daughter alive!" and "Best day ever!" Rapunzel's dialogue is more text-messagey than once-upon-a-time. This should ingratiate it to tween audiences.
Younger viewers will delight in the requisite animal sidekicks, Pascal, a chameleon, and Maximus, a white stallion whose sober attempts to bring Flynn to justice are increasingly comic.
Directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard keep the action moving at a clip, all the better to take advantage of the 3-D capabilities and to ensure that they don't alienate the boys in the audience.
Much as I enjoyed this diversion, I couldn't help but think that The Princess and the Frog had better songs and (hand-painted) animation, and that Mulan was a ripping adventure that didn't need tweaking to qualify as an action flick.