Circumstances of watching it: angelofthenorth and I were trying to watch The perks of being a wallflower, but the file on her computer was messed up somehow. So we took a break and went to the supermarket to pick up some supplies, and I grabbed the DVD from the rack there.
Verdict: Tangled tells a great story with some really strong characterization.
I liked both the ways that Tangled retells the traditional Rapunzel story and subverts it. There's a direct and narratively sensible connection between the magic flower and Rapunzel's magic hair. And the visuals never ever fudge how long Rapunzel's hair actually is; the publicity for the film gives it a defined length of 70 feet, and just about every shot has her hair coiled all the way round the room, unlike many images of Rapunzel where her hair is sometimes about floor-length and sometimes long enough for the prince to climb the tower. Equally it's an interesting choice to make Rapunzel a princess and her suitor a rogue; yes, it's partly done to fit Rapunzel into the Disney Princess marketing machine, but it also succeeds in giving her more agency than she might have in a traditional telling, and I did like the way that Flynn's introduction explicitly states that it's a story about her more than about him, and the film as a whole lives up to that.
I also definitely did like the relationship between Rapunzel and Gothel. It is a really good compromise between a partially realistic portrayal of an emotionally abusive parent, and something that is nevertheless entirely suitable for a child audience. Gothel is just really well drawn, evil in the Dolores Umbridge mould rather than a cackling wicked witch or otherwise obvious villain. There were moments when I thought she seemed a bit like a stereotype of a Jewish mother, but I don't think she's really meant to read as Jewish, I thought that mainly because she has more of a New York, and therefore Yiddish-influenced, dialect than most of the rest of the characters. And generally American media tends to project that set of characteristics into all immigrant or non-WASP women, dark complexioned, loud and over-emotional, and all the negativity of trying to continue to influence their adult children where mainstream / white US culture is a bit of an outlier globally in how much it values adults being completely independent of their birth families.
Anyway, I liked the way the Rapunzel tale is used to explore her taking charge of her own life and extracting herself from her literal and symbolic imprisonment by the witch she thinks of as her mother. And I liked the original material where the film presents some of her adventures with Flynn well enough too. It's all a bit silly, fairly middle-of-the-road Disney stuff, but enjoyable. I liked her befriending the lowlifes in the tavern and learning about their dreams. I liked the way that at least as much of the plot is basically generic heist stuff about the theft of the crown and Flynn being a fugitive from justice, with the Rapunzel / Flynn romance forming only a minor element. Maximus the horse is just a wonderful character, clearly in the heritage of Disney companion animals but following the more modern convention of being quite animally and communicating via body language rather than words.
It's also a very pretty film, I enjoyed the imagery throughout. The music is not amazing but Mother knows best is a pretty good number. So yes, on the whole I'm glad I bought the DVD on a whim because I wanted entertainment for the evening.
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