The witchy Mother Gothel knows one thing for sure: You've got to grab magic wherever you can find it … and hold on tight. So when she finds a magic flower that can heal and keep her perpetually young, well, she's determined to keep that thing hidden away. Unfortunately for the artificially rejuvenated crone, the kingdom's pregnant queen becomes ill and the townspeople search out the glowing blossom for a healing potion.
When the now-revived royal gives birth to a baby named Rapunzel, Mother Gothel can't help but notice that the infant's golden locks shimmer with a familiar glow. So she kidnaps the child in the dead of night and smuggles her away to a secret tower to raise as her own.
Through 18 years of frequent hair brushings and lilting songs of renewal, Mother G stays young. As long as Rapunzel's hair remains uncut, why, this extraordinary enchantment could go on forever! There's only one problem: The girl with the long shimmering hair isn't a little girl any more.
Rapunzel is now a restless young woman who longs to venture beyond her doorless tower. She dreams of seeing the nearby kingdom up close—especially the glowing paper lanterns that float skyward from the castle every year on her birthday. What can they mean? Who can be sending them aloft?
The wicked mommy dearest keeps Rapunzel's dreams in check with frightening tales of a world full of ruffians and thugs who desire nothing more than to hurt young defenseless girls. So when a roguish and rather handsome thief unexpectedly climbs in through Rapunzel's tower window, things start getting, uh, hairy.
This is a music-sprinkled story of heroism and self-discovery. And there's plenty here to like. Rapunzel is an innocent who has been raised without knowledge of her royal heritage. She only knows a tower prison and a self-focused, borderline vindictive, overly controlling mother. Yet in spite of it all, the young girl is a loyal daughter who tries to make her world as sun-filled and pleasant as possible.
At one point, the movie clearly compares Rapunzel's desire to leave her tower to a coming of age struggle with adulthood. The thief Flynn even says, "This is part of growing up—a little rebellion and a little adventure—this is healthy." But while Rapunzel is overjoyed at truly being free, she worries over the rightness or wrongness of defying the authority of her "mother." This is all handled well and could be used as a solid parental discussion point about growing up and becoming your own person.
Flynn Rider discovers quite a bit about himself as well. Thanks to Rapunzel, he realizes that he's far more than the traveling thief persona that he long ago adopted from a favorite childhood novel. In fact, Rapunzel makes it clear that she prefers the average guy Eugene over his adventurer Flynn alter ego. In the end, Flynn/Eugene transitions from quasi-bad guy to a hero willing to do what's right—even if that means giving up his life for the one he loves.
Ruffians and thugs sing about following secret dreams of being important and respected.
[Spoiler Warning] The never-dying hope and love of parenthood is well represented in Tangled. Rapunzel's anguished parents never give up on somehow finding their beloved child. And when they are all reunited in embraces and tears, the royal family readily welcomes Flynn as one of their own.
The power of the magic flower and Rapunzel's glowing hair is said to have been derived from a drop of pure sunlight. It makes her hair near sentient, and it's used several times to either heal or rejuvenate.
Rapunzel sings an incantation to the magic flower to unleash its healing properties: "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 Fates' design/Save what has been lost, bring back what once was mine."
Mother Gothel wears a formfitting dress that also reveals cleavage. During one musical theater number, an old bearded thug wears nothing but a diaper and wings, swinging about as a cupid-like figure. Rapunzel and Flynn kiss.
There's all sorts of comedic peril and bam-boom. When Flynn climbs into Rapunzel's window the young girl responds by thumping the intruder on the head and knocking him out with a frying pan … several times. In fact, she ties him up in a chair with her hair, and he ends up falling over and crashing down face-first a couple of times.
Once outside the tower, Rapunzel and Flynn encounter a tavern full of thugs—and the drubbing/swashbuckling/thumping continues. (Flynn is the comedic foil who generally ends up being tossed about and pummeled.)
A dam breaks, trapping Rapunzel and Flynn in a cave that quickly fills with water. Flynn receives a gash on his hand from a sharp rock. And in the film's most intense scene, Flynn is stabbed by Mother Gothel. She stands behind him and we don't actually see her plunge the dagger in, but we do see her pull back the blade as he crumples to the floor. We're shown a red stain on his shirt.
[Spoiler Warning] Flynn appears to die from the injury, but he's magically revived. And Mother G withers back to her true, ancient age—falling out of a tower window and literally disappearing as her cape smacks the ground below in a puff of cloth and dust.
Crude or Profane Language
Someone is called a dummy.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Tankards of some kind of strong drink are seen in a crowded roadhouse. A small bearded ruffian appears to be inebriated.
Other Negative Elements
We all know the story, so seeing Rapunzel trick Mother G into leaving her alone and disobeying the woman's order to stay in the tower doesn't carry the same weight as, say, seeing your average tween run away from home because her parents won't buy her an iPad. But Rapunzel doesn't know her whole story, so her actions still bear the need for discussion.
It's been said that Walt Disney himself once considered an adaptation of the Rapunzel fable way back in the 1940s. The Brothers Grimm-penned tale, however, never made it to full Disneyfication till now. And going in to the theater, I couldn't help but wonder just how modernized—or dare I say, Shrekified—the princess with the supersized golden tresses may have become while waiting in the back of Disney's collective brain for 60-plus years.
I needn't have worried.
Yes, the old fairy tale has surely been updated. The tower-bound beauty sports a more self-reliant panache then most of her princess predecessors. Her one-liner-popping beau is a bit goofier than yesteryear's Prince Charmings. And even the story's title has been rejiggered from an old-school Rapunzel to a more hipster-friendly Tangled.
But the heroine is still wide-eyed and endearing, the hero comes through with charm, the villainess is dealt with and the potentially sad, sad ending pirouettes just in time to deliver a moment of self-sacrifice, a joyful reconciliation and the perfect happily ever after. I guess, then, you could say that the Disney fairy tale formula is still as rock-ribbed as the Magic Kingdom Castle itself.
As always, magic is in the mix. But if anything it's handled with a lighter flourish than in Snow White or Sleeping Beauty. Certainly it's less of a concern here than it is in The Princess and the Frog. The floating paper lantern segment is beautiful and romantic, but not so much that young boys in the crowd will groan or start to fidget. The 3-D scenes sparkle. The animal sidekicks made me chuckle. And even though you probably won't walk away singing any of the Alan Menken and Glenn Slater tunes, they beautifully fit the movie's emotions.
Parents may soon be sick of hearing pleas for overpriced shampoos or dolls with long knotted-up hair that seems impossible to comb out. But as far as a family movie night is concerned, Tangled is plenty easy to get wrapped up in.