Rapunzel, the girl locked in a tower with only her long, golden locks for company, gets a sassy, spirited screen treatment from Disney with Tangled, an animated fairy tale musical from the Not Pixar corner of the company.
Disney has turned her into a missing princess — naturally — and it's not a prince who waits below and calls out "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair." Her hair has magical powers of healing in this version, but only if she doesn't cut it. Otherwise, they play the story pretty much straight out of the Brothers Grimm.
Soldiers pull up a magical flower to help an ailing queen through a difficult childbirth. But the witch who needs the plant to stay young steals the royal infant in revenge and raises the child as her own, never letting Rapunzel leave her tower in the middle of the forest.
Rapunzel, voiced by Mandy Moore, sings her wish song, When Will My Life Begin? She gets her answer when a robber and rogue named Flynn (Zachary Levi) stumbles upon her and is blackmailed/ threatened into showing her the world. Flynn, meanwhile, isn't at all smitten with the long-haired beauty. Not at first.
"The only thing I want to do with your hair is get out of it — literally," he says.
But the reluctant pair go on their quest, the witch pursues them and sics Flynn's cheated fellow robbers on them. And every so often, someone sings.
The story borrows elements from Beauty and the Beast (a rousing drinking song at the local tavern) and every fairy tale with a wicked, selfish witch. It's all about letting kids grow up, building up (or knocking down) a child's self-esteem, and having a dream. Even the bar ruffians have dreams — to be concert pianists, marry well or become mimes. The songs by Alan Menken are pleasant enough, if instantly forgettable.
The comic elements shine in this 'toon. Crackling timing makes Rapunzel's every use of her weapon of choice — a frying pan — Looney Tunes loopy. Chases and fights are animated with flair.
And then there's the horse. An imperial warhorse named Maximus is part German shepherd, part belligerent clown as he tracks Flynn like a bloodhound, gets into brotherly slap fights with the thief, and generally steals the movie.
Tangled, like most of Disney's in-house cartoons, suffers most when compared to the best of Pixar. Animated musicals are only as good as their songs, and this one isn't on a par with Beauty and the Beast or even The Princess and the Frog. But the laughs make the tunes pass by quickly, the emotional moments pay off and this version of Rapunzel lets down its hair just enough to deserve a place of honor with all the other glorious Disney "princess" tales.