There's some controversy over the name change from Rapunzel to Tangled, but in Singapore we probably got the best of both worlds with Rapunzel - A Tangled Tale, highlighting that this was still in essence, a Rapunzel-Rapunzel-Let-Down-Your-Hair tale. The latest offering to add to Disney's growing list of Princess films, and thought to be the last, this 50th animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series sees the Brothers Grimm's tale being given the Disney update, and that means being more child friendly, thought slapped with a PG rating rather than the usual G.
The formula that Disney uses on its chosen princesses from fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson amongst others, seem to come with the requisite beautiful singing voice since breaking out into song about their plight and a duet is the norm, and have this aura that birds, butterflies and bees tend to flock to, possessing this power over animals and assisted by a sidekick from the insect or animal kingdom. There's also the Prince Charming equivalent who will gallop over hills and valleys to save his beloved, before living happily ever after expected ending.
In all counts, Tangled satisfied the above, though there was a moment in the finale which I thought, since it's touted as the last Princess film (though never say never with box office success) that they would go for the jugular and put a new spin on things, but I guess what's formula shouldn't be tweaked unless it's broke. Mandy Moore the singer plays Rapunzel and so automatically gives the character her singing voice as well, being captured by the evil Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy) and imprisoned in a tower (well, very nicely discouraged from getting out to the big bad world out there), though yearning very much to be part of the world seen through her window, much like The Little Mermaid's Ariel. Her chameleon sidekick and palace horse Maximus, though without a voice, are likely to be the more popular Disney animal sidekicks out there with their timely antics, and if there are soft toys of them, I'm quite sure they will do pretty brisk business.
But what's slightly different here is that the male lead Flynn Rider (voiced by Zachary Levi) happens to be a rogue in all sense of the word, a thief who has double-crossed the Stabbington Brothers (Ron Perlman) during a joint heist. Not a prince and hardly the gentleman to begin with, his accidental chance upon Rapunzel doesn't result in an instant love connection, but one that developed over time in their journeys to bring her out of her tower, to somewhere close enough to observe a lantern festival that happens on her birthday, where the royalty of the land commemorates the disappearance of the kingdom's princess (no prizes here of course – most of the time one party amongst the lovebirds has got to be of royal blood). I suppose the character's tapered to be slightly more realistic than the swashbuckling hero according to plan.
Villains wise, Tangled's Mother Gothel is probably more simple in her motivation to keep Rapunzel's magical hair powers all for herself, an elixir for immortality, though her schemes and execution to do so are more complex and cerebral, preferring mind games and manipulation instead to get her wants, rather than magical powers and potions, being the weak old lady she actually is who's cheapskate enough not to go for botox. With no real powers nor weapons to exercise her threat, she's actually quite weak if it boils down to fisticuffs, inflicting injury from the shadows. The Stabbington Brothers also pose no threat as they are only mean looking and ultimately nothing but posers, and the flick also has in its theme to never judge a book by its cover for the dreamers it made out of a tavern full of thugs.
If one were to compare the earlier Disney princesses from what has evolved over the course of time, there's no qualms about the female characters being stronger now than their predecessors. Snow White and Sleeping Beauty had unparalleled rivals in the looks department, but ultimately the docile, demure ladies don't cut it nowadays, especially when they are in comatose in their own films, especially the latter almost throughout. Today's princesses fight against bad authority, and are never flinching if the situation calls for self sacrifice. Alas they still cannot shake off emotional needs of desiring a man in their lives, so not all things are changed for happily ever afters.
Still, Rapunzel is that worthy addition to the Disney stable, and I am wondering just how long it'll take before she could be found on the Disneyland grounds. Recommended for its intended demographics definitely, while accompanying adults may find that this is no longer the same as those we all grew up with.