The infant Rapunzel (Moore) was kidnapped by an old woman (Murphy) who relies on Rapunzel's magical hair to maintain her youth. Raised alone in a tower, Rapunzel becomes fascinated by the sky lanterns she sees outside and, when a rogue called Flynn (Levi) seeks refuge in her prison, she asks for his help to go see them close up...
It seems like an odd thing to mention off the bat, but the light in Tangled is just gorgeous. It glimmers and glows, bouncing off surfaces and gleaming on curves. That’s important when you’ve got a character whose long, shiny golden hair is essential to the plot, but more important is the way the light touches every surface in the film, making this the best-looking Disney since Sleeping Beauty. That, of course, was an almost abstract, medieval art-inspired affair; this appears a dreamier, more Romantic effort, but don’t let that fool you. This is surprisingly action-packed, its tone surprisingly modern and its plot simply surprising – no mean feat for another Disney fairy tale.
After the unspectacular commercial success of The Princess And The Frog, this skews towards the action end of the spectrum, that title change from Rapunzel to the gender-neutral Tangled indicating an impulse away from girliness and tradition. But the studio’s claim — that the new title reflects the fact that this is very much a two-hander, with Mandy Moore’s innocent but (inevitably) feisty Rapunzel and Zachary Levi’s street-wise yet clueless Flynn sharing the lead — is borne out. The pair face off against barbarians and guards and get a few dazzling action sequences. Both get decent character development too, and base their growing love story on more than a single longing glance.
Donna Murphy’s Mother Gothel, meanwhile, provides Disney with its first passive-aggressive villain. She’s a monster of the first order, but the fact that she’s entirely bereft of superpowers and reliant on her considerable wits to keep her going makes her strangely admirable, too.
The other stars are comic scene-stealer and police horse extraordinaire Maximus, who seems to think he’s a bloodhound, and Alan Menken, who composed the songs and score. Yes, this is a Disney musical, with Menken pitching the songs somewhere between the sincere melodies of his Little Mermaid and the comedy of his early work on the likes of Little Shop Of Horrors. It all feeds into a film that is still recognisably Disney, just a little funnier.
Not just a pretty face; there's meat on its bones and a song in its heart besides. This deserves a place up there with the best of Disney's previous fairy tales.