'Tangled' (2010)/Directed by Nathan Greno & Byron Howard/Grade: A+
Rapunzel gets a royal re-imagining in my favorite Disney animated film ever.
Disney animated movies have meant a lot to me over the years, from Beauty and the Beast (1991) and The Lion King (1994) (both of which I will be mentioning in this series later), to Aladdin (1992) and Lilo & Stitch (2002). But this one takes the cake. In this 2010 stunner, Rapunzel (luminously voiced by Mandy Moore) decides to finally leave her mother Gothel's (a devilishly entertaining Donna Murphy) tower in order to attend a 'Festival of Lights' for her eighteenth birthday, spurred by the arrival of an on-the-run bandit named Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi).
I remember when I first saw this at 21 (I know, what took me so long, right?), and within ten minutes I was completely taken in by it. Its computer animation was spectacularly detailed, and the film utilized scale to breathtaking effect, with many shots that just took my breath away. But what really hooked me were the little details of how writer Dan Fogelman (Crazy, Stupid, Love) changed the original Grimm Brothers fable.
Specifically, I really loved how this movie portrays the act of gaslighting, which, if you aren't aware, is a method of psychological manipulation wherein perpetrators trick victims into questioning their sanity and judgment. Here, Gothel constantly says and does things that undermine Rapunzel's decision-making and confidence. This is because she originally kidnapped Rapunzel as a baby, to use her hair's magical powers in order to remain young. Nevertheless, when I watched this for the first time, I was still coming to grips with a really bad friendship breakup, and this portrayal was very realistic- and as a result, cathartic- to me, despite taking place in a fantastical world.
This also, subsequently, made Rapunzel's hero's journey really involving, as I adored watching her come out of her shell and discover her individuality throughout, reinforced by the expressive animation and Mandy Moore's charming voice work. I found Flynn Rider's arc just as relatable, since he was a character who always kept his guard up, and was inspired by Rapunzel's authenticity to show the real him. It's often been hard for me to open up to others in the past, and so going on that journey of presenting myself more to people was very difficult but worth it. Plus, Zachary Levi's acting was outstanding, balancing that raw vulnerability with charismatic, snappy comedic timing and delivery.
Which brings me to another reason this is my favorite Disney animated movie. It is really, really funny! It's also a beautiful romantic story, because even though the characters fall in love in three days like in other tales from this company, Fogelman's ear for dialogue makes sure their conversations never feel fake or unrealistic. In a movie all about who people appear to be versus who they are, watching Rapunzel and Flynn talk felt like a real interaction to me; just two people bearing their souls to each other.
On top of that, the action sequences are also fantastically exciting, particularly in regards to a fight scene between Flynn, a palace horse, Rapunzel, and some guardsmen. Alan Menken and Glen Slater's songs are phenomenal, with every musical number being utterly unforgettable. My personal favorites are 'Mother Knows Best', Gothel's villains one, and 'I've Got a Dream.' I really can't think of a single thing I have wrong with this picture, which is rare. It truly is a movie that has not only helped me immensely over time, but which is a perfectly crafted movie on every possible level. If you haven't seen this yet, get on that. You won't regret it.