Disney’s been in a rut lately. It’s not an eighties-type rut, as they seem to be doing okay money-wise, but creative they just have been dropping the ball so much it’s getting harder and harder to take them seriously. The Princess and the Frog, an absolutely stellar movie, showed us that Disney is at best when it doesn’t try to reinvent itself. Movies like Tangled, however, show they haven’t given up on trying. And when you try too hard, you tend to make things even worse.
Tangled is the story of Rapunzel. The one with the hair. The one that no one really tries to adapt because the idea of long hair might work on paper – once you see it, you know how much it weights, how it gets stuck everywhere, and how much you have to vacuum to keep that tiny tower clean. Now this part they did right: they made the hair seem alive – only when she tied it up, it started getting stuck because it was unable to move. Interesting.
To add to the list of great ideas: Flynn Rider. He’s a great character, a sort of Aladdin 2.0, who never ceases to be interesting. He doesn’t do the predictable thing at the end of act 2, he never chooses to follow his own shallow ideas – he just sticks with the girl. Said girl? Well, they tried. They tried really hard to make her emancipated. She stood her own better than Flynn most of the times. Only…
In the end, she’s a girl who voluntarily stays in a tower, hanging on the lips of her mother who is actually a witch. We know this last bit of info, but she doesn’t. I think balls were dropped in weighing out the disastrous consequences of this set-up. We can never take Rapunzel seriously as an independent woman simply because her mother, well, she makes the girl look like a complete idiot. Wouldn’t it have been a better decision to keep us on the same level as Rapunzel – the have us believe this woman is really her mother?
Rapunzel needs to emancipate herself for story purposes (just like Flynn needs to become less materialistic). The only problem is: she’s emancipated as soon as she leaves the tower. She defies her mother in the twentieth minute. The only thing that’s stopping her from reaching her emancipated need is the fact that, every fifteen minutes, there’s a little scene in which she cries bitter tears on having lied to mommy. So we don’t forget what she needs to do. It works. Kind of.
But that’s the whole problem with Tangled: it kind of works. Flynn grabs his wanted poster off a tree and stuffs it in his bag. We know he only does this for plot purposes as there’s no character-driven reason for him to do this. It kind of works. Rapunzel looks at the sun painted on a little flag and finds out she’s the long lost princess. Kind of. The script is riddled with little dramaturgical breadcrumbs that have to keep this mess together. It’s like putting a band-aid on your u-bend so it won’t leak. It works, but you might need to consider a plumber as that baby won’t hold.
I think Disney panicked on Tangled. They’re not doing that great, so they felt they had to rush it out, overmarket it (it’s their 50th animated feature, after all) and hope people swallow it. What I think, however, is that this movie should have been postponed and more time should have been invested in proper script development to smoothen some problems out. We would’ve been treated to more than two great scenes (Rapunzel and Flynn dance around town; the king and queen sadly light their lantern and send it up in the air a few minutes later).
It’s kind of a shame.