Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Tangled, dir. Nathan Greno : Film review

Drink with this: Golden Slipper (Yes, it’s a children’s film. What?)

When you’re talking Disney princesses, surely it has to be a cocktail.  Golden, like Rapunzel’s flaxen tresses.  And a slipper has to be the most Princessy accessory, second only to the tiara. Ok, it relates to the wrong Princess, but after a few of these you won’t be so judgy. (Incidentally, while considering this I Googled ‘Golden Cocktails’. Well! Urban Dictionary can be so enlightening.)

Tangled is the story of Rapunzel, and was originally named after the eponymous heroine.  It was rebranded either as a cynical marketing ploy, or as an attempt to appeal to boys as well as girls, depending on what you believe. It was Disney’s much touted 50th animation, and Quentin Tarantino’s self-professed fifth favourite film of 2010. (I love that he has a numerical list of favourite films. Its so in keeping with the Tarantino who started off working at a video store.) Number five places it one above True Grit on his list; also loving the juxtaposition.

But why not? Disney at its best is spectacular. Most people of my generation speak of the Disney films of their childhood with the kind of veneration only otherwise reserved for Harry Potter. Sadly though, Tangled is not Disney at its best. It is very enjoyable though. The tale of Rapunzel is followed faithfully-ish until the tragic parts. (blinding of the hero, exile to the desert, etc etc. )

I’m no expert on animation at all, so will only say….it looked good? I think? I wasn’t wowed by it, but I did think at several points it was very pretty. Critics generally seem agreed on this. The score was likeable too – I would happily listen to these songs again, although they don’t rank up there with the greatest Disney soundtracks.

Onto specifics:  in my heart, the only Rapunzel retelling which counts is the Sondheim’s, from Into the Woods. With this in mind, the treatment of the witch rankled slightly. She was treated as an essentially evil character, but she seemed loving enough until Rapunzel tried to escape. The film showed her cooking Rapunzel her favourite meals, telling her she loved her… And ok, keeping her prisoner in a tower, but what parents aren’t misguided from time to time? And then when Rapunzel is united with her real parents  - SPOILER – it’s all hugs and festivals, with not a thought for the woman who raised her singlehandedly for eighteen years! Ungrateful bitch.

Into the Woods on Broadway
But seriously, I was dissatisfied with the witch’s story. Why was she obsessed with youth and beauty? Did she really love Rapunzel? If not, why did she look after her so well? Should I really have expected Disney to take on these questions? (Sondheim did. That’s all I’m saying….)

When marketing the film, Disney made a big deal of it’s hero Flynn Rider, as part of its rather transparent attempts to pretend the film isn’t essentially about a princess and her hair-care. Flynn Rider disappointingly turns out to be called Eugene, but aside from that he was an acceptable hero. Dashing but decidedly non-threatening, as you would expect. Overall, more attractive than the Beast once transformed, less attractive than Aladdin. 

Is Tangled a feminist film? You may think this question isn’t even worth asking, but actually I think Disney were going for some kind of Feminism Lite/ Girl Power type vibes.  In fact, I get a faint whiff of the defensive from this film. On the whole, Tangled represents a massive leap forward from their earlier output. Rapunzel transforms into an unprincess-like brunette with a sassy short haircut at the end of the film – and Flynn seems to prefer her this way. She can wield a frying pan with aplomb, and is pretty spunky and resourceful.  She gets major bonus points for sweeping Flynn off his feet and kissing him first, and although they do get married, the emphasis is on the fact that this is many years later.

Yet, the wholly domestic scope of Rapunzel’s ambitions is surely a bit limiting. She’s been imprisoned in a tower her whole life, and then on escape she’s only interested in Flynn?  The fact that the ending of the film presupposes that their marriage is ‘the big question’ everyone is wondering about is slightly irritating. As is the ‘joke’ Flynn makes that Rapunzel proposed first. Why is this presented as so laughable?

These are relatively minor concerns; I could probably find more to get angry about if I tried. But I don’t really want to try. I liked Tangled. It may not be my fifth favourite film of the year, but it’s probably the best Disney I’ve seen in a while. 

Verdict: Worth watching when hungover. Or with your kids/siblings/nieces/nephews, depending on where your life is at.

Take 2: I just wish that this was slightly more like the Disney of yore. Not that I think Beauty and the Beast is a feminist masterpiece, so this must stem from pure nostalgia. Aside from that, I want them to redo it and give Flynn a less annoying voice! Seriously, after two hours it really begins to grate….

Highbrow/Lowbrow: Do you really need me to tell you? Lighter and fluffier than Up, yet ranks far above Hannah Montana.