The latest animated 3-D Disney movie Tangled isn’t as dryly subversive as one of those great old “Fractured Fairy Tales” on Rocky and Bullwinkle, but it has a similar vibe—of people goofing on the Brothers Grimm and having a jolly time. The fairy tale in this case is “Rapunzel,” the heroine (voiced by Mandy Moore) a princess shut up in the high tower of a castle by a bogus mother (Donna Murphy) who stole her as an infant for the rejuvenating power of her long tresses. It’s a full-scale musical, too. Early on, Rapunzel sings a ditty called “When Will My Life Begin?” that recounts how she spends her days and nights, and though it’s awfully sprightly for a lifelong shut-in, Moore has a supple voice, the staging is amusing, and the tune (by Alan Menken) is catchy. Rapunzel has a little chameleon named Pascal with huge eyes that perches on her shoulders and gets a few good reaction shots. I can’t help liking a movie with chameleon reaction shots.
Her prince is an egotistical bandit who calls himself Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi), and he climbs into her window to escape a vigilant horse he stole that turned around and came after him. (I can’t help liking a movie in which a man is pursued by a horse.) By and by, Flynn and Rapunzel end up in a tavern full of slobbering giants and grotesques who first seem threatening but then show their sunnier sides. They sing a song called “I’ve Got a Dream” that rhymes “femurs” and “dreamers” and has a line that goes, “I’ve got scars and lumps and bruises/plus something here that oozes.” Very nice.
Tangled is no big deal, but it’s nowhere near as hard on the eyes as the Shrek movies, and it’s full of felicitous touches. (Pixar’s John Lasseter was an executive producer.) In a film in which there’s only one real villain, it’s good that she’s voiced by Murphy, who’s Broadway’s gift to animated movies. In one scene, the faux-mother becomes distraught at Rapunzel’s “unreasonable” demand to be let out of her tower, and Murphy puts a world of righteous indignation into the movie’s best line: “Oh, so I’m the bad guy now?” Well, uh, yes, you are—and you’re going to get a comeuppance that’s worthy of you. Relax and enjoy.