The Daily Stream: Tangled And Its Princess With A Frying Pan

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Movie: "Tangled"

Where You Can Stream It: Disney+

The Pitch: In the early 19th century, fairytale collectors the Brothers Grimm recorded and published a version of the German folk story "Rapunzel," about a princess trapped in a tower by an evil witch. The princess has really, really long hair, and the witch (and later a passing prince) use her hair as a ladder to get into the tower where she's imprisoned. In 2010, Disney put out their "modern princess" version of the story, "Tangled." 

In the new version, a witch named Mother Gothel (voice of Broadway star Donna Murphy) finds a magical flower full of golden light and healing powers. She uses it for centuries to stay young, until the Queen of Corona becomes pregnant and grows ill. The royal soldiers find and take the flower to heal her. In fear of growing old, Gothel sneaks into the palace and tries to cut the baby's hair, which has clearly retained the magic. It doesn't work when the hair is cut though, so Gothel just steals the baby! She locks Rapunzel (voice of Mandy Moore) in a tower, not letting her know anything about her past, and never letting her leave. That is, until a certain thief named Flynn Rider (voice of Zachary Levi) shows up one day when Mother Gothel is out.

Why it's essential viewing

The thing I love about the movie version is exactly what I don't like about the story I heard as a kid. In the fairytale (some versions at least), Rapunzel just accidentally lets on to the witch that she's been seeing this prince, leading him to all sorts of harrowing situations. Oops! In the Disney version, she actually has agency and a personality. When Flynn gets into her tower with a stolen crown, she ties him up and whacks him over the head with a frying pan. Then she bribes him to get her out to see the floating lanterns that she's spied from her window on her birthday for years. (What she doesn't know is that her real parents have their kingdom light them in hopes of finding their lost princess.) 

Not only that, but she saves him with her charm, then with her magic, then after he saves her, she saves him right back again. He's not your usual sort of fancy prince that shows up in these tales. He's a scoundrel with a heart of gold. It just takes some bonding events to bring that out in him. Plus, Disney has added two of the best animated animal sidekicks and I will die on any hill for Pascal the chameleon, and Maximus, the stuffy horse. 

At last I see the light

"Tangled" also addresses something darker. Mother Gothel spends all her time doing what many abusive caregivers do; she infantalizes her ward, making her think she's too frail, too stupid, too innocent to be out in the great big world. Instead, she should stay in the tower where's she's safe, and do nothing but cover every surface with paintings. Rapunzel might be a little goofy from being mostly alone all her life, but who among us doesn't get that after being kept inside during the pandemic? She's still smart, and clever, and strong, and independent. It was never about the magic in her hair. It was Rapunzel herself that manages to get free, even if she does have a little help. 

It's a visually gorgeous film, with cute animals, and some of the best music composer Alan Menken has ever done for Disney. All that is lovely, of course, but what I didn't expect when I went to see this film is how funny it is. The scene where Flynn and Rapunzel run into a pile of bandits at the Snuggly Duckling pub is one of the greatest animated sequences I've ever seen outside of a Miyazaki film, with some brilliant comic timing from everyone involved. Plus, it doesn't matter how many times I've watched this film — I still laugh until my eyes tear any time Pascal and Maximus are on the screen together. 

I do hope you love it as well. Do yourself a favor. After you watch this film, check out the short "Tangled Ever After," which showcases the comedy stylings of Pascal and Maximus, trying to save the royal wedding. It's brilliant.