Tangled is a very strange title for any animated feature, not least for the 50th animated feature coming from the Walt Disney studios (it seems more like something out of early Fassbinder – or late Julia Roberts). The movie, though enjoyable, has a rather dull look to it – all honeyed golds and pinks, like those Barbie (or My Little Pony) straight-to-DVD movies that you don’t want your kid to watch. What’s more troubling, though, is that there’s little sense of wonder in the whole production. The script sits rather uneasily between a straight retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale, and the morbidly Shrekian notion of destroying all faith in fairy tales as such. Once the off-screen narration begins and you hear the compulsive, self-conscious (and borderline apologetic) qualifiers in the first couple of sentences, it’s easy to get apprehensive – and for a reason.
The movie doesn’t really believe in the elation of romance, or rather – it believes in it and it doesn’t, by turns. You won’t find anything in Tangled that would match the silly energy and giddy flow of the “Whole New World” flying-carpet sequence from Alladin (1992) – here, when Rapunzel leaves her tower for the first time, she becomes so anxious and guilt-ridden that her brief shrieks of joy are interwoven with violent sobbing and therapy-session banter between her and the Flynn Ryder character. It works as a joke, but undercuts the inner workings of the story and makes the final pay-off matter less.
I liked most of the film, but it lacks a sustained tone as a whole. I’d much prefer the filmmakers to take sides more forcefully: either they’re into the whole ironic deconstruction thing, or they tell an engaging, energetic tale of magic, romance and adventure. It was the unity of tone made The Princess and the Frog (2009) so successful and it's the lack of it that makes Tangled, well, flawed.