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Fairy tales have survived the test of time because, underneath the bippity boppity boo, they're always about something meaningful. Disney's new princess movie Tangled is no different. At its core, it addresses the fear of growing up and leaving home, but it adds a big dose of humor. This story of Rapunzel (rated PG for brief mild violence) works on all levels, pleasing adults and children alike. It's a Disney fairy tale the way fairy tales are meant to be.
Rapunzel, the kidnapped princess of the kingdom, languishes in an isolated tower with only a wry chameleon for a companion. Rapunzel's supposed mother, her kidnapper Mother Gothel, visits daily, controlling the young woman with tales of danger outside the tower as well as with feigned affection. Gothel needs Rapunzel's silky, golden, magical hair to keep looking young (and suspiciously like the botox-addicted actress Cher).
Like other teens before her, Rapunzel longs to see the world despite the fear her surrogate mother has instilled in her. A thief on the lam, Flynn Ryder, bumbles into her tower. After she subdues him with a frying pan, the girl recognizes him as her guide to the outside world and they're off on a journey of discovery.
Danger does indeed lurk in the world she encounters, mostly due to the reluctance of Mother Gothel to relinquish her personal fountain of youth. But the world outside the tower also teems with beauty, adventure, friendship, and humor. Disney animators render the world in gorgeous 3-D animation. Zachary Levi (TV's Chuck) and Mandy Moore are perfect as the voices of the leads, but Broadway star Donna Murphy steals the show as the delightfully dysfunctional Mother Gothel.
Disney set out to make a movie for the whole family. It succeeded. Silly characters bring lots of laughs, from the relentless police horse Maximus to a tavern's worth of burly thugs. Their inspired musical number "I've Got a Dream" slyly pokes fun at a Disney's mantra.
Rapunzel does more than chase her dreams; she faces her fears. The original fairy tale can be read to explore parents' attempts to keep their daughter safe from men in an age when letting down your hair was an intimate act. However, Tangled's Rapunzel, in leaving her tower, is neither rescued nor ravished. Instead, she overcomes her fear of leaving the safety of home. Part of coming to maturity is learning to discern whether a man like Flynn Ryder can be trusted.
Disney found the right combination of heart, laughs, and fairy dust to make a princess movie with the appeal of its classics and that's also right in 2010.