Tangled (2010)

Rated: PG for brief mild violence.
Length: 100 minutes
Grade: C+ABC+=C+
Budget: $260 million
Box Office (so far): $318 million (171 U.S., 147 Intl.)

Written by: Dan Fogelman (Bolt, Fred Claus, and Cars), based on the fairy tale Rapunzel by the Brothers Gimm.
Directed by: Nathan Greno (First feature film, writer for Meet the Robinsons and Brother Bear)and Byron Howard (Bolt)
Starring the voices of: Mandy Moore and Chuck’s Zachary Levi
With the voices of: Donna Murphy, Ron Perlman, Brad Garrett, and Jeffrey Tambor

A wicked old woman who wants to remain forever young by the power of a princess’s uncut hair kidnaps her and keeps her imprisoned by telling her the outside world is evil and will abuse her powers. Not realizing she is the princess, Rapunzel ventures out to see the special balloons which fly every year on her birthday with a thief who discovered her, an adventure which might just reveal to her the truth about everything.

Entertainment Value: C
This is the second most expensive film ever made (Pirates 3--$300m, Spider-Man $258m, Harry Potter 5 $250m, Avatar $237m) and the most expensive animated film ever (Toy Story 3 $200m, WALL-E $180m, Monsters vs. Aliens $175m, Up $175m, How to Train Your Dragon $165m, Shrek 3 160m) No doubt the animation is amazing, especially the hair. But when you spend so much money on effects, sometimes you forget that the core of a good story is story and writing. This has its clever moments of humor, especially with the pet chameleon, but I regularly found myself bored by the plot. And the odd thing is that the themes being played out are fantastic, fully of deception and twists (or tangles, if you prefer). But the overall result just doesn’t work all that well, or at least not as well as I had hoped.

Superficial Content: A
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sex/Nudity A, Violence A-, Language A
I was very surprised to see this get a PG rating. This should have been G. There’s a handful of minor peril-type scenes, and the only real objection someone could have is to the death of one character, but even that is pretty mild.

Significant Content: B
The tragic thing here is that the very issue which makes this movie potentially quite valuable winds up being the reason it’s dangerous for kids. The wicked mother is a fantastic portrayal of deception and manipulation, almost a pitch perfect Devil-substitute. The problem is that she’s the mother. Now on the theological level, I LOVED the idea that the evil, sinister parent you think is acting on your behalf (Gothel/Satan) is really a thief and liar who has stolen you away from your real parents (King&Queen/God) who love you dearly and want nothing more than to be reunited with you. The disanalogy, of course, is that they didn’t come to rescue her (as Jesus does), but she winds up rescuing herself, sort of. But the more superficial and obvious lesson is that parents are wicked (or untrustworthy) and kids should break the rules to do what makes sense to them. Obviously in this situation it works out quite well, but so many kids movies undermine the 5th Commandment in their most superficial themery that my wife and I agree you have to be very careful how much of this you let kids watch. Unfortunately, it’s so ubiquitous that preventing this particular flavor of poison might well mean no kids movies for your kids. However, this flaw is overwhelmed by the end message about sacrificial love and true love choosing the person rather than the reward/benefit that person might bring. Also, I appreciate the “men are barbarians who will give up their anti-social behavior and become domesticated by loving a woman” theme which is certainly true.

Artistic/Thought Value: C+
Spend a quarter billion and get a pretty movie, sure. Is it likely to inspire a lot of discussion? I doubt it. Although seeing the theology behind the fairy tale at least makes it possible.

Discussion Questions:
~Many relationships involve people using us for their own purposes rather than serving us for who we are. How can you know the difference? Have you ever had this happen to you? Have you ever realized you were doing this? How can you avoid being the sort of person who uses others rather than serving them?
~Do you think marriage domesticates men? Does living together have the same effect? Why is this process so important for society?
~Does everyone have a dream that is worthy for them to attempt? How can you tell the difference between plausible dreams and impossible ones? How can you know when to give up on a dream?
~Does the 6th Commandment mean we must always obey our parents? Can we honor them, even if they are bad ones? Are movies that show kids being right and adults being wrong or wicked healthy or unhealthy for our society? How can we know when to disobey them?
~How important is it to remain beautiful and young looking? In our culture, what absurd things do women (especially) and men (at least sometimes) do to preserve their youth our youth-like ways?
~Gothel once tells Rapunzel, "The world is dark and cruel. If it finds even the smallest ray of light, it destroys it." Is this wise advice? How might fear of harm keep us from venturing out into that world to find the wonders in it and even redeem it? If Jesus had had this idea, would He have come here?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~Watching Flynn give the tiara to his friends.
~Rapunzel’s inner conflict over betraying her mother. How did this make you feel?
~The ongoing portrayal of manipulation by Gothel.
~The final scene and sacrifices it showed. How can you know when love is true? How do sacrifices prove love?

Overall Grade: C+
If only it could have been more entertaining and less anti-parent on the surface, I would have loved it. As it was, it’s a really expensive semi-disappointment. My scariest moment was the first song, when I feared I had found a musical. But this was only a temporary scare.

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