We may be at that point where not everything has to be in 3-D.  It’s one thing if this is simply where film making is heading, much like the transition from black and white to color (as opposed to cash grabs much like double dipping on DVD releases).  Otherwise, the 3-D effect will lose any sense of specialness if it doesn’t add much to the story.  A fairly tale romance plays out as the same experience in 2-D as well as 3-D.  I don’t think Pretty Woman would particularly benefit from 3-D treatment, which brings us to Tangled.

After the traditionally animated The Princess and the Frog didn’t gross as much as they would have liked (though $104M is nothing to sneeze at), Disney returns to what it believes it does best:  an extremely monochromatic princess fairy tale.  Think Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid, to which they hope to add this somewhat inventive telling of the fairy tale of Rapunzel.  Leaving aside the whole message it sends to girls, needing to be saved by princes and all, Tangled still falls short of the pantheon of its princess predecessors.

In Tangled we have a script by Dan Fogleman (Bolt, Cars) that brings a Shrek sensibility to the princess mold of movie.  Sly, self-referential, and full of meant to be quotable one-liners, the movie skates by on this sort of surface charm, much like the would be rescuing prince and narrator, Flynn Ryder (Zachary Levi).  We have a king and his sick pregnant wife who is healed by the magical powers of a special flower.  These healing powers are transferred to the hair of the infant girl, Rapunzel (Mandy Moore).  However, their daughter is soon kidnapped by Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy) who wants to keep the healing and youth restoring powers of Rapunzel to herself.

Wondering when her life is going to begin, Rapunzel comes of age in the tower she is kept in, her hair a quite manageable 70 feet long (though her neck seems awfully skinny to support that kind of hair weight).  When the handsome and charming thief Flynn crosses her path, she decides she wants to defy her “mother” and see the world on her own.  So off adventuring they go.

“Everything I did was to protect you.” –Gothel

In a lot of ways, the story of Rapunzel is one of an overprotective mother, a daughter ready to go on a dangerous road trip, and a little bit of teenage rebellion as she tests her boundaries.  Though not her true mother, Gothel for eighteen years was the only mother Rapunzel knew.  Like many parents, she struggled (even if it were a lie to exert her control over Rapunzel) with what many parents struggle with, wanting to protect their children from the world—a dark, selfish, cruel place—and keeping them in the palm of her hand or in a bubble. Yet dealing with teenagers ready to assert their independence is akin to handling a wet bar of soap: you want to keep them in your hand, but the best way to do so is in a loose grip because the harder you hold onto them the more likely they will just squeeze out. It’s the tension that parents have to walk with their children. Letting our children escape our firm, controlled grips and allow them to go their own way. By holding on to them too tight, we don’t allow them to grow.  Children have to go out into the world sometime, despite our temptation to keep them in towers.  This probably speaks to our sense and need for control as much as anything else.  You can’t teach your children from a place of fear because it only teaches them to be in a safe box, unprepared for the world.

“She was running out of time and that’s when people look for a miracle.” –Flynn

As a side note, the magic of the golden flower/her hair, and their healing/restorative powers, is like the Gospel.  I couldn’t help but think of this quote by John Eldredge in Waking The Dead:  ‎”The Scripture is abundant and clear: Christ came not only to pardon us, but to heal us. He wants the glory restored. So, put the book down for just a moment, and let this sink in: Jesus can, and wants, to heal your heart. What does that rouse in you?”

“I’ve been on this incredible journey.” –Rapunzel

Tangled is what it is and doesn’t try to be anything more so it has this sense of nostalgia grab.  The music is not very memorable, with there being no signature song or moment to latch on, your feet don’t exactly leave tapping.  While the movie moves at a brisk clip propelled by action, lush animation, and plenty of banter, both the Flynn and Rapunzel are ultimately empty shirts.  There’s not much to latch onto beyond their Ken and Barbie prettiness because they aren’t explored as characters.  She simply dreams of seeing the pretty light show up close (the one time the 3-D really is utilized) and he simply wants enough money to buy an island.  The animal sidekicks, Pascal the chameleon and Maximus the noble steed, create much more memorable figures despite having no lines.

The bottom line is that we’ve come to expect greatness from Disney princess movies.  While Tangled was was cute and enjoyable (and kids will love it), it was ultimately forgettable.  A victim of Disney’s high standard.