While she was pregnant, the Queen became very ill. The only cure for her was a magical flower, and a search was made throughout kingdom. When it was found, there was great rejoicing - except for an angry woman who had long hidden the flower because its healing properties had been keeping her young for decades, perhaps centuries. Intent on revenge, the rapidly aging woman - named Gothel - sneaks into the palace and learns that the new baby's hair has retained the healing properties of the flower. She kidnaps the child and raises her as her own.
Eighteen years later, Rapunzel is a pretty girl locked in a tower with her pet chameleon Pascal, her hair piling up all around her. (It can't be cut, or she'll lose her healing ability.) Every year, she's noticed that on her birthday beautiful glowing lanterns are released into the sky, and she wants to find out why. Unfortunately, Mother Gothel will never let her leave, claiming that people will abuse Rapunzel for her powers. But an opportunity to escape appears when Flynn Rider, a handsome and bold thief sneaks into her tower and becomes her prisoner. She makes a deal with him: take her to the city's capital to see the lanterns being released, and she'll return the crown he stole. He reluctantly agrees, and on their little adventure encounter thieves, thugs, and a very persistent soldier-horse named Maximus.
This was the first fairy tale movie Disney made in 3-D, which has its strengths and weaknesses. On the one hand, Rapunzel's hair has a weight and personality that I don't think would have come through in a 2-D movie. It almost has its own character as it flies in the air and is used as a lasso, as a swing, and a ladder. But 3-D animation always looks somewhat cold and dead to me. For example, the characters' skin always looks plastic-like to me. It doesn't bother me in films like Toy Story, where the characters are, well, plastic - but Rapunzel and Flynn look too much like future Disney merchandise for my tastes. Also, that is a crappy purple dress they've stuck Rapunzel in, and the skirt of it rarely flows naturally.
Mother Gothel is a very different villain from Ursula or Maleficent. She doesn't need magic to be evil; it's all in her twisted, passive-aggressive personality that controls Rapunzel. The mother-daughter dynamic makes their hero-villain relationship much more interesting, because Rapunzel genuinely loves her mother. If you've ever seen Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods, you know that this relationship has lifelong ramifications:
Actually, throughout the movie I thought of Into the Woods whenever Mother Gothel made an appearance. The approach to the Witch/Rapunzel relationship is very similar.
Into the Woods: Rapunzel Rejects the Witch
EDIT TO ADD: In fact, I'm not the only person who thought of this. Here's a mash-up of Into the Woods music with Tangled's animation.
This segues rather nicely into my next point, which was that the music for Tangled is extremely bland and disappointing. Alan Mecken, I know you can do better. Within half an hour of leaving the theater, I couldn't remember anything specific about the songs. Part of it is the music's style...I think it's harder to have a strong impact with the pop/folk rock sound Mecken was going with when compared with force behind a Broadway power ballad, but I was so underwhelmed with songs like "Mother Knows Best" and "I See The Light".
Flynn Rider's a fun hero; not nearly as annoying as expected from the previews. In spite of being fairly clever and observant, Rider never made the connection that this mysterious girl who has been locked in a tower for eighteen years, looks not unlike the Queen, and has her birthday on the same day as the lantern festival, may in fact be the missing princess. I mean, come on, dude!
Pascal is probably the best animal sidekick ever. Maximus is also pretty great. I also liked all the various thugs, but having so many secondary and side characters made the cast a little too large. I think it would have been better to give more screen time to our main trio of hero, heroine and villain.
I have to admit, Tangled is a lot better than many of the movies I've seen lately. But in the final third, I was constantly glancing down at my watch/cell phone and thinking "Isn't it over yet? Isn't it time for this movie to be done?" It went on just a little too long. Maybe if I'd liked the music or the animation better, I wouldn't have noticed it as much. But I thought this movie was so much better than The Princess and the Frog, Disney's last Princess movie attempt.