Monday, May 2, 2011

A Review

So here's a little review I've written about Disney's Rapunzel. I'm not going to go into the actual plot too much—those who have seen it already know it, and those who haven't seen it can read the reviews on Christian Spotlight or Plugged In Online.

Please understand that these are my own personal opinions and observations; I am in no way trying to push them on anyone or “bash” the movies I've referenced throughout the review, nor do I wish to offend anyone who loves said movies and sees nothing objectionable in them. Thank you.

So without further ado, here it is...enjoy!

Disney's Rapunzel: Treat or Tripe?
~by R.R.G.

RAPUNZEL: I'm terrified....what if it's not everything I dreamed it would be?
EUGENE: It will be.
RAPUNZEL: And what if it is? What then?
EUGENE: ...You find a new dream.

This dialogue pretty much sums up my feelings in anticipation of seeing this movie. The story of Rapunzel has always been one of my favorites, and I always wondered why Disney never brought it to the Big Screen as they've done with other beloved fairy tales. But now that they finally had, I was skeptical, to be honest. The last “princess” flick my family saw was Enchanted, which earned its PG rating with uncalled-for *adult* innuendos and bathroom humor. But most of the reviews—from Christians, to boot—were pretty positive, so I put the matter in God's hands, prepared for the worst and hoped for the best.

I wasn't disappointed.

It would be overly nit-picky to point out how Disney's 50th animated film deviates from the original story. They've been putting their own spin on fairy tales since the beginning, but on the whole, it's been a fun, entertaining spin, and just as good. I'm still annoyed with them for changing the title from the classic Rapunzel to the cheesier Tangled, but that's a minor issue, and a personal one at that.
One can't help but notice that the story, in its most basic form, is very similar to The Hunchback of Notre Dame, even down to the evil guardian's subtly belittling song about how dangerous the outside world is, which includes little put-downs about Rapunzel's manner and appearance.

Music-wise, it gets off to a “rocky” start with Rapunzel's song, “When Will My Life Begin?” While not blatant rock-and-roll (like the ending number in Enchanted), it's definitely more contemporary than my family's convictions are comfortable with, but thankfully it doesn't get too out of hand. The rest of the songs are more on a par with some of the older Disney classics—“I've Got a Dream” puts one in mind of “Gaston” from Beauty and the Beast. “I See the Light”, vocally, is reminiscent of “A Whole New World” from Aladdin, although the scene itself is more like the “Kiss the Girl” bit in The Little Mermaid. Funnily enough, Mother Gothel's manipulative and subtly belittling “Mother Knows Best” has a similar (but more “bouncy” and less mysterious) feel to “You're Playing With the Big Boys Now” from Dreamworks' Prince of Egypt!
The background music is lush and sweeping—it adds a lot of depth and emotion to what you see on the screen—kind of like the score of LOTR (although not quite) or the perennial Disney favorite, Beauty and the Beast.
Another thing I noticed about the songs was that, on the whole, the story seemed to flow right into them naturally, just like in the old classic Disney flicks!

Content-wise, this is the cleanest Disney movie I've seen in a long time. The worst things out of anyone's mouths are, “Oh my gosh” and “I swear”—both used only once in hour and forty minutes. And that's IT, that I can remember. No innuendos, no bathroom or body-function humor—although Flynn/Eugne's harping on the (unseen) blood on a thug's mustache (a trick to scare Rapunzel), and another thug's mention of “something [on my arm] that oozes” are a bit much.
Even the costumes were better than in a lot of other Disney movies. To be sure, both Rapunzel's and Mother Gothel's dresses are low-cut, and Gothel's shows a bit of cleavage, though not as much as I expected from reading one reviewer's comments! (They made it sound on a par with Lydia Bennett's gowns in the A&E Pride and Prejudice. It wasn't!) I'd have preferred Rapunzel's neckline to be a few inches higher (like my icon), but it's not obscene in any way.
It's a bit disappointing that they changed the prince in the story to an orphan-boy-turned-thief (shades of Aladdin), and at first he is rather selfish, but as he gets to know Rapunzel, he begins to realize there are more important things in life than great wealth and looking out for Number One. By the climax of the movie, he is willing to sacrifice his own life for Rapunzel's freedom.
The PG rating feels a bit harsh for this colorful, almost-classic-Disney-feeling movie, yet there are definitely elements in it that are a bit intense for a G-rating. One such element is the appearance of many of the minor characters. Flynn/Eugene's partners-in-crime are rough-looking fellows with grim, scarred faces, and one of them has a patch over one eye. The thugs at the Snuggly Duckling tavern look like Vikings, and they all carry weapons of some kind and wield them threateningly at Flynn/Eugene and Rapunzel. Mother Gothel herself has a sinister undercurrent beneath her subtle put-downs (always punctuated with a laughing, “Just kidding!”), which rises to the surface in a vengeful wave when she discovers Rapunzel is gone, and turns downright murderous at the climax.
One thing I found disturbing—and this is just me—was that *SPOILER!* Rapunzel's hair not only “turns brown and loses its power” when it's cut, but apparently never grows back, either. Mother Gothel snips off a piece when Rapunzel is a baby, and eighteen years later, Rapunzel still has one short brown stub at the back of her neck, whereas all the rest of her golden tresses have grown to spectacular lengths. It is therefore logical to assume, then, that when her hair is cut completely off at the end, she will be stuck with that unattractive hairdo that looks for all the world like something you'd see on an Animé character...for the rest of her life. Maybe I'm all wet, but that just creeped me out for some reason. But that's just me, and no reflection on the movie itself.
Another issue is Flynn/Eugene's attitude when Rapunzel is “at war” with herself over her leaving the tower. “Sure, it'll break her [Mother Gothel's] heart and crush her soul...,” he remarks casually, as though discussing the weather. “A little rebellion, a little adventure—this is normal, even healthy.”
According the the Bible, rebellion is as vile in God's sight as the sin of witchcraft (or is it idolatry?), and nowhere is “teen rebellion” stated to be a “normal” part of life in the Scriptures. Rather, Proverbs tells us:

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

If the child's will is broken and brought into submission to God and parents at a young age, and allowed gradually more freedom and responsibility as he gets older, he won't feel the need to rebel against them in order to gain independence (he'll have his ups and downs, but not the horrors teens put themselves and their loved ones through who have been left to themselves or smothered). Leastways, that's my conviction. And Flynn/Eugene may have just been saying those awful things for his own selfish ends. But they could really confuse a child who hasn't learned discernment yet.

On a more positive note....

What really impressed me about this movie was...well a lot of things. The animation is superb; some elements—from Rapunzel's hair to Maximus' fur, to the cloth and leather of the costumes, to the grass and rocks and water—look like live-action rather than CGI. And while the characters—human and animal—are caricatured in appearance, their textures are very realistic.
But more than that, it was so refreshing to see a young woman actually behave respectfully to her “parent,” even though said “parent” is unreasonable (unlike a certain Little Mermaid). Really, the relationship between Rapunzel and Mother Gothel would be almost sweet if Mother Gothel weren't so manipulative and unwilling to listen to Rapunzel's concerns and feelings...oh yeah, and that minor detail about Mother Gothel having kidnapped Rapunzel in the first place. Unlike Ariel, who makes no effort whatever to understand her father's reasons for forbidding her to go to the surface, Rapunzel obeys Mother Gothel's command to stay in the tower, even though she (Rapunzel) is aching to see the world outside. Rapunzel's request to see the “floating lights” on her birthday—and not by herself, either; she asks Mother Gothel to take her, indicating she wants to share the moment with her “mother”—is innocent and respectful, but Mother Gothel flatly refuses, makes Rapunzel feel ungrateful and selfish for even asking, and makes her promise never to make such a request ever again. To be sure, Rapunzel does disobey and leave the tower anyhow, and I'm not excusing disobedience to parents in any way. But one can't be too hard on her, since we know Mother Gothel isn't really Rapunzel's mother, and that her reasons for keeping her in seclusion are purely selfish.
Even having defied Mother Gothel and left her tower, Rapunzel is plagued by guilt in between ecstasies. She is truly concerned about how her “mother” will feel about this, and the thought of her disobedience “break[ing] her heart” makes her weep. To see such devotion to a parent (even such an annoying and selfish one as Mother Gothel) in a society that almost exalts disrespect to parents, is wonderful to see. And of course Rapunzel is rewarded by being reunited with her real parents, who genuinely deserve the love and respect she will no doubt show them.
Speaking of which, while the king and queen don't talk, their eyes and faces speak volumes of the love they felt for their baby daughter, and the grief hey suffer at her loss. The king's sadness is especially touching—I'm choked up just thinking about it!
And when they are finally reunited with Rapunzel, *SPOILER!* the queen, rather than forgetting the one who has brought their daughter back to them and letting him slip off unnoticed, reaches out to Eugene and pulls him into their family's embrace.

While some parts are a bit intense, they didn't seem nearly as frightening as certain scenes from Toy Story 3 (which somehow managed to get a G-rating in spite of it). The editing is a wee bit choppy in a couple places (don't blink during what I call “Rapunzel's Mood Swings” and the dance sequence in the town!), but overall, it's good clean fun, and coming from one who tends to be overly picky about content, that's saying a lot. To say I liked Disney's latest animated endeavor would be absolutely true. To say I loved would be going a bit far, but it is definitely one our family enjoyed, and I for one wouldn't mind having it in our DVD collection.

I've got a dream,
(she's got a dream)
I've got a dream!
(She's got a dream....)

God bless,

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please feel free to leave a comment—I LOVE comments!—so long as it is God-honoring, clean, kind and coherent. Anything obscene, profane, mean-spirited or unintelligible will be deleted. As webmistress, that's my right.

...But I trust I sha'n't have to use it. ;-)