The screenplay by Dan Fogelman is quite inspired. By rewriting the “rampion” for which Rapunzel is named from a kitchen herb to a magic flower with miraculous healing powers gives the witchy Mother Gothal (voice by Donna Murphy)a plausible reason to want to steal the baby Princess and to keep her locked away in the tower, an improvement over Grimm, where the witch’s motive seems only to be the perversity of evilness. We see the frustration of Rapunzel’s restricted life in the song “When Will My Life Begin?” as she goes her daily round of cooking and cleaning and then trying to amuse herself with painting or other crafts, or reading her pitifully small library, while longing to see some of the outside world.
However, this is not in Mother Gothal’s plan, and she exerts her emotional control as Rapunzel’s supposed mother, to keep her in line. We modern audiences, of course, know all about “smother love,” guilt tripping, and passive-aggression, but seeing this played out on the innocent Rapunzel (voice by Mandy Moore) makes us feel that, despite her relative lack of magic, Mother Gothal’s utter selfishness and cruelty make her as evil a villain as the Wicked Queen or Malificent ever were.
Rapunzel’s life changes when Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi), a thief on the run from both the law and his accomplices, investigates the tower as a potential hiding/looting place. He’s KO’d by Rapunzel with her handy frying pan, and, while he’s out, hides his loot and uses it to coerce him into being her escort to see the festival of flying lanterns that takes place yearly in the town over the horizon.
Of course complications ensue: Flynn’s pursuers are hot on his trail, Rapunzel’s conflicted about defying her “mother”, and they begin to fall in love with one another (natch!). The plot works out with some clever twists, and genuine heroism and sacrifice on the part of both rogue and princess.
The voice acting for the principals is very good. They are all experienced voice and TV actors, although the names were new to me. It was good to see some veteran character actors like Ron Perlman and Richard Keil getting work in the supporting roles.
Visual design was also very nice, with characters like Flynn and Max the horse in classic Disney mold. Rapunzel has “anime” eyes, which are a bit distracting, but not too badly. Mother Gothel has big eyes (“to see you with”) also, but they just make her more creepy, even when she’s at her supposed peak of youth and beauty. Architecture and background designs hark back to the gorgeous days of “Snow White” et al. We saw the movie in 2-D and were quite happy with that, but I can imagine the famous multi-plane effects would be even more marked in 3-D.
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