Genre: animation, fairy tales, princess movies, adventure, romance, animals
My Rating: ****
Brother's Rating: **** (with the understanding that this is only a comparison to other Disney princess movies)
Official Rating: PG
Age Group: 6+
"This, is the story of how I died" begins the male narrator. Indeed. This is the story of Rapunzel, with a few twists. The queen is sick, and only a magical flower, come from a seed from the sun, can save her. Unfortunately, a selfish old woman keeps the flower hidden. When the kingdom sets out to search for the flower and save their queen, they find it. She recovers, and gives birth to a beautiful little girl. The selfish woman is outraged. She used the flower to keep her young for decades (possibly centuries). She kidnaps the child and raises her as her own in a desperate attempt to avoid death and aging.
But when the girl turns eighteen, a thief happens upon her tower. She uses blackmail to force him to take her to see what she calls the floating lights.
A thief, a girl with long hair named Rapunzel, and a crazy old woman. Not exactly a recipe for a peaceful life.
Word of Warning
I must admit that I was shocked when I sat down and actually took notes on this movie. It's one of my favorite Disney princess movies (granted, I haven't watched many), and I had conveniently ignored all the problems it has. Here is the list I recorded:
- For those who might object, the flower is magical. It can make one never age, it can heal wounds, and we really don't know what it can't do.
- The old lady clearly fears death and old age. She wants to remain young and beautiful and goes to extremes to do so. She is selfish, hides the flower, then kidnaps a girl, and lies to her. Then when that girl disappears, she goes even farther. This includes flirting with two criminals (intending only to double cross them), lying, breaking her "daughter's" romance up because she wants the girl's powers to herself, and more.
- The movie makes the thief look like a swashbuckling hero. Thievery eventually gets him in jail and almost hung, but overall his crimes are not looked down upon very much.
- The hero is selfish, arrogant, a criminal, totally not above using the girl to get what he wants, and player (we can assume). Among other weaknesses, of course.
- The "mother" character is always "teasing" her daughter but not in a kind way. It ends up sounding a bit cruel. She doesn't listen to the girl and what she wants, scolds the daughter playfully, lies to her constantly, and claims that she knows best and the daughter should not object to anything she says.
- Cannibals are mentioned briefly, with the image of a doll in a frying pan with chopped up carrots (this is used as an illustration for a song).
- The mother is clearly using her daughter. Not only that, but she apparently sees nothing wrong with using the girl for her power. This makes it necessary to run the girl's life and protect her only for the mother's personal gains, which she does readily.
- The hero betrays fellow criminals without a second thought. He's shot at with arrows and falls over a cliff. He is also hit on the head several times with a frying pan (this knocks him unconscious) and encounters a few swordfights. He is, after all, wanted dead or alive.
- The girl is also manipulative. She blackmails the hero-thief to get her worldly adventure. She breaks her mother's rules and leaves the tower, feeling a bit guilty but not planning on returning any time soon.
- The hero claims that a little rebellion and adventure is good, possibly even healthy. Sure, it might hurt the girl's mother very deeply, but that can't be helped. Or so he says.
- The hero-thief continually takes advantage of the girl. He uses her innocence and naivety to hurt her, frighten her, and try to get out of the original plan.
- There is a bar full of dangerous-looking men who turn out to be sweet and have high dreamy hopes for a better life. It's made clear that they've killed in the past, and the hero is in danger of death for much of the scene these men are in. Since the girl is so naïve, this scene is not nearly as frightening as it could be. In fact, it ends up being more comical than anything.
- In the bar, an old man wears a diaper and no shirt or pants. He is clearly drunk and flirts with a younger women (who happens to be the mother, but he doesn't know that).
- Two characters nearly drown. They're aware of their near-death situation and tell each other secrets, clearly preparing for death.
- The hero gets a cut on his hand. It's not very serious, but it does hurt.
- The mother insults her daughter.
- A horse and the hero are often participating in comic violence, even after shaking hand/hoof on getting along for twenty-four hours.
- Low cut necks on dresses, particularly on the mother, form fitting clothing, and ridiculously unrealistic "perfection" in the animated figures is seen throughout.
- The girl takes a stand against her mother, and is chained and kept prisoner because of it.
- A man is stabbed and dying. There is blood on his shirt, he coughs and gasps and can hardly talk, and it's pretty plain that he's suffering quite a bit. He resists efforts made to heal him in order to save a girl from being a prisoner forever.
- The mother/old woman falls out a window and dies in a poof.
- The hero dies.
- There are two almost kisses. And two "real" (animated-real) kisses.
- A sun-type burst from the dead man's body looks a bit frightening to younger kids (they've actually told me this themselves).
And yet even with all that, I genuinely enjoy this movie. It's possible that that is because the hero-thief does a 180 character development wise. At first, he's selfish and far from being a gentleman. By the end of the movie, he's been captivated by a girl and is willing to sacrifice his life for her even though it means a lot of physical pain--his willingness is taken advantage of and exactly that happens. Then there's the charming naïve girl who finds joy in everything. It's a refreshing outlook on life to see the girl happy to simply walk in the grass with bare feet.
And of course the entire thing is a great adventure, full of laughs, and with just enough "awwww" moments to make it a Disney princess movie.
Disney movies always have a message, and often the message is the same. In this one, it's that one should have something to live for, to dream of, to chase. Then they miss the point and add that once you've reached your dream, you can get another one. True, yes, but the ultimate dream would be heaven, and you don't really need a replacement dream for that. Little dreams along the way to help you get there? Absolutely.
From a Catholic standpoint then, this movie just misses the mark (at least, on the message). But that doesn't mean it's not a really great story.