My wife and I argued as we left the theater: she hoping my review of “Tangled” could somehow gloss over the startlingly anti-parent messages in the movie to praise this otherwise funny and beautiful film; while I stuck to critiquing the movie’s worldview, regardless of its theatrical qualities.

To my wife’s credit, there is much to praise in “Tangled,” Disney’s 50th animated feature film.

For starters, the movie is very entertaining. Vivid characters, snappy dialogue, witty one-liners, a dashing dose of swashbuckling and one scene in particular that is fall-out-of-your-chair funny make “Tangled” a delightful romp.

And in trademark Disney fashion, animal characters – in this case, the marvelous horse Maximus and Paschal the chameleon – are memorable, endearing and make me wish I was a kid again so I could have an excuse for buying the action figure in my Happy Meal.

The film’s songs are reminiscent of a Broadway musical. The animation is crafted with care and beauty. The scenery is magical, and the romance is heart-felt. Disney’s 50th is worth that place in the studio’s history.

The film’s final scene is even a beautiful example of the true nature of love – giving of yourself, even your life, for another.

Man! What’s not to like about “Tangled”?

Alas, a lot … if you but stop and analyze the resounding message this movie plants in children’s minds.

“Tangled” is a retelling of the story of Rapunzel, the girl with unbelievably long hair, locked in a tower until her “prince” can come and rescue her by climbing that hair to reach her.

In this retelling, however, Princess Rapunzel’s hair has the power to heal and even reverse aging. As an infant, the king’s daughter was kidnapped by a wicked woman in search of eternal youth, a woman who poses as the girl’s “mother” and keeps her locked away until her teenage years.

But when Rapunzel reaches those ever-so-challenging teenage years, she yearns to be free of the tower and see the distant lights of the kingdom (from which she was unknowingly kidnapped). Then, while “Mom” is away for a few days, a rogue thief named Ryder chances upon her hidden tower, and the two embark on a forbidden “road trip” to the kingdom.

“Tangled” then revels in a widely assumed, very worldly and yet completely wicked and untrue philosophy on adolescence.

In regards to the teenage Rapunzel sneaking out of the house and going on an parent-unauthorized road trip with a strange but dashing man several years her senior:

“This is part of growing up,” Ryder claims. “A little rebellion, a little adventure, that’s good. Healthy even.”

But what would Mom think?

Ryder has the answer for that too:

“Crush your mother’s soul,” he says. “Like a grape.”

Yeah. That’s “good.” Um, “healthy” even.

Eventually, Rapunzel learns to see things Ryder’s way.

“You were wrong about the world. You were wrong about me,” she growls at her mother. “I will never stop fighting you.”

Yeah. That’s a “good” message for the movie, right? “Healthy” even?

And, of course, Ryder and Rapunzel are proved justified in the girl’s rebellion, the mother is shown wicked and the youngsters’ little “road trip” proves to be just what the doctor ordered. And it’s all OK for the young minds in the audience to be seeped in this spirit of defiance and parent-degradation, because the mother is really the bad guy.

Happily ever after. Walk out of the theater smiling. And then, somehow, be surprised when your children think you’re an overprotective know-nothing, assume they’re justified in rebellion and do a little bar-hopping, frat-party “road trip” of their own.

Wait. What happened to the happy ending?

Is “Tangled” just describing adolescent life as it is? Or is it part of a wider culture that is prescribing life as it wants to be to loose teens from their parents in order to teach its own values?

I’m the father of four teenagers, and like many parents, I’ve found that adolescents do begin at about that age to think critically about authority. They question the old rules, they long for and test their independence. Stretching the wings is a necessary part of growing up.

But nowhere does God prescribe rebellion and defiance as a proper path to adulthood. It is not “good” and it is not “healthy.” No, contrary to popular belief and Disney brainwashing, children do not have to suddenly become the spawn of Satan (the first rebel, after all) when they turn 13.

One of the greatest rewards I’ve found in watching the homeschooling community is that its children are often raised by parents who question the entire worldly paradigm of what kids are like and supposed to be, including what they can be like as teenagers. And while every community has its share of rebellious and difficult teens, I have marveled at watching how some young men and women from families that reject the message of “Tangled” grow up in partnership with their parents to be models of respect and independence tempered by Godly submission. They are the best example I have seen to prove rebellion is simply not a mandate.

In the end, even though my wife tried to argue that Ryder’s speech came from the lips of a rogue and that the “mother” was ultimately wicked, she eventually conceded the movie left the impression that Ryder was right, leaving me to write but one conclusion to this review: “Tangled” is a great movie with a mangled message.

Content advisory:

  • “Tangled” contains no profanity or spoken blasphemies.
  • The film has a few kisses and a few veiled comments from Ryder about being handsome or attractive “with the ladies,” but otherwise no overt sexual content. The animators, however, seemed enamored with drawing women’s busts, as Rapunzel and her mother boast Barbie figures in tight tops.
  • The film contains numerous scenes of chasing, shooting crossbows, falling, crashing, swordfighting and getting knocked unconscious with an iron frying pan (which in real life could kill a person, but in “Tangled” doesn’t even leave a bruise). There is also a scene where a character is stabbed, though the actual cut is not seen.
  • In regards to religious or occult content, one character is frequently depicted as the Roman god Cupid. The healing power of Rapunzel’s hair is attributed to “a drop of sunlight” falling on the ground and creating a “magical” flower that heals when it’s sung to. The flower heals Rapunzel’s pregnant mother, transferring the power to the girl in the womb. Rapunzel then uses the “magic” to heal others. The movie is filled with images of the sun in reference to the life-giving flower, but it is not specifically idolized.

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