Frozen

Posted: December 10, 2013 in Movie Reviews

In Disney's newest princess fairytale, Elsa learns that gifts are to be used and not to be suppressed.

In Disney’s newest princess fairytale, Elsa learns that gifts are to be used and not to be suppressed.

For a while it seemed as if the Walt Disney Co. didn’t quite know what to do with themselves, nor did they quite have their method and style perfected. . . or even defined. The seasoned film empire tried its hand at nearly every sort of narrative and animation technique. Atlantis: The Lost Empire was an endeavor to bring an outlandish Jules Verne-like style of storytelling to the table, as well as an experimental animation technique where characters appeared caricatured rather than realistic; while The Princess and the Frog and 2011’s Winnie the Pooh were desperate attempts at bringing back the classic and nostalgic pencil-and-paper medium that defined the company for over half a century. Now it seems that Disney has found its niche. Princess Fairytales have been their bread and butter in the past, and evidently this is what they have (wisely) decided to expound upon.

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Summary: (No spoilers)

Anna and Elsa: two sisters who were childhood best friends, but were suddenly no longer allowed to see each other. The reason: Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel—–Enchanted) possesses magical properties allowing her to freeze things and create snowy environments. This power that grows in intensity as she matures quickly becomes a curse, however, when Anna is fatally injured, forcing their parents to separate them for their own protection. Anna (Kristen Bell—–Forgetting Sarah Marshall), having no knowledge of her sister’s powers, is doomed to spend the remainder of her childhood confused and alone, constantly urging her sister to come out and play as they once did.

Years later, Elsa’s time has come to be crowned queen of Arendelle. Still unsure of her ability to control her increasing powers, Elsa is finally permitted to emerge from her chambers, only to find that this long duration of separation between herself and her younger sister—–who is usually bright and energetic towards all—–has created a rift in their relationship. Anna doesn’t let this affect her own life, though, as she determines to find and marry “the one” on this special day.

Frozen_Elsa and Hans

But when Elsa refuses Anna’s newly-found Prince Charming, the sisters’ strained relationship escalates into a fight. Elsa, in a state of sudden anger, unleashes her powers on all of Arendelle—–leaving the once-bucolic countryside in an eternal Narnia-like winter—–and flees in humiliation into the mountains. Burdened with bringing her sister back, Anna ventures into the freezing wilderness where she encounters the rugged Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his reindeer companion Sven, and convinces them to guide her through the mountains in search of her sister. But persuading her sister to return home proves to be more difficult than Anna originally perceived.  And Anna discovers along the way that her Prince Charming may not be the dashing, suave, and sophisticated gentleman that she initially thought.

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 Disney has been in this business for a very long time. Its founder, Walt himself, was the rock that the company anchored itself to. Under his guidance, Walt fathered such classics that we love today such as 101 Dalmatians, Dumbo, and Sleeping Beauty, all heartwarming, endearing films that have endured throughout the decades. With Uncle Walt’s passing, a dark cloud descended on the Disney empire leaving the animators lost, with people like Michael Eisner to lead them on. Without their visionary leader, the Disney Co. sunk into depression and produced some of their most uncreative and indecisive works, like The Black Cauldron, The Great Mouse Detective, and Oliver & Company. While these films were in no way terrible, horrendous failures, the company’s snow-white record became tainted with black splotches.

Then came the Disney Renaissance in which some of the all-time greats were born—–The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and, the king of kings, The Lion King. These were last ditch efforts at restoring the company back to its former splendor. After a decade of less-than-stellar efforts like Home on the Range and Lilo and Stitch, Disney has finally been on a winning streak, beginning with Princess and the Frog to the present. Now we have Frozen, the 53rd in Disney’s long line of prestigious works. Offhand, let’s just say that Disney’s charm—–the prodigal son, so to speak—–has returned indefinitely and doesn’t seem to be going any time soon.  

What I was attracted to the most in Frozen was the way in which you gravitate towards it. Upon first view, I felt as if I was watching a film I’ve seen multiple times before. . . and that’s a good thing. The themes and timeless subjects we’re accustomed to seeing in these films are all present, giving Frozen that truly classic Disney feel. From its inception, you become invested in the rich world that only Disney so expertly creates.

Let’s begin with the cast. Anna is a determined, headstrong girl (traits perhaps a bit too familiar in Disney heroines?) who thinks well of the world around her. She dreams of meeting her Prince Charming and falling in love, and is initially a bit too eager to fulfill her passionate desires. Elsa, on the flip side, has become overwhelmed and defeated by her domineering powers. She no longer sees the bright side of life as her younger sister does. These night-and-day (or summer-and-winter) characteristics make the sisters at awkward odds with each other, and the fact that Elsa is unable to communicate to Anna her dilemma doesn’t ease the tension.

Frozen_Elsa Powers

If I had to choose a theme for Frozen, it would be “love.” A bit clichéd for a Disney film, you may say? Without giving away too many spoilers, there’s more than one kind of love in this world. The love explored in this Disney film is a fresh and inviting subplot.

And it wouldn’t be much of a Disney princess flick without songs. Keeping in line with past princess films, Frozen is a musical with several new songs to be added to the Disney library of music. While a few of the songs in the film are regrettably forgettable (at least upon first view), the rest of them are sheer delights to listen to and cleverly written. But the real song to be mentioned is “Let It Go”, breathtakingly performed by Broadway singer Idina Menzel. At the time in the film that the song is performed, Elsa is alone in the mountains contemplating whether she should turn back to the people who despise her and think her an evil sorceress. “Let It Go”, as per the title, is Elsa’s decision to let go of her past, utilize her powers instead of inhibiting them, and create a new life for herself isolated from society. This is indeed the best Disney song since “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”, and that’s not a light statement to make. Look for “Let It Go” to win an Oscar at this year’s academy awards. (Listen to the song here)

As for the secondary characters that Disney is well known for so proficiently creating, we again are treated to delightful (and sometimes conniving), in-depth characters that add real flavor to these films. Kristoff, although a less interesting version of Flynn Rider from Tangled, is the roguish, uncouth mountain boy who would never dream of marrying a prissy princess, nor would she ever consider him as her Prince Charming. His reindeer Sven—–again, providing basically the same function as Maximus the horse from Tangled—–is still the fun animal character that Disney does so well. Even when the creators and animators realize that they’re essentially reusing traits and attributes from past characters, they at least have the wisdom and creativity to individualize the new characters and make them look different; just enough to prevent us from complaining that they merely recycled their most popular characters. I generally try to avoid griping about formulaic storytelling and casting, however, because “formulaic” doesn’t necessarily mean “bad”. It’s like telling a baker his cake is bad because it’s formulaic.

Frozen_Elsa, Kristoff, Olaf, Sven

 But by far the best side character and the one who will easily become the new favorite is Olaf the snowman. Naïve and child-like, Olaf is the type of character that Disney is especially talented at creating. Right up there with Mater from Cars and Ray from Princess and the Frog, Olaf is the cute, adorable little guy who provokes the most amount of laughter from the audience. For certain, a character who will be remembered for many years.

As charming and loveable as Frozen is, however, it does have a couple shortcomings. First of all, it’s not nearly as engaging as Tangled or Princess and the Frog, or even (in my opinion) Wreck-It Ralph. It’s good, yes; FAR better than Chicken Little or Bolt. But the two afore-mentioned princess films seemed better overall thought-out and with a bit more charm and charisma. Not monumentally superior, just better overall. They certainly had more character development.

I also didn’t buy the romance between Anna and Kristoff. It seemed forced, as if they were paired together solely because the age-long Disney axiom states that opposites attract (think Prince Eric and Ariel). I’m not claiming that their relationship wasn’t feasible, only that there seemed to be a lack of explanation as to why she loved him; not like him, but truly love him. I didn’t wholly buy the fact that she loved him unconditionally merely because he helped her through the wilderness and over the mountains. Perhaps this is because the real love being portrayed, as I have mentioned, isn’t romantic love.

In a nutshell:

While it didn’t bear the same magnitude as Princess and the Frog or Tangled, nor can the songs equal the greatness as those in such classics as Aladdin, these minor quibbles don’t completely obstruct the fact that Frozen is indeed the next great Disney film—–a near-classic—–that will live on for many years to come and will easily become the Lion King and Beauty and the Beast of the next generation. A worthy addition to the Disney archives.

 

8.5 stars

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