Frozen Review

frozen-anna
RATING:
(3.5 STARS)

What’s this? An animated musical with genuinely great music?

It’s true. There’s a lot that’s great about Disney’s Frozen—its breathtaking animation, its plucky characters, its old-fashioned sensibility—but what I’m most heartened by is the notion that movies like this can feature some fantastic tunes. As much as Disney’s been on a roll lately with The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, and most notably Wreck-It Ralph, they’re not Frozen. Frozen—despite its computer-generated look—belongs more to the Beauty and the Beast/Aladdin age of Disney. And guess what? It’s actually good enough to hang with those films.

At the heart of the film (and what a beating heart it is) are two sisters—Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel) and Anna (voice of Kristen Bell). These daughters of royalty in a fictional Scandinavian-esque kingdom were incredibly close as young children. Elsa, however, has sorceress-like powers wherein she can turn anything to snow or ice. She nearly kills Anna, and following the incident, her parents decide its in everyone’s best interest to keep Elsa in isolation as to prevent such an incident from happening again. Anna, none the wiser because the near-fatal magical blow wiped her memory, thinks Elsa simply doesn’t like her.

That sets us up for a complicated dynamic between the two when, years later, Elsa is poised to become queen (they’re parents died not long after the accident). The kingdom must open its doors for various dignitaries and diplomats, and Anna couldn’t be more thrilled about it. She’s ready for parties and dancing and meeting boys. Elsa, meanwhile, is terrified that she’ll lose control and turn everyone and everything to ice. Well, it’s not quite that bad, but after Anna announces she’s engaged to a man, Hans (voice Santino Fontana), who she met earlier that day, Elsa does lose control. The kingdom is now stuck in an eternal winter, and its queen has taken shelter in a homemade ice castle on top of a mountain. Anna sees it as her duty to make things right, so she sets off in the company of an outdoorsman, Kristoff (voice of Jonathan Groff); his reindeer sidekick, Sven; and eventually, a snowman named Olaf (voice of Josh Gad) who professes to know everything there is to know about love.

Frozen hits a lot of the notes you’d expect out of a princess movie—hell, this one has two. There are mismatched lovers and concerns about true love’s kiss. Where it separates itself from its genre’s template is in the character of Elsa. Persecuted for the perceived and real danger she poses, she banishes herself to the mountains. It seems like she’s going down the road toward villainy, but after creating a giant, Transformer-like ice monster, that road detours. Elsa is simply fearful and needs someone to bring her back, reintroduce her to her own humanity. It’s a unique take on the damsel-in-distress story and part of the reason Frozen feels so fresh.

It’s not too fresh, though. It maintains all the surface qualities you love about Disney animated musicals. “Let It Go” is the best Disney-movie song since “Hakuna Matata”. Sven is a better version of the Tangled horse. and Olaf is a sidekick worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as, say, Flounder, the Candlestick, or even Timon and Pumba.

The animation, too, is spectacular. By allowing one of its main characters to basically create anything she wants out of ice, it gives the animators license to let their imaginations run wild. The end result is sharp-edged, crystalline world that maintains a consistently cool palette when it comes to everything but its bright characters.

If there’s a fault in the film its that it spells out its stakes and characters’ feelings a little plainly, but one has to remember it’s a kids movie. That fact is easily forgotten, though, because Frozen sweeps viewers of all ages right off their feet. This is an animated movie destined to leave younger viewers with similar nostalgic memories people of my generation feel toward The Lion King and The Little Mermaid. And for adults, it’s the best animated option you’ve had in theaters in quite some time.

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One Response to Frozen Review

  1. Dan O. December 7, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    Good review John. Not the best Disney animated flick ever made, however, a bit better than what’s been churned out as of late.

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