Alex and His Pen Frozen Review
Ah, Disney, they have been one of the most prolific, creative and revolutionary entertainment companies in the world. Their product has been so embedded in our culture with its own tropes and styles that Disney has practically become its own genre. Between films such as Tangled, Wreck-it-Ralph and The Princess and the Frog, Disney has been on something of a roll lately. So I have been excited to see what they put out. Frozen definitely feels like an attempted return to form, but at the same time it earns its spot in one of the great Disney films.
Frozen's story is based on the Has Christian Anderson tale of "The Snow Queen". Admittedly, I know very little about the Anderson tale so I can only judge the story as is. (Then again, I also do not know a ton about the original Little Mermaid, and I still enjoy that film.) Like a lot of Disney films, Frozen is the story of Princesses. Elsa has powers over cold and uses these powers to have some fun with her sister Anna. One time, she makes mistake and injures Anna. A group of dwarfs erase all memory of Elsa's powers from Anna. Elsa seals herself off from Anna and her powers become increasingly harder to control. Elsa's powers grow to the point where she has to wear gloves all the time so she doesn't freeze everything around her. As the two grow up, Elsa is to become queen of the kingdom while Anna is frivolously chasing a man she just met. Anna is so wrapped up in the prince she meets that she wants to marry him after only one day. Anna seeks Elsa's approval. Elsa refuses and when Anna tries to confront her about it, but removes her glove - exposing her ice power to everyone. With her powers exposed, Elsa becomes a pariah who is so distraught by what happens that she accidentally freezes over the entire kingdom of Arendelle. Believing it to be her fault and believing that she can bring her sister under control, Anna decides to go after Elsa. And of course, adventure ensues.
The two princesses are very interesting characters. Growing up, they were both pretty sheltered and isolated. However, this similarity actually creates a split in their personalities. Being sheltered causes Anna to be very upbeat and still somewhat childlike. However, like a child, she is still very naïve and often acts before she thinks. Conversely, being completely isolated has turned Elsa - well, this is the best way to say it - cold. That is not to say she does not care about others. The main reason she has isolated herself is because she does not want to harm Anna. However, she has also spent her life repressing her powers. This is one of the reasons "Let it Go" is such a great song number. It is the scene where these years of oppression are finally erupting in one big glorious song number. She is turned her back on the world that has seemingly turned its back on her. Elsa no longer has to hide her powers and can flaunt them all she wants. Plus the song is an absolute show stealer - Idina Minzel absolutely sells it with her absolute belting. The song fits the film so well with the dazzling visuals of Elsa finally using her powers to their fullest. However, the song is such an ear worm that it can (and will be) enjoyed on its own.
The other characters are a lot of fun too. Kristoff is an ice salesman and mountaineer who Anna meets on her journey. Kristoff (who bares an uncanny resemblance to Owen Wilson) is a little more levelheaded than Anna, but he still has a bit of a goofy side. Specifically, he has a reindeer who he not only speaks to, but he speaks for. Despite his silly nature, Kristoff still has a knack for adventure and saves Anna's skin a few times. On the way, Anna and Kristoff meet a snowman named Olaf. Like Anna, Olaf is a little too optimistic for his own good. He dreams of summer and being warm. This may sound like an obvious joke, but it leads to some clever gags and Olaf supplies many of the truly laugh out loud lines in the movie. The filmmakers also seemed to give just the right dose of the character so he does not wear out his welcome. Speaking of which, this movie does have a lot of laughs. It also takes a few playful jabs at Disney tropes (such as Anna and the Prince wanting to marry after one day) without coming off as disrespectful.
This is a Disney film so it practically goes without saying that the animation is top notch. Personally, I will always prefer hand drawn animation, but I am happy to see what is being done with computer animation. The backgrounds look absolutely gorgeous. With the snow theme, it might seem like the movie might be a victim of a whitewash, but there are amazing crystal structures and winter sunsets. The people look a little doll-like, but the designs still look good overall. Songs are generally a big draw as well in Disney films. Most of the songs are good, but "Let it Go" leaves such an impression that remembering how to hum some of the other songs was a little tough. Even though this film bears a PG rating, it is definitely safe for the young ones. There is very little that would offend them.
Unfortunately, Frozen is not perfect. The earliest problem is that the songs - while very good - come a little too frequently in the beginning of the movie. While I fond myself thinking "Wow, this is really good", my initial response was frequently "Another song - so soon?" I emphasize "in the beginning" because that brings me to the bigger issue. The first two acts a high spirited musical romp with plenty of laugh out loud moments. The movie takes a notable shift in tone during the third act. The movie more or less stops being funny (for the most part), there are no more songs, and the tone becomes a lot more serious. This is hardly a deal breaker - especially since the third act is still at least engaging - it does make the movie feel a little split. The actual ending is actually really good, so it just leaves me wishing the writers had just connected the dots a little better - especially since the third acting shift is pretty abrupt.
I would also like to point out that theatrically before the movie begins, there is a Mickey Mouse short called Get a Horse. This is great for multiple reasons. First of all, it is nice to see a short before the movie begins - or something else that is not just bombarding us with more commercials. However - and more importantly - the cartoon is actually really good. Without giving too much away, the cartoon is styled in the fashion of a classic Mickey Mouse cartoon - to the point I thought it WAS an older Mickey Mouse cartoon. However, it moves into a more contemporary style - while still maintaining the classic humor. The premise is clever and leads a lot of inventive visual gags. Overall, this is short embraces the modern while still paying tribute to its Disney roots. I really hope this short makes the DVD because I would very much like to see it again.
Overall, Frozen comes highly recommended. It ranks up there with Tangled, Aladdin and The Emperor's New Groove as one of Disney's funniest movies. But it still has a lot of heart along with the great songs and great animation we have come to expect from Disney. Disney's recent output has been pretty solid so ranking them all might be a bit tough, but this is definitely one of the frontrunners.
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