by Ken B.
Frozen trounces along for 102 minutes as a grandly musical and visually stunning film. It’s very much an example of classic Disney, from the mythical elements to the princesses to an underlying message of great importance. While it is not entirely perfect, for the most part, Frozen is a very much enjoyable film, escaping just a target audience of little kids and achieving the status of being a solid movie for just about everyone.
It is set in a fictional northern European kingdom, Arendelle, where since childhood Princess Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel) has withheld the power to conjure ice and snow. She has been forced to hide it since an event in childhood where her sister Anna (voice of Kristen Bell) was nearly killed in an incident caused by her powers. All memories Anna withheld of Elsa’s abilities were magically modified to eschew any fantastical elements. As a result of the event, Elsa became deeply introverted and spent the remainder of her childhood largely alone, away from Anna.
In adulthood, following the death of her parents, Elsa, as the oldest child, is to be named queen. At a ball on the night of her coronation, after dismissing Anna’s request to marry a foreign prince (voice of Santino Fontana) because the two had only met earlier that day, Elsa accidentally unleashes her powers, and is alienated by those who see it. She subsequently runs away into the mountains, creates an ice castle, and casts an eternal winter over Arendelle. Anna then attempts to find her sister and reverse the curse cast over the kingdom, with the help of a local ice merchant named Kristoff (voice of Jonathan Groff) and Olaf (voice of Josh Gad), an anthropomorphic snowman created by Elsa.
The main attraction to Frozen ever since it was released was the music – namely Best Song winner “Let it Go”, a greatly empowering rally anthem for Elsa in the first act. As of this writing, the official clip on YouTube has 215 million views. The songs, by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, serve a decent effect for the story in developing characters and expanding upon plot points. As with any good musical, it adds an element to the production in total. Frozen genuinely needs and uses its musical numbers, they’re not just tacked on for the sake of tacking them on. While Broadway veteran Menzel has the strongest voice, the supporting cast can hold their own in a song. Another definitive positive is what the voices back – the animation, which is immaculate, from small character details to grand sweeping mountains.
I have a friend that considers herself some kind of a self-styled aficionado on animated films, among other things, or really animation in general. She generally favors Japanese anime over American animation, but she did indeed see Frozen. She mainly enjoyed it, but said in no uncertain terms that she hated Olaf. I never asked why, but now having seen the film, I feel like the character does serve as a visualization (and cause) of one of the main problems with the movie. Olaf is a character largely in the film for comic relief, but his segments and jokes seem largely stuffed into the film for no apparent reason. Frozen is a film with some definite dark elements in its plot, but the overall mood of the picture gets quite lopsided when these are mixed with a talking snowman singing about how excited he is for summer. (The joke within, which is Anna and Kristoff debating internally whether or not to inform Olaf about what happens to snow when it gets warm, works much better than the song itself). This kind of comedic interweaving is there for kids, but it comes off as tonal inconsistency for everyone else, and undermines its overall impact.
Frozen isn’t flawless – the above mentioned problems as well as a quite conventional plot outline compared to the radical movements and filmmaking revolutions of Disney renaissance staples such as The Lion King keep this movie from among my favorite from this studio, but it still serves as an easy recommendation for both seasoned moviegoers and those wanting to introduce Disney to children. No matter how you slice it, this is a solid piece of cinema and animation from a studio where we have collectively come to expect nothing but the best (maybe because they’re quickly taking over the world’s media).