A “Frozen” solid film

Disney-Frozen-official

Most Disney films are fabulous.  However, most Disney films have one key moment that you must accept without question, and if you do not, then the movie collapses like an igloo in Aruba.  Frozen, adapted from “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Anderson (“The Little Mermaid”), is fabulous, but it also has that collapsible moment.  I’ll save that explanation for the end.

Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) are sisters and also the daughters of the king and queen of Arendelle, a Norwegian-ish village.  Elsa has a magical power.  She can create ice and snow at will.  That can be fun and useful, especially when entertaining your little sister Anna who just plain adores you.  Like any other power, this one can be misused, be it intentional or not.

Elsa accidentally strikes Anna in the head and would have killed her had it not been for some trolls who, I guess, can do some of their own magical things.  Magical ability, however, does not make your judgment equally magical.  The trolls erase Anna’s memory of the head strike as well as any positive memories of Elsa’s icy power.  Elsa, fearing she may hurt her beloved sister again, wears gloves and shuts herself away in her room and away from Anna.

Frozen1When their parents perish in a storm at sea, Elsa is set to become queen and Anna a princess, but not until Coronation Day, which is when Elsa finally allows the doors of their castle to be opened.  It is also when Elsa finally allows her own doors to be open, thus risking revealing who she is and what she can do when her emotions escalate.  Part of the coronation involves Elsa raising a scepter and orb.  With her gloves on, there’s no chance of her icy power appearing.  However, for the ceremony to be complete, she must remove the gloves – but she also removes her protection.  Nearly immediately, frost appears, people freak, Elsa panics, and all “hail” breaks loose.  Heh heh.

Shortly before the ceremony, Anna finally has her chance to run through the streets to sing along with her signature song, “For the First Time in Forever,” which features a great double-entendre about a ballroom.  Anna, who hasn’t met a boy since never, immediately falls in love with Hans (Santino Fontana) the first cute guy she literally bumps into.  Now, back to the ceremony.  When the dignitaries see Elsa producing snow and ice from her fingertips, they label her a sorceress.  In fear of both her own safety and that of others, she flees to the North Mountain.  Anna, ever the optimist but also second in command to Queen Elsa, leaves Hans in charge of Arendelle while she pursues her misunderstood sister to prove to everyone that the new queen is harmless and should be welcomed back.

The first thing that will blow you away are the songs by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.  She’s written other songs for Disney, including for the 2011 Winnie the Pooh film.  If you’ve ever been lucky enough to experience the emotionally-charged songs of Finding Nemo: the Musical in DisneyWorld’s Animal Kingdom theme park, then you are well aware that Lopez knows how to drain your tear ducts.  Start hoping now that we’ll see a kick-ass duet of “Let it Go” with Menzel and Demi Lovato at this year’s Oscars.  And good luck keeping a stiff upper lip during “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?”  Just like The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast, music drives Frozen like a train headed to the North Pole.

Frozen

The second brilliance of Frozen is a return to cinemascope, a film technique/proportion first introduced in Lady and the Tramp and enhances movement and depth of field in a film that uses sweeping landscapes as part of the story.  The visuals are just as stunning as the music, and you’ll see this best if you don’t sit too close to the screen because being too close limits how much your eyes can “see” at any given time.  The best seat will be dead center of the theater, hopefully with the middle of the screen at eye level, unless Kid n Play are sitting in front of you.

The film has its likely characters.  Kristoff is a gruff, animal-loving guy who happily helps Anna without fully realizing what he’s in for.  Olaf is the cute comic relief as was Mushu in Mulan, Dory in Finding Nemo, and Sebastian in The Little Mermaid.  Like nearly every Disney movie except Sleeping Beauty, the parents (one or both) die.  There’s a monster and sort of a bad guy, all expected of course.  Also like many other Disney movies, there’s a hint of sexuality in bloom.

The film contains, in twisted a way, a metaphor for abstinence.  Elsa has a power she can neither control nor understand, and she must keep herself covered to contain it.  When she flees the kingdom and belts out “Let it Go,” there is an obvious transformation both physically and emotionally.  First, she begins to remove parts of her clothing.  Her cloak flies off in the wind.  She literally lets her hair down and starts working her hips and shoulders in a blossoming strut as if in heels on a catwalk.  A revealing slit appears in her dress.  No longer covered to her neck, Elsa’s coronation was as much womanhood as queenhood, as if her sexuality was an evil power and needed to be covered up.

Idina_Wicked_1

Idina Menzel brings Elsa to life just as she did Ephelba, the Wicked Witch of the West in Wicked on Broadway.  Other fans might know her from Rent or Glee.  As for Anna, voiced by Kristin Bell (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Veronica Mars) both acting and singing, don’t let anyone tell you that they knew she could sing that well.  She didn’t even know it as she’s one of those closet singers who belts it out in the car but just never had the chance to unleash a real song.  Unleash she does.

The only thing left to talk about is the “collapsible moment.”  It makes no sense that absolutely no effort is made to explain Elsa’s magical power to Anna.  She saw the power and enjoyed it.  All the parents had to do was explain it to the girls instead of hiding it.  They could have just said, “Okay girls, it’s like this.  Elsa makes snow and ice.  It’s all fun and games, until someone puts an eye out.  Or a cranium.”  The troll’s magic was a very poor attempt to explain anything.  In fact, the likely purpose of the trolls was so Kristoff would have an out when he needed help with – oh – spoiler there – nevermind.  All that was needed was for the parents to sit both kids down and show them the power they had, how to use it, and how not to abuse it.  But without that tragedy, that collapsible moment, we don’t have a film, so just ignore it.

Better yet, just “Let it Go.”

Teacher gives it an A.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moSFlvxnbgk

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24 Responses to A “Frozen” solid film

  1. I’m surprised at you! I hated “Frozen”, one of the most predictable and stupid Disney films in a long time. Yes, visually stunning and all that, but for me the animation wizardry couldn’t disguise the fact that this was a very predictable and badly constructed story. Hated the songs, they completely overshadowed the action. It felt at times like an MTV video only with animation characters instead of the must-have blonde bimbo at the helm. Loathed the “message” that girls should be ashamed of their sexuality and growing into independence of womanhood was branded as a dangerous thing. Shame on you, Disney Studios.

    What was remarkable, however, was the short film “The Horse” shown before “Frozen”. It is a masterpiece by any standard, the best piece of animation from Disney Studios since…well, since Mickey himself walked onto our screens and we all fell in love with the wee mouse. “The Horse” is what 3D was invented for and Walt Disney would have adored it, I’m sure. It was dazzling in its inventiveness, utterly charming and very, very funny. It was, in short, all that “Frozen” could have been but wasn’t.

    More Horse, less Frozen, please, Disney Studio executives. Oh, btw it’s the wee horse that won the Golden Globe…

    • brainsnorts says:

      as for predictable – 100% right, but they all are. you knew snow white wasn’t going to die, you knew cinderella would get the prince, you knew that the beast would not stay a beast, you knew that scar would not stay king, and we could both go on and on. every disney story is predictable, it’s just a matter of how “pretty” everything is visually and musically.

      as for the sexuality and dangerous womanhood, we also have to allow space for that to be part of the original story and not necessarily a “disney” manifestation. keep in mind that most every disney (not necessarily Pixar) story was a “story” before disney got hold of it. they didn’t invent this story, nor any of the others i mentioned. disney is just illustrating an existing story, so we can’t blame them for everything.

      as for the MTV (what used to be MTV, not today’s MTV) style – you’re right – but, that’s in nearly any movie you’ll find that isn’t a tense drama. most comedies, especially romantic comedies, have an MTV moment in which a 2-minute song plays over a montage of shots in order to advance a story, like showing a couple who just met, but a montage of them going through halloween, thanksgiving, christmas, new years, valentine’s day, in order for us to not have to wade through five months of story. and it’s also in pretty much every animated movie. it’s a musical. there will be those moments, whether we like them or not, or whether we’re tired of them or not.

      as for “the horse,” that was fun, and i love the “steamboat willie” incarnation of mickey. a few months ago i needed to replace my plates, bowls, and other kitchen stuff, and i bought a set of white plates with that old version of mickey in the middle. it’s an underappreciated throwback. but did it “win” a golden globe, or was it nominated?

      thanks very much for reading and sharing your thoughts. it’s good when disagreement leads to both sides getting something new.

  2. Nick Powell says:

    Elsa gets sexy indeed. I enjoyed the film but I still prefer Tangled of the newer films. I felt the songs were okay, but none of them that memorable, but the voice acting was solid. Olaf is great and I wanted more of him. Oh.. and THAT SNOW. Great physics. Glad you liked it though!

    • brainsnorts says:

      the song “let it go” is still ringing – in a good way – through my head. must have listened to it twenty times last night. i’m sure i’ll be sick of it eventually.

      as for “tangled,” the male lead was much cooler in that film than in “frozen.” and there was better humor in tangled too. so yes, i think “tangled” is better as a film, but i don’t think the music was as catchy, but i should watch it again.

  3. Anja says:

    I absolutely loved Frozen and watched it on Thanksgiving day with my children (ages 17 and 19). Everyone loved it. The music was beautiful but then again, I am a huge Wicked fan.
    About the “collapsible moment”….I do believe the trolls made it sound like others would not understand her power. As a parent…I think we want our children to fit in, not stand out for something others will take the wrong way. Should they be honest with the girls? Of course but in life this plays out the same in many other situations. :)

    • brainsnorts says:

      i have not seen “wicked,” but it does seem interesting. i did see, and fall asleep during, “into the woods,” which caused me to stay away from “wicked,” which was likely an unfair decision.

      yes, the parents need to be honest with the girls, but we also have to understand parents of that generation. they were too quick to lock things up, out of sight – out of mind. however, what i’d like is to know WHY elsa had that power in the first place.

  4. Heidi says:

    Thanks for the review. I think I might take Kyle to it now :D

  5. Nifti says:

    Love it.. so true. I wondered about the change in her immediately after leaving the castle and couldn’t have articulated a better review. Well done sir!

  6. I’d like to disagree with Teacher please

    I thought the collapsible moment was too implausible not to mention the music styles were confusing as in the beginning you have the strong nordic chant that is so out of place compared to the popish nature of the rest of the music. Not to mention I thought the use of olaf and the reindeer for comic relief was a bit much. They didn’t elaborate enough on the trolls taking care of christoff. I’m sure they could have incorporated some amusing character traits into that one and maybe some bonding about dead parents.

    Finally the absolute deal breakers for me was that Disney got sloppy near the end and when they melt the ice a ship appears from no where so they don’t drown. That was annoying. Disney don’t normally drop the ball in such an obvious way…

    also wasn’t sure on the the whole sisterly love thing as not seeing each other for over 10 years would mean they were practically strangers so I don’t think she would have gone after her sister time and time again.

    Finally all the people just forgave the snow queen at the end even though just moments ago they were going to kill her for treason and was terrified of her evil powers that destroyed summer…

    yeah sorry for the rant. Was just disappointed. Tangled was so much better – I just expected more

  7. sophia says:

    i love frozen and i am also a huge wicked fan, i just want to say, you spelled “Elphaba” wrong

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