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.
When 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.
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 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.