Friday, December 13, 2013

Frozen Movie Review

Even when it's a new release, there's still something magical and nostalgic about seeing a Disney styled "Princess Movie" every now and then. Beauty and the Beast remains one of my all time favorite animated movies. As a fan of the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale The Snow Queen, I was psyched for Frozen (2013), a movie version of the story done by Disney. When I saw the trailer I was still excited, but all I could think afterwards was, "Why the heck is there a talking snowman?"
Anna (Kristen Bell), a fearless optimist, sets off on a journey - teamed up with rugged mountain man Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) - to find her sister Elsa (Idina Menzel) the newly coroneted Queen of Arendelle. Elsa has trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in an eternal winter. Anna and Kristoff face Everest-like conditions, trolls, and a talking snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad) as they battle the elements in a race to save the Kingdom. From the outside, Elsa looks poised, regal, and reserved, but in reality she lives in fear as she wrestles with a mighty secret; she was born with the power to create ice and snow. It's a beautiful ability, but is also extremely dangerous. Haunted by the moment her magic nearly killed her younger sister Anna, Elsa has isolated herself, spending every waking minute trying to suppress her growing powers.  Her mounting emotions trigger the magic and accidently setting off an eternal winter that she can't stop. Elsa fears she's becoming a monster and that no one, not even her sister Anna, can help.
Now if you're familiar with the Hans Christian Anderson classic, you'll notice that as per Disney tradition, Frozen has a very loose interpretation of "based on." But as with the case of Mulan, Chicken Little, and others, Disney can still tell a decent story that has practically nothing to do with the tale upon which it claims to be based. While I would enjoy seeing a movie that is a more closely adapted version of The Snow Queen, I still think Frozen stands on its own as a good story with a strong, romantic fairytale vibe.
I loved the characters in Frozen. Anna is a deliriously happy, optimistic, and bubbly young lady. Admittedly, Anna does get slightly obnoxious once in awhile, since nothing seems to phase her. She's still a very cute and lovable princess. Kristoff is awesome. He's like this gruff, unrefined, mountain man; not a prince. He's rather grumpy, selfish, and lazy. Anna and Kristoff bounce off each other beautifully, which creates some hilarious situational comedy between them.
Elsa was easily my favorite character. She was born inherently different, and while her parents had the best of intentions, they kept her locked away to keep her and others safe. Neither Elsa nor her ice powers are bad, but it her powers are dangerous and frightening to people who don't understand it. My favorite scene is when Elsa has run away to the mountains and is letting herself go and exploring her powers a safe distance from everyone around her. Not only is it an amazing bit of character development, it's accompanied by some spectacular animation and my favorite song in the movie. Anyone who has ever been made to feel like an outcast or who has been bullied for being different in any way will find Elsa a particularly endearing character that they can relate to.
Then there's the frig'n Snowman. I was hoping there would be a  good reason for having the silly sidekick, but there wasn't. All the other characters get funny lines, so adding an extra humorous character who does nothing but a few physical comedy bits was redundant. It was faintly insinuated that Olaf might be meaningful at some point during the movie, but it never happens. Olaf did nothing important. Small kids might be amused by him, but the movie would have been stronger overall without him.
The theme in Frozen reminded me a great deal of the theme in ParaNorman. Both are about how people overreact with fear to the unfamiliar and how that often leads to bullying or worse. Whereas ParaNorman took more of the open communication and conflict resolution side, Frozen was more about making sure that ostracized people know that they are loved and that they are important. ParaNorman makes a great case, but I think Frozen's message is even more important.
I cannot express how amazing the animation is in Frozen. There was massive amounts of detail put into the snow. The characters are covered in snow, walking through snow, throwing snowballs, etc. With a complex physics program used to illustrate the snow, it basically looks real. It moves just right, it crumbles just right, everything about the snow in this movie is perfect. That's great since it plays such a significant role in the story. has a short article with a discussion of the physics program and animation samples which I highly recommend checking out for more details.
I liked Frozen, even with the stupid snowman character. It's got spectacular animation, some charming and endearing characters, some truly fun musical numbers, and a story that the whole family could get into. It's got a great message about accepting those who are different from you and showing them love just the same. It's got a very satisfying finale that that breaks away from the formulaic fairytale status quo; it doesn't end the way you might expect. Good job, Disney! If you've got small kids this is a perfect movie to catch in theaters together, and it's worth getting a copy of on Blu-Ray once it becomes available.

I think Disney is starting to run out of fairytale stories to make into movies. Is there any that haven't been done yet that you'd like to see? I'd love to see a non-Mickey Mouse version of Jack and the Beanstalk or The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Comment below and tell me what you think!

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