Disney has been taking a lot of flak lately for how old fashioned their Princess line is. The princesses are too white. Too pink. Too rich. Too blonde. Too skinny. Too hung up on finding a man, etc. None of it, however, seems to have made a dent in their bottom line, so we can expect them to continue making princess movies (albeit with the odd concession to reality) until the end of time. The latest is Frozen.
A lonely Norse princess teams up with a hermit, a reindeer, and a snowman to talk her superpowered sister into unfreezing their kingdom.
As with the last two princess movies, Brave and The Princess and the Frog, Disney has attempted to be more modern with Frozen, but at the same time they’ve tried to hearken back to the old days by making it a musical. The result is cute and funny, but I just didn’t feel like it worked as a story.
Elsa (Idina Menzel) is the young queen of a Norse kingdom called Arendelle. She was born with a superpower/curse that lets her make snow and ice at will, but because of an accident that happened when she was little, her parents have raised her to believe that she should never go outside or have an emotion ever in her life in order to protect people. How she can be queen while locked in her room, I don’t know, but the kingdom seems to function without her.
Oh, you wanted me to sign a trade agreement? Sorry, I thought you said ‘make some snowflakes.’
Though Elsa is the most interesting, her younger sister Anna (Kristen Bell) is the main character. Blustery, motormouthed Anna has the much more mundane problem of being lonely, which is immediately solved when they open the doors to the castle for the coronation. She meets prince Hans (Santino Fontana), falls in love, gets engaged, and all before we’re a half hour into the movie.
OMG, you like sandwiches? I like sandwiches! We should get married!
Then Anna makes the mistake of telling her sister that Hans and all his brothers are moving into the castle. Elsa gets upset, the kingdom freezes over, and Elsa runs away to the mountains because now everyone thinks she’s a monster. Good so far, except that the movie can’t seem to decide whether Elsa is the villain or not. She makes snow goons to beat people up and impales them on icicles, but all she wants is enough control to keep the kingdom safe from her powers.
Stay back! Or I will be forced to protect you!
Anna, meanwhile, has the most boring goal in the history of movies: to go talk to her sister. She leaves Hans in charge of the kingdom and rushes into the frozen wilderness to find Elsa. Anna comes across Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), an ice-selling hermit whose only friend seems to be a reindeer named Sven, and basically orders him to help her. Kristoff acts as the voice of reason/modernity by making fun of Anna for getting engaged to a guy she just met (like in all the old Disney fairy tales). He also adds a bit of comic relief by making voices for Sven.
Lower me faster, slave!
On the way up the mountain they pick up the movie’s real comic relief – Olaf (Josh Gad) a snowman whose goal in life is to bask on warm sand at the beach. Olaf is the funniest character in the movie, largely because he’s the ONLY character that ever makes jokes. All the other characters rush around being busy adults with many important things to do and seem to have no time for more than the occasional one-liner or perfunctory pratfall.
Don’t worry! I’ll tell ALL the jokes. You guys can just keep stressing out.
The rest of the plot consists mostly of people running up and down the mountain, occasionally singing songs to make their motivations clearer, until finally Anna solves Elsa’s problem incredibly easily and everyone lives happily ever after (that’s one thing Disney could never do away with and live).
And then Elsa locked Anna in an ice dungeon for the rest of her life. THE END.
There are a lot of things I like about Frozen. Olaf is funny. The story makes fun of old Disney movies where the plot is all about getting rescued by a guy you just met and marrying him two minutes later. It’s more about reconnecting with your sister than finding a boyfriend. The ice is beautifully animated. The chanting at the beginning and end is pretty cool. And Sven the reindeer sounds like Chewbacca.
I love you. Fall down again.
However, there are also quite a few things I don’t like about Frozen. The songs are merely okay and there aren’t many of them. The princesses are still princesses. Their parents still have to die before the story can start. They’re still skinny and they wander around the frozen wastes with no coats just to show off how skinny they are. And Elsa has no character progression – she’s totally screwed until the very end and then all of a sudden everything is fine.
If only there was one convenient action I could take that would change everything…
Also, there’s no villain and very little antagonism apart from the grotty old Duke of Weselton/Weasel Town (Alan Tudyk), who mostly just complains all the time. As a result, one of the other characters had to undergo a jarring, 180 degree personality change near the end just to make something dramatic happen. You’ll like it because it flips some conventions on their heads, but it’s still a cheat.
Hello, I will be your weasely but ineffective schemer for the evening.
So in the end, I liked Frozen, but not enough for it to earn a place alongside my animated favorites, even if we narrow the list down to only Disney films. But you probably don’t care whether I liked it. You only care about whether your kids will. And the answer is yes. Kids have no understanding of writing so to them it’s just a cute, funny, movie with lots of pretty dresses and crazy stunts. So take them, they’ll enjoy it.