Director: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee.
Script: Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck, Shane Morris.
Based on: Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen.
Cast: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Johathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana.
Frozen tells the story of two princesses: Anna (Bell) and her extraordinary sister Elsa (Menzel), whom has the power to turn things into ice. The siblings are separated after an accident forces their parents to realize how dangerous their older daughter’s abilities can be. Yet, following their death, their now adult children are forced to mingle after years of being secluded, causing the secrecy surrounding Elsa’s faculties to have horrible consequences.
Disney’s latest animated feature is a surprising take on many of the company’s clichés and characters. Similar to films such as Wreck-It-Ralph (2012) and Tangled (2010), Disney’s newest family flick opts for a contemporary approach to essential concepts such as love and family, which reveals itself through dialogues, lyrics and character traits. Unfortunately, this peculiarity is both helpful and prejudicial to the film.
Gone are the poetic lyrics of yore, or the elegant dialogues pronounced by many a character in the classic Disney movies. Both elements have given way to modern inflections which sometimes provide moments of comedic gold, but leave the spectator wondering if the film will feel dated or shoddy years later.
The musical aspect of the movie is also very interesting, since it combines –most of the times successfully- contemporary speech with Broadway-style melodies, like in the lauded Let it go, sung by Idina Menzel. However, the score and the songs seem disjointed, and the film can’t seem to decide if it leans towards tribal melodies or pop-Broadway arrangements, as well as losing faith on the expressive quality of the songs halfway through the film, after which they disappear altogether.
Likewise, the narrative is also incapable of holding on to one of the main subjects of the movie: the proper development of romantic love. Even after insisting on breaking the old-style Disney tradition of defining and marrying the main couple from the start, the movie finally surrenders to another romance at the end of the film, when the main romantic involvement takes a somewhat unexpected twist during the third act. Therefore, even when Anna is not allowed by her sister to marry a man she just met, it somehow seems possible to speak about true love between two characters which have known each other during a period of just a couple of days. Thus, Frozen, resembling Enchanted (2007), stumbles in its quest of presenting a different and genuine type of romantic love.
Another weak point of the film is the animation itself. Although the backgrounds, effects and movements are marvelously assembled, the design of the faces is distressingly similar to that of Tangled or the series of films from the Disney Fairies franchise. While the Disney princesses of the 2D Renaissance had different styles and features, the new computerized animation of the studio makes the characters seem too similar, presenting next to no novelty or uniqueness.
Nevertheless, when it comes to the narrative the movie does succeed at presenting a different story about the love between siblings. It is at this point when the old true-love cliché receives a proper turn, providing a new perspective which is worthy of the praise the film has received amongst critics.
The movie also steers away from trying to give a shabby explanation to Elsa’s magical abilities, dwelling in the acceptance –or not- of a female ruler, or forcing love interests on all the characters. These are, by far, some of the best narrative choices from the film.
Both female protagonists are strong, independent and engaging; and the cohort of secondary characters are equally charming and interesting, making Frozen a pleasant film to watch. Perhaps the only weak point comes from the forced introduction of a villain, especially when he, too, is a misfit, just like the rest of the characters. Instead of exploring the crook’s ambition from this perspective, the film opts for oversimplifying it by turning the character into a scoundrel, an unfortunate choice, since doing otherwise would have made the narrative stronger, reinforcing the message of acceptance.
All in all, Frozen is a delightful movie, and a stepping stone towards the return of great animated musicals such as Beauty and the Beast or The Lion King.
Verdict: a flawed new classic.