By Paul Morales
In some ways, Disney’s new animated film “Frozen” represents a triumph for the brand. It tells the story of a young princess named Elsa, who is one day destined to be queen and has magical freezing powers. Her little sister, Anna, who does not have any powers, very much looks up to her older sibling and feels no jealousy whatsoever. However, when a minor accident that causes Anna to suffer a frozen head (whatever that means) panics the king and queen, Elsa is separated from Anna, and Anna’s memory of magic is erased.
Several years after the untimely death of her parents, Elsa is due to be crowned the new queen, and will be seen by the public for the first time since she was a child. In those years, she has grown very fearful of her powers, and when she is upset at her coronation party, she accidentally freezes her entire kingdom, and then suddenly retreats into the mountains to build herself an icy castle of solitude. With her powers now public knowledge, the brave Anna decides to venture after her sister and convince her to unfreeze the kingdom. With the help of a mountain-man ice salesman named Kristoff, his reindeer Sven, and an enchanted snowman named Olaf, Anna braves the cold elements to save her people.
It’s a very Disney story, and it features some of the best voice acting in the studio’s history. Kristen Bell, in particular, paints Anna as an awkward, clumsy, but scrappy and determined princess. Anna is infinitely more accessible than most of her princess predecessors. Idina Menzel is a spectacular singer as Elsa, but she’s a little miscast, her voice not meshing well with the way the animators have drawn the character. Still, the voice is the voice, and Menzel has one of the best in the business. The enchanted snowman, Olaf, is one of the film’s biggest highlights, getting all of the best jokes and just being a downright adorable scene-stealer every time he’s on screen.
It also looks pretty amazing. The animators did an incredible job giving real texture to the ice and snow effects. This project has been in development for more than 13 years, and it ultimately served the film to suffer through that stagnation. The technology just wasn’t available back in 1999 to achieve the kind of visual fidelity that “Frozen” boasts.
Unfortunately, the film has a few major drawbacks – one of which is particularly deadly to a Disney film. First, this is a story of the relationship between two sisters… or at least that’s how it’s sold. Really, one of the first things the movie establishes is that these girls really have no relationship. They have hardly seen each other in years by the time the plot really gets going. It’s just hard to invest in the hope their sisterly bond provides to the kingdom when they don’t have much of a sisterly bond at all!
Secondly, and this is probably my biggest issue with the movie, following the accident that gives Anna the frozen head, the king and queen drag their daughters out into the night to seek the advice of some trolls. The head troll explains that fear will be the downfall of Elsa, and she must learn to control her powers and not give into fear. Her parents’ response to this is, “Sure. We can handle that. But until she learns control, we’re just gonna lock her into a room and make sure no one sees her or speaks to her because she’s too dangerous – ‘cause that’s not gonna make her scared of herself!” Goodness gracious! The king and queen go out of their way to make it painfully obvious that the one thing the troll said should not happen is going to happen. Idiots.
Finally, and this is the big Disney killer, none of the songs are real stand-out numbers. Certain songs, like “Part of Your World,” “Tale as Old as Time,” “Hakkuna-Matata,” and so on, stay with kids and adults like forever. None of the songs in “Frozen” have that kind of lasting power. In fact, if I really put my mind to it, I’m not sure that I could even remember the tune to a single song in that movie, much less any of the lyrics.
In the end, “Frozen” is a pretty big mixed bag, and how much you enjoy it will really depend heavily on which parts you focus on. It’s very well acted and very well animated. It’s cute, laugh-out-loud funny, and pretty engaging through out. But there’s not much payoff in the sisterhood because their relationship is practically non-existent. And none of the songs are really worth talking about once the movie is over. If you go to giggle, you’ll probably enjoy “Frozen” just fine. If you’re going to pick up a new soundtrack, however, you’re facing disappointment.
Score: 6.5 Okay