Review: “Frozen” shatters princess stereotypes with a beautiful and funny adventure that’s a sure-fire Disney classic

in Disney, Entertainment, Movies, Music, Reviews

frozen

Disney built expectations high when suggesting “Frozen” is “the greatest Disney animated event since The Lion King.” I can’t say I’d push the comparison quite that far, but their 53rd animated feature film is indeed a very good one. With likable characters, memorable songs, and gorgeous scenery this movie is emotional and relatable, with just a handful of crucially cringe-worthy moments that thaw the overall satisfaction it delivers.

“Frozen” starts off boldly, strongly emphasizing its Norwegian backdrop through setting and song. Backed by the chanting tune of “Vuelie,” the opening musical number written and composed by Norwegian composer Frode Fjellheim and performed in the style of Saami yoiking, the opening sets an unexpected tone that doesn’t at all match the rest of the film. It’s attention-grabbing and assertive, but is followed by a total shift in style to one that better suits the comedy-filled adventure that follows.

Sisters Anna and Elsa immediately fit in to the ever-growing Disney Princess lineup. It’s certainly unusual for a Disney film to feature two new princesses, let alone sisters. Anna is the more carefree one, a bit flighty and immature, but still cute and friendly despite her rather clumsy nature. She seems weak at first but has a warm heart. Elsa’s life with magical powers is a bit more complicated, requiring her to be more mature, subdued, and even burdened. She seems strong on the outside but is forced to bottle in her emotions, leaving her colder around others. The dynamic creates an interesting mix as the two are quite different from each other, leaving each audience member to relate more to one or the other. (If I had to choose, I personally like Elsa more.)

The tale that follows these characters is as unusual as their relationship with each other. “Frozen” is definitely not a traditional Disney Princess movie. Though the Prince Charming element is there, the film more importantly turns those traditions on their heads, even referencing them before knocking them down. There’s nothing predictable about where the story ends up or even how it gets there.

In fact, unlike the Jafars and Ursulas of the past, “Frozen” never even has a clear-cut villain. Naturally, there are “good guys” and “bad guys,” but ultimately it’s the story of two sisters’ own relationship and how they handle each other under extreme circumstances. And, being the princesses of the fictional land of Arendelle, their actions have huge implications over their own people that play a crucial role in the emotional journey that ensues.

Anna and Elsa are wonderfully entertaining to watch across their highs and lows, of which there are many. The drama is consistently enjoyable. “Frozen” leaves audiences surprised quite regularly, with a number of twists. But the film is far from intense, as its supporting characters are fantastic. Hans and Kristoff are worthy male leads, interesting to watch their own motivations develop throughout the film. But the true star of the supporting cast is Olaf the snowman. He’s cute, innocent, funny, silly, and most of all endearing. He’s never once crass, stupid, overbearing, or even obnoxious as some of the film’s trailers would suggest. Most of all, he’s a fantastic new Disney character that no doubt will be loved by fans for years to come.

The songs of “Frozen” are a strange mix of incredible new Disney music and forgettable throwaways. “Let It Go” is one of the finest songs to come out of a Disney film in years, beautifully performed by Broadway star Idina Menzel. But with the epic-ness of that song (and its important, character-building sequence in the film) comes a much sillier side with a few other songs that simply should not have made the cut, one in particular with such horrible placement that it utterly ruins the flow of an important sequence of events late in the film. But largely the music of “Frozen” is entertaining, serves to move the story along, and adds to a soundtrack that can be enjoyed alongside other Disney classics. And Olaf’s “In Summer” is among the movie’s funniest moments.

“Frozen” is visually stunning. The snowy white canvas that drapes much of the film is often illuminated in vibrant hues of blue and purple that pop off the screen. It’s one of few movies that I can wholeheartedly recommend seeing in 3D. The snow flurries flying through the air in 3D add a fun element but the art direction clearly had 3D in mind when crafting many of the film’s shots, from sweeping vistas to intimate interior moments. The film does struggle with visual style, jumping between dramatic lighting across perfectly framed shots and simpler moments that merely feature some colorful characters and little more. But mostly it’s beautiful to look at.

The film’s character design greatly resembles that of “Tangled,” indicating Walt Disney Animation Studios has found a look they want to hold onto, much as most of Pixar’s humans resemble each other in artistic style. Likewise “Tangled” and “Frozen” share the same adjective-based titles and Anna even has many of the same facial features as Rapunzel. Thus it’s hard not to compare the two, especially after “Tangled” has been such a huge success for Disney. I found myself immediately thinking I like “Tangled” better after seeing “Frozen,” but the more I think about the newer film the stronger desire I get to see it again, thinking that opinion may change for the better.

Around 15-20 minutes of silliness could have been cut from “Frozen” to make it a stronger overall film, especially if those less important scenes were replaced by more explanation of some important plot points that were never addressed, such as how exactly Elsa came to have magical ice powers. But even so, “Frozen” will no doubt be widely loved if for no other reasons than Anna, Elsa, and Olaf being excellent new Disney characters.

“Frozen” is a must-see for Disney fans and is still be quite enjoyable for those who are even usually opposed to typical Disney Princess films, of which this is not. It may feature a happy ending, but it’s not the same “happily ever after” that concludes so many of Disney’s films.

Be sure to stay through (and read!) the credits for a few extra bits of comedy.

And as if “Frozen” being a great film isn’t enough, the accompanying new short “Get a Horse!” is one of Disney’s best ever and absolutely must be seen in 3D. Featuring Walt Disney’s own voice as Mickey Mouse, this short film appears to be decades old – but appearances are quite deceiving as this classic comedy gets going. (Look for an Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cameo near the end too!) There is no doubt this is Oscar-worthy animation.

“Frozen” will take theaters by storm on November 27, 2013.

21 Comments

  1. Joe

    Are you hating on the ” Fixer Upper” song? That was the only part I truly didn’t like.

    1. Ricky Brigante

      Yes. Terrible. It should never have been part of the film.

      SMALL SPOILER ALERT:

      The trolls are important in their first appearance in the movie, but when they are revisited they’re reduced to a silly song-and-dance routine that is completely unnecessary. That scene should have simply skipped to the older troll immediately coming out and dealing with the issue at hand, rather than launching into that awful song.

      1. Agreed, Ricky and Joe. That truly was the only song out of the entire film that made cringe, and the placement/use of the Trolls was so pointless – especially since it didn’t really “develop” the character they are involved with at all.

        1. Jamie K

          All of these points are very valid. But I must say that can we honestly say there aren’t Disney songs that stayed in the film that seemed out of place? A Guy Like You from Hunchback? Spring Song from Bambi (right after they…you know…shot his mom)? Les Poissons from The Little Mermaid? And the songs that got re-released into the movies in DVD releases like Human Again and Morning Report? These songs stay for one reason or another. They probably kept it to capture the imagination of Children in the audience. That is the target audience after all. And knowing the style of songs that Kristen and Robert Lopez are used to writing on Broadway, I’d say that it fits their musical style really well (Try listening to the Avenue Q and Book of Mormon soundtracks if you already haven’t sampled their music style). This might be more of a story department problem than a musical problem. The song is good, it just stops the story. That’s what these types of bad Disney songs do. They’re not bad on their own, they’re just bad for the story as a whole. Ricky, do you think the other more A+ songs in the film can make up for this? Or do you feel critics might take jabs at the weaker areas despite the shinning areas of the film?

          1. Ricky Brigante

            The one bad song does not drive the story at all. Entire sequence could be cut from the film and no one would know the difference. It’s simply a bad song at the wrong moment. But it can be overlooked.

        2. Lily

          I disagree with you the only reason it’s there (fixer upper) is for comedy. Plus Elsa was born with her powers that how she got them. Also this all your opinion and mine and others. My opinion is that Disney Frozen is the movie I have ever seen.

      2. Katherine

        Hey Ricky. Do you have a Spoiler review out? I’d love to hear more critical criticisms of what you think.

        Since you put a Spoiler Tag then I’ll go ahead and throw in my SPOILER filled criticisms about a film I absolutely LOVED:

        1) Trolls. CGI films need to quit duplicating characters just because it’s easy. The trolls felt out of place at the start but that 2nd song (which was a good song) was ridiculous. Also, the idea that they had to erase all memories of Magic had no point. In a family, when big brother plays too rough, do you lock him in a room or do you say “Hey, you need to be more careful around little sister”. Elsa CAN be dangerous, but that didnt mean she should be hidden. That was the audience being trolled with a boulder sized MacGuffin. (zing)

        2) Villain. The problem with the villains here is that they were made far too likeable from the start. Hans felt just as adorably dorky as Anna and their song sealed the idea that maybe these two were made for each other. And that made the “villain” turn painful because it just felt out of place.

        3) Stupid Childhood Plot: Being reclusive is one thing. But to hide in a bedroom inside a castle with a closed gate for 10+ years even after your parents died is ridiculous. And fine, Elsa self imposed imprisonment, but why did Anna stay locked in? The whole premise of Tangled is that Rapunzel was forcibly trapped in a tower far away from civilization but Anna… she had no sisters or parents yet she avoided going to the city right outside the door? Even Jasmine went out in disguise.

        4) Sisters: I feel they missed this note. It was a fairly long movie that showed literally no interaction between the sisters. Elsa wasn’t a recluse, she wasnt angry, she wasnt evil. She loved her sister and those moments should have been explored in order to create the tragedy of them being separated. But as it is, they’re both dummies for spending a decade in the same house but never in the same room.

        5) Finding Nemo. The first thing I googled when I left the theater is who wrote Finding Nemo the Musical. I loved the songs here but many musical cues were lifted right out of Finding Nemo at AC and their other work. Again, great songs but I do wonder “What would Menken Do”.

        6) Advertising. In retrospect, the Olaf backlash was an overreaction. But watch the marketing material again and it’s understandable why. THey literally showed every single Olaf joke in the commercials so it made him feel to prominent in a film where they used him just right. Oh, they also showed every plot point. If I’m excited about a movie i avoid all marketing, and in this case then I’m glad I did because Frozen was a wonderful movie despite the horrible ads.

  2. Chaz

    I’ve been anticipating this movie for quite some time, so I’m glad to know you enjoyed it, Ricky–glad for you and me, that is.

    Though I’ll watch out for “that song.”

    1. Joe

      While I didn’t enjoy that song, I can say others that we were with didn’t seem to mind it. As Ricky said, the one song doesn’t drive the story at all. The movie is a stand out and I can’t wait to go back and see it again.

  3. Ashley

    Ricky, I’m so glad you liked it! When I first saw the original Olaf trailer I was incredibly concerned as it felt like ICE AGE! But honestly I was going to see it anyway becuase of Menzel and your review only makes me count the days down with more anticipation!

    Cannot wait, and i’ll ignore the trolls

    1. Angel

      i fell the same way

      1. Angel

        It was funny but i love it when Ana puched the prince. Girls rule

  4. Brendan

    It should be a child life changer for all Disney princess fans but i think it would be a fantastic movie! But now i think i like Elsa.

  5. Jeff Lynch

    Why couldn’t the new Disney princess be Hispanic? America will be a Latino country in about 15 years, so Disney needs to start making Hispanic princesses quickly. I for one welcome our new Latino majority.

    1. Potato

      Agreed. Thankfully, “Moana,” starring Disney’s first Polynesian princess, will come out in 2018 :) Still waaaaaaaiting on a Latina princess…we can only hope!

  6. Brendan

    Spoiler: When the parents bring Anna and Elsa to the trolls the main troll asks about Elsa and says “Born or cursed?” and the father replied “born”. Showing that she was born with those powers.

  7. Tramp

    Personally, I absolutely loved this movie, and ALL of the songs in it. This includes “Fixer Upper”. And, contrary to popular belief, it did further the story. If you listen to the lyrics more closely, One of the trolls gives exposition about people making mistakes when they’re scared, angry, or under stress, and that true love is the key to bringing out the best in them:

    “People make bad choices if they’re mad,
    Or scared, or stressed.
    Throw a little love their way.
    And you’ll bring out their best.”

    This one passage is a key point to the story, and the answer to Elsa controlling her powers and lifting the “eternal” winter. So, while ostensibly being a song about hoooking Anna with Kristoph, it is ultimately about love being the key to not only Anna’s frozen heart, but also Elsa gaining full control of her powers and accepting herself, this lifting the inadvertent “curse” on the kingdome.

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