Disney has always used fairy tales for inspiration, and their latest film Frozen is no exception. Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, it focuses on the heir to the throne of Arandelle, Princess Elsa (Idina Menzel, Rent, Glee) who’s magical control of ice and snow has forced her to live a secluded life from her sister, Anna (Kristen Bell, Veronica Mars, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), until the day of her coronation. Elsa loses control of her powers, plunging the entire kingdom in an eternal winter, running off to a life of seclusion in the mountains, and forcing her sister to make an unlikely partnership with the ice farmer, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff, The Conspirator, C.O.G.) in order to recue both Elsa and Arandelle.
Carrying on from the recent successes of both Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen still proves that Disney is still a force to be reckoned with in a world where animated films are commonplace. It really goes to town with the snow and ice effects; in particular the ice castle built by Elsa is a technical marvel. Recently, I would have said that Pixar was the unquestioned champion of 3D computer animation, but now I wouldn’t rule out Disney’s own animation studios. I just wish that they wouldn’t ignore traditional 2D hand-drawn animation, especially since it formed a big part of my childhood, and seeing their short films Paperman and Get a Horse! proves that it still is a relevant format.
The central performances are strong, especially Menzel’s Elsa. Instead of going the expected route and making her a straight out antagonist, she made her a conflicted and relatable character. The themes of her self-imposed isolation and distancing herself from her loved ones as to not hurt them and be truly free resonated within me. While there are many benefits to this approach, it does have its downsides. When the “true” antagonist is revealed, it wasn’t fulfilling, despite the fairly unexpected plot twist. What it really lacked was the darker undertones of earlier Disney films, a Scar or a Frollo that were true incarnations of evil.
Kristoff was surprisingly human, with his own flaws, which was refreshing after the clean-cut Prince Charmings of the past. But unfortunately, this makes the main protagonist, Anna, unremarkable. I get this was to make her down-to-earth, but she comes off as much more forgettable, and like one of the characters called her in the film, “she’s ordinary”. Sven the reindeer brought some welcome comic relief, even if he was a slightly goofier version of Maximus the horse from Tangled. But Josh Gad (21, Jobs) was an unexpected delight as the snowman, Olaf. I thought that he was going to be an irritating side character that was used for mainly slapstick comedy, but he was much deeper, legitimately funny and could sing surprisingly well.
Frozen was a mixed-bag musically, with some of the earlier songs being forgettable. But the later ones stuck in the mind more, most notably “In Summer” and “Fixer Upper”. But the song that definitely stole the show was Idina Menzel’s “Let It Go”. It has deservedly been nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song, and I felt it perfectly captured the emotional layers and conflictions of her character.
Overall, Frozen was an enjoyable watch, although some minor flaws means that it doesn’t reach the same dizzying heights of The Lion King and Aladdin. Elsa, Kristoff and Olaf were interesting and enjoyable characters, despite Anna being slightly shallower in comparison. I would be surprised if it didn’t win the Academy Awards that it was nominated for (Best Original Song and Best Animated Feature), and that the rumoured Broadway adaptation doesn’t get made.