Elsa (Idina Menzel) is the new queen of Arendelle after her parents death in a storm at sea. During her coronation her childhood powers, which she has tried to hid her entire life, explode out of control. It is up to her little sister, Anna (Kristen Bell) to stop her and turn end this eternal winter. With the help of an ice farmer, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer, and a magical snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad) they just might be able to save the kingdom.
Frozen is the latest animated film from the Disney giant and is a fantastic addition to the pantheon of Disney films. It is based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale called The Snow Queen. The original fairy tale is very different from the movie, which is now surprise given Disney’s methods of updating these fairy tales for the modern world. In the original tale, you have two little children, Kai and Gerda. Kai, who has essentially fallen under a spell from the devil, only sees the bad aspects of people. This turns him bitter and mean to those around them. One day, Kai meets the Snow Queen who kisses him once to make him immune to the cold and a second time to make him forget those he loved, like his grandmother and Gerda. The townsfolk believe Kai to have perished in the river, since that was where he was last seen. Gerda on the other, motivated by her heartbreak, believes that Kai is still alive. Thus in true fairy tale fashion, she goes off on an epic quest to save Kai. She meets women and creature on her journey that help her along the way. When she finally reaches Kai, her kiss breaks the enchantments placed on Kai and they live happily ever after.
Frozen is vastly different than the original fairy tale. Elsa is the snow queen who can’t control powers and Anna is her sister who sets out to rescue Elsa and save the kingdom. There is no Kai or grandmother nor any of the original characters Gerda meets in the original tale. However, the reindeer is re imagined as Kristoff’s pet and life long friend which is a nice touch. Disney also took the liberty of adding a few extra characters that ultimately act as the villains of the story. The Duke of Weselton (Alan Tudyk) seeks to take of Arendelle or at the very least remove Elsa from the throne. Hans (Santino Fontana) is prince from the Summer Isles who ultimately seeks to become king of Arendelle by first marrying Anna and then killing both sisters to ascend the throne. These changes work out in Disney’s favor helping to add a little drama and progressive ideas into Frozen.
Alright, now to the meat and potatoes of Frozen. What works really well with this movie is its focus on the female characters. Neither are helpless nor do they pine away after some prince like many of their fellow Disney princesses. In fact, in possibly the most meta critical moment, the song Love is an Open Door plays on many of the tropes that often accompanies the first meeting between prince and princess in Disney films. This is made all the more poignant when Hans’ true colors are finally revealed and he attempts to kill Anna and Elsa. For the record, props are in order since Disney basically brought in a character from Game of Thrones. The amount Hans plays the characters off of each other to his gain is spectacularly brutal for a Disney movie. Besides this song, Disney also shifts the focus on the love sisters have for each other instead of between a prince and princess. In fact, the real love interest, Hans, doesn’t even make an effort until the end. This focus is ultimately what made Frozen such a big deal. Not to mention the popularity of Let It Go which has swept the world by storm.
With the sister relationship taking center stage, the humor, music, and everything else simply acts as a pedestal to display this idea of true love. Mainly, that love is not restricted to romantic relationships. This is clearly displayed when Anna, who is slowly turning into ice due to being struck by Elsa’s ice, can only be saved by an act of true love. Through out the movie, this act of true love is sold as true loves kiss. However, in a series of twists, it is actually Anna saving Elsa from Hans’ sword that breaks the spell. This act of true love is a refreshing change of pace from the power of true love’s kiss.
Now, for the parts that didn’t work in Frozen. While I can appreciate unseen villain motif, I believe that Elsa would have made a great villain. Comparing her whole story with any good villain origin story, you start to see more than a few similarities. It seems a waste of a good villain setup but ultimately it doesn’t cripple the film. On a more personal film, in the marketing leading up to the release of Frozen, it was often compared and presented as the next Lion King. This just seems like setting up extremely high expectations seeing as The Lion King is possibly one of the most popular Disney movies. Seriously, it is essentially the standard that people use to judge other Disney movies. To come out and throw down the gauntlet is just asking for trouble. Regardless, while I do not believe it beat The Lion King, it doesn’t fall terribly short either. The trolls were also a problem. Now, I have not mentioned the trolls yet and that is for a reason. The have been unmentioned so far mainly due to the fact that they are a largely unnecessary part of the film. They are simply a plot device to move the story. They are in the beginning so they can explain Elsa’s power and again to have a musical number that has little bearing on the actual relationships, other than pointing out Kristoff and Anna belong together. They could have served the same function while being more relevant with the addition or change of a few scenes. In the beginning when they are explaining Elsa’s powers, the simple addition of dialogue expressing that Elsa will always find help here is all that is needed for a setup. A simple follow-up scene of a distraught Elsa running to the troll’s who then promptly leaves when she accidentally hurts one of them is all that is needed. These two additions would have been all that is needed to make the troll’s more relevant. There are a few other concerns, mainly with certain artistic choices that affect the overall message, but that is for another day.
Ultimately, blending positive messages of love, female empowerment, witty well-placed humor, and endearing characters. Frozen is fun film for all ages and must see for any and all Disney fanatics.
My Rating: 8/10