December 10, 2013

Review: Frozen

Frozen took me by surprise. I vaguely knew about the movie from the kerfuffle over the character designs being similar to Tangled and from an exhibit at D23 Expo, but I didn't know what it was about or even that Elsa and Anna were sisters. Actually, I didn't even know their names. It was a combination of a light marketing plan and my laziness. I don't often go into movies without knowing the basic plot, and it was a cool (that probably won't be the last pun, sorry/not sorry) experience. Also? Frozen blew me away.

The story about sisters, true love, magic, and being comfortable with being yourself reached right into my heart. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and I've been listening to the music on repeat. Frozen turned more than a few Disney princess tropes on their head, and it's exciting to see the company making progressive changes in storytelling. Maybe it's overdue, but hey - it's happening now and hopefully they won't turn back.

Spoilers in my review after the image.


Anna and Elsa are delightful characters who mostly have agency, stay in control, and make their own decisions. Points across the board for the way they were written. We meet them first as young girls and watch as they grow up separate from each other and then deal with the loss of their parents. It's not quite Up in the make-you-weep-openly department, but it's close. Elsa develops into a young woman struggling to control her icy powers, which her parents treated like a curse despite the fact that it's an innate ability, and is resigned to becoming queen of Arendelle. Anna blossoms into a spunky girl who can't wait to be around people again. The differences in their personality are like night and day.

When they're faced with trouble though, they each make their own decision. Elsa decides to live alone, and Anna decides she has to go after her sister. It's so refreshing how their love is the bond that saves the day - no man necessary. Anna did fall into the trap of falling in love super fast, but I applaud the fact that they hung a lantern on it with Kristoff's exclamations about her getting engaged to someone she just met. Making fun of it was brilliant. And sure, Anna and Kristoff are together at the end of the movie, but you get the impression they're dating. In the days of old, the movie would have ended with their wedding.

These ladies make their own way and in the end, they make their way to each other - not dudes. I adore seeing Disney focus on familial love and loyalty as they did in this film.

The music was delightful and catchy and wonderfully performed. Idina Menzel is a powerhouse, but Kristen Bell is no slouch. I wasn't aware she could sing and whoa. Josh Gad was simply perfect as Olaf, and his song about summer had my falling out of my chair with laughter. Some have said to me the songs are too specific to the movie, but I think they can be enjoyed independently. I've listened to the soundtrack A LOT. Now, let's all pause to listen to the memorable "Let It Go" on repeat:



Though Frozen didn't have a real villain, it still worked. Elsa unintentionally brings a storm, but she isn't malicious, just scared and repressed. It's another way in which Disney took a risk and broke the mold. I approve.

Beyond the story, performances, and music, the design of Arendelle and the costumes and backgrounds was gorgeous. It was simple but so effective. For crying out loud, they animated snow and made it look realistic. It made me want to bundle up, and the movie theater wasn't even cold. I can't wait to dive into The Art of Frozen.

My complaints are few. The girls are remarkably well adjusted given how much they were each isolated. We can assume they somehow got schooling and that Anna, at least, interacted with the castle staff on a regular basis. They probably don't know how to react around large groups of people. They address some of it in Anna's blunt, not so polished language (like how she feels elated or gassy) and even the way she fell for Hans in mere hours is an effect of her solitary life. I think they'd have more challenges in real life, but it is a fairy tale so that's not a deal breaker for me.

I'll also comment that the character designs - especially for the women - are extremely close to Tangled. However, before Tangled most of the Disney princesses had similar faces. It's not a new thing, and Disney is still finding its way in this new animation style. I bet we'll see more diversity as more animated movies are released.

The marketing for the film was weird. Apparently, they turned the focus on the snowmen and reindeer for a few reasons. They didn't want to use the "m" word. Musical isn't a word that attracts audiences. I'd imagine they also wanted to downplay that two women are the focus of the movie in case that turned off boys.

Given the way their naming conventions have changed - from titles like The Little Mermaid and The Princess and the Frog to less character specific names like Tangled and Frozen - it seems like they are making an effort to reach both genders. I get the perspective, but I've heard people say they didn't have any interest in seeing the movie because they don't want to see a film about a talking snowman. Olaf is funny and adds color, but he's far from a major character or part of the story. It's misleading. Hopefully they'll learn from it, but then again, Frozen did rule the box office opening weekend and break Disney Animation records.

Like almost every Disney film, Frozen has fun Easter eggs. For example, Flynn and Rapunzel were at coronation day!
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See more hidden gems at Oh My Disney.

Did you see Frozen? What did you think?

5 comments:

  1. I would quibble with one element of the review, which is that you describe Elsa's powers as a curse. The script specifically says that she was born with these powers, as opposed to being cursed with them (the first scene with the trolls), and for me that distinction makes the message of the movie even better, because it's about recognizing who are holistically as opposed to trying to mold ourselves to what others try to choose for us. If she's cursed at all, it's by her parents who choose to isolate her.

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    1. Right! I absolutely agree. But Elsa calls it a curse when Anna visits her in the ice castle (she says she can't control the curse)... so it's tricky but I completely see your point.

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    2. Even then, though, the "curse" aspect is due directly to how she was treated by her parents, and not the powers themselves. By isolating her, they are the ones who cursed her with the inability to use something that was naturally a part of her, and prevented her from developing a community of support.

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    3. Yep, I added clarification. Thanks! I would have left out the c word completely if she didn't mention it in the song. :)

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