Directed by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck
Written by Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck, and Shane Morris
Inspired by “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen
Anytime I hear people complain about recent Disney movies, I assume they haven’t seen any of them. Disney has been on a great winning streak since Meet the Robinsons, and there’s really no sign of them slowing down, especially as they branch out into more genres. We’ve got a video game movie, an animal road trip, and a time travel adventure, right along the princess musicals which continue to ditch ancient tropes and gain more feminist ones. And Frozen falls into that latter category with an ordinary Disney plot which takes quite a few liberties with “ordinary”.
After their parents die (seriously, don’t raise your kids in a Disney movie), Elsa (Idina Menzel) becomes heir to the throne, and at her coronation ceremony, her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) is excited just to have the castle full of life and the hope of meeting her true love. But Elsa ends up revealing her magic freezing powers, and in fear, retreats to an ice castle…but leaves the kingdom of Arendelle in a permanent winter, unless Anna, with the help of ice salesman Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer Sven, and Olaf (Josh Gad), a talking snowman, can convince her to thaw the kingdom.
Frozen’s greatest strength is its eager want to be feminist. From the beginning, it makes this point clear: the real conflict of the movie doesn’t necessarily come from a villain here. It comes from the conflict between Anna and Elsa. Anna is locked out of seeing her sister and believes her sister just doesn’t care about her, while Elsa is left worrying about the dangers of her powers and being seen as a monster. Their first conversation together at Elsa’s ceremony shows that they’re incredibly awkward together and not really the same sort (right down to Anna’s colorful outfits against Elsa’s more wintery garb), but that isn’t necessarily stopping them from trying to connect. Elsa ends up being the more realistic of the two, though, knowing that it’s ridiculous for Anna to marry someone the same day she met him but not knowing how to express her feelings. This is a movie of big snowy landscapes and plenty of silly humor, but the conflict comes down to a surprisingly textured look at two women, and some major moments near the end just help to reinforce that.
This movie does fall into formula in two notable ways: the comic relief sidekick and the musical numbers. Olaf fills the role of the former, including his desire to see the summer…without any apparent realization that it will melt him. He gets plenty of funny lines and slapstick as his body constantly falls apart and gets manipulated. I don’t really know Josh Gad from anything, but he does a fairly good job here. The songs here…well, putting it in recent Disney terms, better than Tangled, not as good as Princess and the Frog. They come fast and frequently enough, especially early on, that there’s bound to be a few you’ll enjoy, a few you could do without. The two definite best, though, are Olaf’s song, again, all about his desire to see summer, and Let It Go, a showcase for Idina Menzel that boasts beautiful visuals and a Broadway-worthy tune. Getting it reprised over the end credits is a real treat, and it will undoubtedly be the song of this movie that will be remembered years from now.
Frozen starts out rather standard and still has some feelings of formula to it, but its well-done character development and feminist themes elevate it.