Will Warm Your Heart
A Film Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!!!!
Disney Animation is on a roll: Tangled, Wreck-It-Ralph, and now the gem Frozen. Not since Beauty and the Beast have I enjoyed a Disney film so thoroughly, musical numbers and all. Frozen is brilliant and is a near-perfect film, encapsulating a sisterly bond no other Disney film has come close to depicting as well. The story is loosely adapted from Hans Christian Andersen’s short story The Snow Queen, but is naturally not as dark as the original source material. The story revolves around two sisters, Princesses Elsa and Anna of Arendelle. Elsa was born with a mysterious power that causes her to freeze everything and the power grows with age. As children, Elsa and Anna were playing with Elsa’s ice and snow and one of Elsa’s ice “bursts” hit Anna. Worried that her powers were growing far too strong, the two sisters are isolated. The isolation ends on Coronation Day when Elsa is crowned Queen of Arendelle and in a twist of events her powers are revealed to the public at large. Terrified, Elsa flees Arendelle in a breathtakingly gorgeous sequence and decides to live out her life in an ice castle in the mountains. Anna decides to go and bring her sister back, as her unleashing of powers caused an eternal winter in her kingdom (which should have been a lot larger, but ah well).
Despite Frozen ultimately not being a “typical” Disney film, there are familiar Disney tropes offered. There are princesses, the parents die in the exposition of the film, there is a prince, the more “accurate” love interest (although thankfully it’s kept in subtle check), and a piece of the ending, although I would be as evil as a certain person in the film to spoil it for you. As a film, however, Frozen has a wonderfully quick pace and offers genuine plot twists that keep you ingrained until the very final shot. The love angles thankfully are treated with the appropriate level of humor, darkness, and maturity for the material and never suffocate the tale of Elsa and Anna.
The cast is resoundingly wonderful. As Elsa, Idina Menzel manages to imbue a plethora of strength and character into a character driven insane by years of isolation, guilt and fear from her own magic, something she can’t even explain. Anna is voiced by the wonderful Kristen Bell, whose quirk and obsession with chocolates quickly endears her to the audience (well, as a chocolate addict, I may be a bit biased). Jonathan Groff does hilarious work as Christoph, who is unfortunately in the ice business when the winter strikes and his reindeer Sven, who does not speak yet is hilarious, is wonderfully rendered. Santino Fontana imbues hilarity and real gravitas into his role as Prince Hans of the Southern Isles. My main concern going into the film was Olaf the Snowman. He seemed as if he would be far too suffocating for the narrative, taking up far more space than necessary in a story that wasn’t necessarily his. Needless worry. Josh Gad is magnificent as the snowman who tries to bring back summer, even though he initially has no idea that in helping Anna and Christoph bring about summer, he would be dooming himself.
The animation here is phenomenally gorgeous, building on the 3-D animation from Tangled and creating a world whose visually stunning effects are nearly unparalleled. The soft flakes of the snow are rendered incredibly, leading to two specific moments of visual stun. The first one belongs to the sequence where Elsa is building her ice castle – the reflective lighting used throughout the ice mirroring itself leaves one speechless. But my favorite moment belongs also to Elsa, this time when she is running away from Arendelle across the lake, her feet creating a bridge of icy snowflakes as her purple robe is flying into the air.
Now the music. Disney classics hinge on their music and rightfully so. The music is not a part of the legacy these films leave behind, it is instrumental to the framework within the films that create those legacies in the first place. Imagine a Mulan without “I’ll Make a Man Out of You”, Beauty and the Beast without the titular ballroom sequence, The Little Mermaid without “Under the Sea”, or Aladdin without the classic “A Whole New World”. Without proper music, Frozen would fall apart but to its credit the songs are phenomenal. “Frozen Heart”, “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?”, “For the First Time in Forever”, “Love Is An Open Door” are standouts, with a special mention going to “In Summer” by Josh Gad that is imbued with morbid hilarity as Olaf contemplates his existence in the summer. But the true star in the mix of wonder is Idina Menzel’s showstopper “Let It Go” that hits before the halfway mark. It is an enchanting ballad about Elsa discovering freedom from the fear of what her powers would do is people actually discovered them. It’s beautiful and if one hadn’t heard Menzel’s voice before, they will have difficulty getting it out of their head. However, Jonathan Groff doesn’t get a musical number and that’s a shame, he has the voice for it.
Frozen so wonderfully does not rely on the narrative of a prince saving everything for the princess. Here the story is about two sisters and everyone else (wonderful characters as they are) is secondary. It is one of the most unabashedly feminist films from Disney Animation, relying on its female characters to fulfill the role necessary and not having Prince Hans or Christoph come in at the last moment to save the day. Frozen is the best animated film of the year, one of the best of all time, and a true triumph in providing young girls popular role models who are strong enough to rely on themselves and take destiny into their own hands. Bravo, Disney.
MPAA Rating: PG
Directors: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Producer: Peter del Vecho
Screenplay: Jennifer Lee
Story: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, Shane Morris
Based On: The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen
Starring: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana
Music: Christophe Beck
Editing: Jeff Draheim
Studios: Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Animation Studios
Distributers: Walt Disney Studious Motion Pictures
Running Time: 108 minutes
Release Date: November 27th, 2013 (U.S.)
Image Courtesy: Rotoscopers