“Charming” is an understatement. Charm is easy; you can practice it like an etude, your inflections and mannerisms your instrument. Some Southern drawl and a wry smile is all you need. But the problem is that charm can be cerebral. In the moment, in the thick of grinning like an idiot, you know why. You know you’re being schmoozed. Frozen is not that. A reinstatement of Disney forte, Frozen is more than that; it is wholly disarming.
Frozen, very loosely based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Snow Queen, is about two royal sisters named Anna and Elsa. Elsa was born with the strange, unexplained ability to generate bouts of freezing shenanigans, and while they’re playing around at an early age, Anna is stricken in the head with a stray shot of cryokinetic powers. Trolls come to the family’s aid but at the cost of Anna’s memories of Elsa’s abilities. To keep her sister safe, Elsa locks herself away from the world, which is only worsened by their parents’ untimely death at sea.
Once Elsa comes of age, she must go through a coronation to become queen of their kingdom of Arendelle, but she still can’t quite control her powers, freezing things unwillingly and considering herself a danger to those around her. At the coronation, Anna meets a prince named Hans and they promptly fall in love, resulting in Hans asking for her hand in marriage not one day after meeting. Elsa disapproves, some fountains get accidentally frozen, and, well, Elsa runs away.
If you can predict exactly how this ends, then kudos, because it’s really quite difficult to tell, which is one of the great strengths of this film. Its structure begins as an overly stock fairy tale (magical powers, a broken love, star-crossed romance, yadda yadda yadda), but the ending is quite magnificent as a statement against the norm.
It’s a statement towards femininity, sure, but it’s actually an argument for love of all forms and that you don’t need anyone to validate you or your love except for yourself. Anymore words on it and you might miss out on the joy of experiencing the ending for yourself, but know that it really works on many levels.
The film as a whole, actually, functions with many layers for you to delve through, albeit some less subtle than you would like. The overt sexualization of Elsa as she comes into her own with her powers and the obvious visual mirroring of Anna in the last third with Elsa of the first third are a bit too plain to be as effective as they could have been, but the message comes across anyways.
Other bits like the illogical nature of love and the irrepressible heart of family (along with the undeniable potency of friendship) spread themselves over the course of the whole movie and hit much more appropriately. Olaf, an incredibly foolhardy magical snowman, delivers a line towards the end that lands like a bag of steel-plated gold bars precisely because it branches off of a consideration we’d been sitting on for 90 minutes prior.
But the most alarming part of Frozen is that it is so impossibly positive. The aforementioned Olaf is basically a bumbling idiot who could get killed or get you killed any possible moment with nearly no net gain as a friend, but he is one of the most endearing characters in any piece of fiction in recent history. There is rarely a moment in the movie when you feel truly negative towards any particular or predicament.
Even the villains are victims of circumstance, though they still function perfectly fine as antagonists. One comes through a twist and a familial impetus; another has no other faults other than coming from a place called Weselton (weezultown/wehzeltun) and being a terrible dancer; and the other is, well, confused. But they are part of a film that generates nothing but positivity at every chance.
Of course, that has a great deal to do with the voice acting. Kristen Bell voices Anna and does a spectacular job of it. I’m already a huge Bell fan (I am and always will be in love with Veronica Mars), but this kind of seals it. Anna is an unfiltered, driven, funny, bubbly, serious, independent woman and Bell’s portrayal of her just slays me. It’s unbelievable how easy it is to fall in love with a voice.
Idina Menzel as Elsa performs just as well, but her acting abilities are certainly overshadowed by her singing prowess. Known for her lead role as Maureen Johnson in both the Broadway and film productions of Rent, it should come as no surprise that she’ll blow your fucking ears off and then sing them into a fine powder.
Josh Gad as Olaf is unbelievable; his heartbreaking, laugh-inducing delivery of his lines are just spot-on. And Alan Tudyk, who was a treat as King Candy in Wreck-it Ralph, is as impeccable as he is unrecognizable as the aforementioned fellow from Weselton. The cast really brings to life the unrepentant jubilation of Jennifer Lee’s screenplay.
The visuals don’t hurt, either. In fact, Frozen is one of the most beautiful films, digital or otherwise, you’ll see in quite some time. (On a technical note, the snow and ice tech is absolutely nuts.) The colors are bright and delve appropriately into the Danish bounty of recessive genes but also the oft forgotten palette of hues imbued in the frozen tundra. The composition and artistic direction of a few shots are simply incredible.
The sole disappointment of the movie could be the songs. I waited for the whole film to find a tune to get hooked on—each one passing with my fists clenched, perhaps thinking I could find something to sift through if I squeezed hard enough—but never got there. They’re serviceable, but there’s nothing close to catchy, let alone breaching the wall to the land of Classic Disney Songs. They all felt a bit too straightforward and narrative-driven even with the need for musicals to drive stories through singing in mind, though they are quite good in every other regard.
An over reliance on musical counterpoints perhaps makes it hard to single out any particular melody as one you’d like to hear again, but the vocal performances are immensely strong. In fact, even with the lack of any aural lasting impact, Frozen knocks everything else out of the wintery park. It is so impossibly positive in its wholehearted belief in love and being strong and knowing what’s worth fighting for is alarming. It takes whatever icy shell had surrounded your heart after years of internet snark and cynicism and melts it. Frozen will disarm you, and you won’t mind one bit.
+ An ending that makes good on a setup of loving who you love and doing what you need to do
+ Voice actors that make storybook characters endearing and funny rather than distracting
+ Gorgeous art direction and shot composition
+ Unmatched positive emotions flowing out of every second of the movie
– Not a single memorable or catchy song in the whole film
Final Score: 9 out of 10