CINEMA: by Symeon J. ThompsonNews Weekly
Only true love can thaw a frozen heart: Review of Walt Disney film Frozen (rated PG)
, February 1, 2014
Symeon J. Thompson reviews the Walt Disney 3D computer-animated musical fantasy-comedy film, Frozen (rated PG).
Frozen is a family friendly fairy-tale full of fabulous tunes and fun. It’s a charming piece of 3D-animated cinema with enough dimensions to entertain all ages. And its twists are enough to provoke thought without pushing too much of an agenda.
The story is set in the fictional Scandinavian kingdom of Arendelle and opens with the ice-men singing and carving blocks of ice out of the frozen water, with a young boy and a young reindeer trying to help.
Elsa (Eva Bella as the young Elsa, Spencer Lacey Ganus as the teenager, and Broadway veteran Idina Menzel as the woman) is a princess born with magical powers to make snow and ice. While playing with her sister, Anna (Livvy Stubenrauch as the girl with Katie Lopez singing, Agatha Lee Monn as Teenage Anna and Kristen Bell as the woman), Elsa accidentally strikes her.
Their parents take the girls to the trolls who save Anna, but in the process they also remove all her memories of magic. From then on Elsa is encouraged by her parents to control her powers, and is hidden from the world until she can do so, while Anna is left confused and hurt by her sister’s sudden withdrawal from society.
After their parents die at sea, Elsa becomes more reclusive and Anna more barmy, until the day comes for Elsa’s coronation as queen, when the castle gates are opened for the first time in years. Dignitaries have come from far and wide for the coronation, including the clumsy but handsome prince Hans (Santino Fontana), with whom Anna falls in love and becomes engaged before the night is over.
When they go to ask Elsa for her blessing, she does not give it. Anna becomes angry and upsets Elsa, who lets loose her powers, escapes into the mountains, and at the same time plunges Arendelle into a harsh winter.
Anna goes after her, leaving Hans in charge of the kingdom. Along the way she meets Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his reindeer, Sven. She convinces Kristoff to help her find Elsa. Adventures ensue, including the meeting of the living snowman Olaf (Josh Gad), who thinks summer will be great and even sings a song about how much he’s looking forward to it.
The animation is beautiful and rich, and is a mix of hand-drawing and computer-generated modelling, creating a sophisticated and entrancing visual experience. The script is sharp and witty, but also gentle, with some great one-liners, such as Olaf’s “Hi, I’m Olaf and I like warm hugs”.
The musical numbers are stunning, and unsurprisingly a stage version is in the works. The songs run a wide emotional range, but all involve questions concerning relationships. The standout here is the trolls’ song, “Fixer-Upper”, about accepting the flaws in those we love.
While the movie claims to be inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, it bears scarcely any resemblance and so ought not be judged by that criteria. It’s an original story in its own right. It’s not Pixar, which is this critic’s criteria for cinematic greatness; but it is a fine film, and the Pixar influence can be felt.
It’s not necessary to see Frozen in 3D, although it certainly doesn’t hurt to do so. However, 3D is necessary if one wants the full impact of the short that precedes it, Get a Horse. This little gem of a film takes a classic Mickey Mouse short and then makes it 3D with the characters literally bursting off the screen into the present day. It’s the sort of utterly hilarious slapstick that was more common when Disney started animating, but isn’t as common now.
A notable feature of the film is the lack of a traditional, easy-to-spot, villain. There are some less-than-pleasant characters, but by and large everyone is acting out of what they believe to be good motives.
One of the biggest twists concerns the real agenda of a particular character. Without spoiling the show too much, one of them is less than honest about their motives, and the audience finds this out at the same time as do the other characters. This twist might be called “horrifying” and “unexpected’; but it ought to provoke conversation and encourage younger audiences to consider the merits of thinking through decisions.
Frozen’s theme is love, and the notion that only true love can thaw a frozen heart. It provides a range of examples of love, especially sacrificial love, and offers a nuanced picture. It shows that love alone doesn’t necessarily mean good judgement, but nor does it claim that this means love is to be ignored.
It’s a jolly film with songs that deserve to be sung again and again, and can readily be enjoyed by the whole family.
Symeon J. Thompson is a member of the Film Critics Circle of Australia (FCCA).