Director: Chris Buck (Surf’s Up, Tarzan), Jennifer Lee
Starring: Kristen Bell (Gossip Girl), Idina Menzel (Enchanted)
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Family, Musical
Frozen tells the story of two princesses, sisters, whose close childhood friendship splits after the elder’s magical powers to freeze anything she touches goes beyond her control. She is locked away until the day of her coronation, at which point she inadvertently casts an eternal winter across the land, before fleeing to the mountains. With the help of a strapping young man and a chatty snowman, the younger sister must go on an adventure to find the new queen, her old friend, and to stop the eternal winter.
Frozen, just like the not-too-distant Wreck-It Ralph, shows just how good Disney can be when they get it right. Recently the limelight has rightly been poured onto Pixar Animation Studios, a past affiliate of Disney, that has produced such greats as Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo, and Toy Story. But with Frozen, Disney are threatening to reclaim the mantle as prime original storytellers, especially since Pixar’s recent outings (Monsters University, Brave) haven’t been the most scintillating of their canon. They’ve even ‘copied’ Pixar’s trademark of a pre-feature short animation, in this case the extremely creative and enjoyable ‘Get a Horse!’
I say original storytellers, but Frozen is actually slightly based on, or inspired by, the fairytale Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson. However this seems to have been used as a springboard to something fresh, rather than gutting it completely.
Frozen is a delight from start to finish. The opening is atmospheric and effective, leading into a cheery foray of musical numbers that really work – some careful, imaginative lyrical and musical writing has gone into this film. So much can’t be said for the animation, however, which is bland at best. It does the job, and isn’t of bad technical quality, but it lacks the identity of Up or The Incredibles; films that create their universes which have their interpretation of people and the world around them.
Something it doesn’t lack in is comedy. The laughs start strong and are consistently strong throughout the picture, with jokes that will crucially please the kids, but also will please adults, without the side-glancing, pompous, too-clever-for-its-own-good adult humour that Pixar often sneak in. Most importantly this is a kids film that works for a family viewing, where everyone can enjoy it on the same level, which is what should always be the case.
The threat is also sufficient – a family film often feels flat and deflated without enough threat from the antagonists. Frozen carries the right amount of fear and tension required to keep kids interested and excited for the whole film.
One thing that doesn’t quite sit well is the extent of the magical powers the elder sister possesses. While at first it seems to just be powers that allow her to make snow and ice when and where she pleases, it seems to morph into something far more flexible and fantastical, as she creates dresses, necklaces, and so on. This doesn’t seem succinct with the set up of the world. Although in any case the powers are ‘unrealistic’ when thought of in the real world, they still must feel realistic in the world of the film and this falters as it progresses.
One of the great achievements of the film is how it brings Disney animation back to its Prince/Princess roots but without it seeming forced or stale. We all know that some of Disney’s most loved outings are Cinderella, Snow White and so on, and Frozen introduces us to a unique, likeable, strong, contemporary princess, that lives for herself and not merely lusting for a dashing man.
Summary: Frozen is a solid film to take the family to over the Christmas period. It may not be watched religiously by children in twenty years time like Beauty and the Beast or Aladdin, but for now it’s significant enough to be labelled a ‘return to form’.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5