|Print | Back||December 20, 2013|
Shark Bite TheatreFrozen: Walt Would Be Proud
by Andrew E. Lindsay
Few would argue against the fact that Walt Disney (the man, not the company) was a visionary genius who revolutionized family entertainment, starting with feature-length animated movies.
Many decades later, the Disney Dynasty has been somewhat diluted by dozens of animated and live action movies, television shows, theme parks, and shameless, endless merchandizing. Not all bad, but some of it is a long way from where Walt started.
Disney’s had plenty of great films over the years (starting with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937), but they’ve also had their share of disappointments, and for a while it seemed like they had fallen into a princess-of-the-month routine (just change the name and the hairdo).
But in recent years, they’ve had some flashes of brilliance their founder and namesake would be proud to add to the family, like Enchanted (2007), Tangled (2010) and Wreck-It Ralph (2012). I’m not sure what sort of epiphany they had, or if it was just their affiliation with Pixar leaking over into their work, but either way, this is some of the best stuff we’ve seen from the Mouse House in years.
And then there is Frozen. If there was any question about whether Disney had its Mojo back, well, this settles it. I don’t think there’s anything not to like about this movie. Period.
The story was penned by Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck, and Shane Morris, and was inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen. If I had just gone by the trailers in deciding whether or not to go see this film, I probably would’ve waited for the DVD release.
Honestly, the trailer did nothing for me. It looked like another generic, family-friendly-but-slightly-stupid-story kind of movie, released just in time to cash in on the cold weather and holiday movie traffic. A guy and a girl with a pet reindeer and a talking snowman. Yippee. Yawn.
Then my friend Glen saw it with his grown daughter and told me it was wonderful. Now, we talk about movies a lot, and while we don’t always agree on everything, we don’t often disagree about what’s worth seeing. So I went, and was glad I did. It actually was wonderful.
The basic story is that the King and Queen of Arendelle have two young daughters, Elsa and Anna. Elsa was born with a magical power to create snow and ice, and she loves entertaining her younger sister with wintery games they play, secretly, in the castle.
Then one evening while the two are playing, an accident nearly ends in tragedy, but Anna is saved by her parents’ rushing her to a family of trolls that lives in the mountains of their kingdom.
It is decided that, to protect Anna, Elsa should never use her powers around her younger sister again. Consequently, the two are separated and forbidden from playing with one another, or even seeing each other.
Anna’s memory of the event is erased, leaving her alone and confused. Elsa becomes a recluse in her own home, fearful of ever hurting her beloved sister again.
A few years later, the King and Queen are tragically lost at sea, but Elsa does not even emerge from her self-imposed solitude to attend the funeral.
Then, in three years’ time, Elsa has come of age and must be crowned the Queen. This, of course, requires a very public coronation, and peasants and nobles alike flood into Arendelle for the grand occasion.
The coronation goes well enough, as does the celebratory ball afterwards, until Elsa loses her temper and accidentally displays her powers of frozen precipitation. Things go downhill in a hurry, Elsa flees to the mountains, and Anna heads out to find her, leaving the kingdom in the control of a visiting prince.
And this is where the story really begins.
The music was somehow very traditional Disney-sounding, yet at the same time, fresh and contemporary. The two princess sisters, Anna and Elsa, were voiced by Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel, respectively. The only thing I was familiar with of Bell’s was 2010’s When in Rome, a fairly mediocre romantic comedy.
Menzel most notably played the girlfriend of Patrick Dempsey in Enchanted. Both ladies had previously tried out for the part of Rapunzel in Tangled, and while their auditions did not land the role of the long-haired-damsel-in-distress, they were memorable enough to get called in for parts in Frozen.
As far as I’m concerned, it was worth the wait. Their performances are fantastic, and their singing is spectacular.
Jonathan Groff voices Kristoff, a reluctant hero, of sorts, whose best friend is a reindeer. Naturally, the reindeer does not talk; the talking sidekick part belongs to Olaf, the funniest snowman I’ve ever seen, voiced by Josh Gad.
I didn’t really notice anything that Groff or Gad had done before that I’d seen, but that doesn’t matter at all, because they were very funny in Frozen.
The animation throughout is beautiful and, at times, breathtaking. It has a familiar Disney look and feel about it, all while being so real that you may, occasionally, feel like a blast of arctic-cold air is gusting off the screen.
So animation, voice actors, and music are all top-notch, which leaves only the story itself. Which, surprise surprise, is also expertly crafted. Serious drama, exciting action sequences, plenty of comic relief, some surprising twists and turns, and characters with depth and dimension.
Also, if you stay all the way to the end of the credits, you’ll find a funny bonus you’ll be glad you didn’t miss.
Oh, and I almost forgot: in the great tradition of old Disney movies, there’s also a brand-new cartoon short at the opening which is lots of fun, as well. So watch this movie with your kids or, if you don’t have any, borrow some. Or just go by yourself.
Either way, Frozen plays out to be a pretty cool movie.
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