Two years after Disney tackled the tale of Rapunzel with Tangled, we now get Frozen, a slightly more Christmassy outing based on The Snow Queen.
Another one word title, again in the past tense?
Is it the same movie?
Happily, it's not really, though there are obvious similarities. For one thing, we're back worrying about princesses and their problems involving unpredictable magical powers. This time, we follow two sisters, one of which, Anna, has the power to control snow, ice and just about anything Wintery and cold. This isn't a big deal until she accidentally hurts her little sister Elsa. After that, their (crappy) parents erase Elsa's memory with the help of a bunch of rock trolls and decide to keep both kids locked-up in the castle for ages. I have soooooo many problems with this whole plot so far I don't even know where to start but I'll just keep going so you can understand what doesn't really work about this movie and then I'll talk about the good stuff because, trust me, there's lots of it. The parents die in a boat accident and eventually Anna becomes queen but her powers are revealed to the kingdom, she runs away, landing the entire place in a perpetual Winter in the process, somehow. Meanwhile, Elsa, who had met a dude called Hans and decided to marry him that very day, goes after her to try and reverse this whole curse. On the way, she meets another dude, Kristoff, and a talking snowman called Olaf who help her in her quest. Ok, you know how Tangled kind of made sense, no matter how surreal the plot got? Well here, nothing is explained so you just kinda have to accept about a billion crazy things just because. Luckily, it's a Disney animation so it's not too hard to do that but it means looking the other way when faced with some pretty weird stuff. Like the parents knowing about a forest of magical trolls or Elsa having the power to create life through, I guess, snow. Some more background on certain points would have been nice but it works alright as it is. Thankfully, the story is told with enough gusto that it remains captivating throughout.
It's really refreshing to see Disney tackle a sister relationship this time, putting a different spin on familiar clichés and having characters be self aware of other characters' shortcomings/mistakes. Getting married to someone after having met them that same day isn't celebrated mindlessly, villains aren't running around laughing maniacally about how evil they are in broad daylight and running away from your fears can be a liberating thing, not just a shameful escape. It's another super old story told through a sharp, modern eye and that definitely feels like the right direction for Disney to take. It helps that Frozen looks absolutely gorgeous, as did the Mickey Mouse short which played before the film, by the way. It really is a feast for the eyes, especially in 3D. Every shot is carefully put-together, has great depth and is simply lovely to look at. One thing that Frozen does better than Tangled is the musical numbers. Not so much in how they play out visually but in terms of the songs themselves, which are much catchier than anything Mandy Moore sang in that other flick. The voice cast is very Broadway in that you've got Josh Gad from The Book Of Mormon in there and Idina Menzel from Wicked which makes for convincing, terrifically sung numbers. The whole design of the kingdom and its characters is proudly Scandinavian and that makes it look unique, much like with Brave and its Scottish setting. Despite its somewhat convoluted, under-defined plot, Frozen is still a very solid, beautifully made little film. It finds the right balance between dramatic and fun without going too deeply into comic relief. Surprisingly, Gad's talking snowman isn't as grating as you'd expect. What the film needed to be truly perfect was a darker tone in places, a more substantial ending and some fuller, sharper writing altogether. An end reveal is genuinely arresting and works brilliantly for that moment but it could have done with a bit more polish to elevate it to a truly nail-biting twist. The whole power of love thing is about as corny as it always is and something a little more original would have been good but, to be fair, real efforts were made to bypass tired clichés in this movie so gotta give Disney that at least.
Overall, while its plot may not feel quite as together and as complete as Tangled's, Frozen is still a very fun, very entertaining and very pretty movie which should enchant kids and appeal to adults looking to watch something visually stunning and genuinely involving. It's perfect for a Winter movie outing and I do definitely recommend it.