Deep & slick & even

Frozen (2013)

Kids’ films, be they good or bad, are interesting in their own right. I’m always up for finding out the overall message and themes they’re trying to bring to the younglings. The very reason for kids’ films existing is to teach children big, adult concepts in a safe, entertaining and consequence-free way. Think of all the childrens’ films that feature death, loss and despair. It’s a hell of a lot isn’t it? That’s why I normally toddle off to the nearest cinema to check out these films. They’re uniquely fascinating. Having said all that, Frozen didn’t interest me in the slightest, with its eye-rolling trailer that focused on an annoying talking snowman, unfunny slapstick and whimsy out the arse. However, I then heard the positive word of mouth and decided to see for myself. I was already constructing the review in my head in case it did turn out to be great, intent on decrying the trailer for completely underselling the film. Turns out EVERY goddamn reviewer had the same idea and ran with the “Hey, it’s not so bad, guys!” angle. Here’s the important part though – turns out we were all being played like an orchestra of particularly gormless violins as this Forbes article argues. Well, damn.

“The snow glows white on the mountain tonight/
Not a footprint to be seen/
A kingdom of isolation and it looks like I’m the queen.”

follows two princess sisters, Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel). Through some quirk of fate, Elsa was born with the power to control and create ice and snow, an ability that is seen as more of a curse than a blessing. After she accidentally hurts her sister, she locks herself away from the world and Anna, who is cured at the cost of having her memory of Elsa’s powers wiped. Anna and Elsa’s parents (the last two people aware of what Elsa can do) die at sea, the pair grow up and Elsa has to face becoming Queen of Arendelle. During the coronation celebrations Elsa’s powers get the better of her and she flees, opting for a life of isolation rather than one of persecution and fear. During her very public display of her powers, she unwittingly sends Arendelle into a permanent winter and strands all the citizens and visiting dignitaries inside the snowy kingdom. Anna sets off to find Elsa with the help of Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer Sven and the trailer-ruining Olaf (Josh Gad), a snowman accidentally brought to life by Elsa’s magic. The voice cast are all great, with a special mention going to Idina Menzel as Elsa who gave me actual goosebumps as she belted out some of the film’s best songs. Kristen Bell also gives a likable naive and classical Disney princess turn as Anna.

One of the signs of a bad review is someone who just regurgitates the plot with no real attempt at analysis or critique, so I usually try and keep the plot summaries brief. Thing is, I feel that Frozen needs that long intro above as it not only gives you some needed context, but it gives you an idea of the sheer volume of things it’s bringing to the table. Whilst it meanders a bit at times, the basic story is solid. It’s practically a parody of the classic Disney tale of a princess meeting her Prince Charming. I’ve read stinging criticisms of Disney’s portrayal of love and empty promises of a “happily ever after” for everyone. Frozen seems to be a response to that. It’s the Scream of Disney films i.e.  it takes a sideways look at established conventions and reinvigorates the genre at the same time. In a similar vein to Pixar’s Brave which had a mother/daughter relationship at the heart of things, Frozen is all about the sister/sister dynamic. It’s a hell of a lot more relatable than finding “the one” and as such manages to tug at the heartstrings more effectively.

Most of my fears brought on by the trailer were unfounded. I even started to like Olaf, a snowman who dreams of summer and hot weather, unaware of what happens to frozen water in heat. He’s still a goofy, kiddie-centric character, but this film is for them after all. The two princesses angle is handled very well and nowhere near as twee and retch-inducing as I thought it would be. They’re presented as actual people, rather than statuses and it’s goddamn refreshing. You just get where they’re coming from. You feel for the innocent Anna who, to her mind at least, has been shut out by her sister for no apparent reason. You feel for Elsa too, having the heft of responsibility weighing her down as well as a tremendous fear of her abilites. She’s half Rogue from X-Men and half Carrie from er…Carrie.

Frozen is a deliberate return to the spirit of Disney’s run of great films in the ’90s, complete with Broadway style musical numbers. Nothing’s worse than a crappy kids’ film that forces you to listen to some terrible dross written by a hack musician on their fag break. Thankfully, Frozen has some true belters. They’re not all instant classics – the troll song “Fixer Upper” in particular felt like it belonged in a different, shittier film. However, when they hit- they hit big. Elsa’s number “Let it Go” is truly fantastic, Menzel’s voice coupled with the gorgeous animation gave me actual chills- not the fake kind that most reviewers got to merely service a groaner pun. Every time Disney comes out with a decent film, people trip over themselves and start sputtering about a “Disney renaissance” and the House of Mouse being back to its best. Thing is, if they keep this up and continue marrying great songs with messages deeper than “love is nice”, I think these knee-jerks might be on to something.

“Hi, I’m Olaf and I like warm hugs!”

The film has its flaws, don’t get me wrong, but on reflection they don’t seem to matter as much. Frozen is exactly what it needs to be. It’s a smart, funny film suitable for all ages and contains songs destined to feature in lists of “Best Disney Songs Evarrr!”.Getting back to that overall message and the point of kids’ films I rambled about in the first paragraph. I think Frozen should be commended for having an overall message that won’t leave the little girls and boys watching it with a head full of sugar-coated nonsense about romance and entitlement. It’s got a realistic, down-to-earth message to it and a more relatable take on love in general. It’s simply a great film. Recommended.

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