|Is it a winter wonderland, or a cold shoulder from Disney|
While Disney hasn't exactly entered into a "bad" phase, it is very arguably that their films have suffered a general drop in quality since the 1990s; however the same can be said of animation in general...yes that means Pixar too. With mediocre films like Despicable Me being the new standard for family friendly animation, and Pixar's reign seemingly coming to an end, the previous two years haven't been exactly stellar. So with the bar set pretty low, it's difficult to disappoint this year, but let's just say Frozen is both a welcome return to form for Disney, and the savior of animation for this year.
Loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tale The Snow Queen, Frozen is a tale of two sisters, Anna and Elsa, whom are both the princesses of the idyllic Arendelle. Elsa is special however, in that she possesses a magical gift to conjure and control ice and snow, much to the awe of her younger sister. One night, while the two girls play with Elsa's magic, she accidently hits Anna with one of her spells, and while Anna is healed and wiped of any memory regarding her trauma, the King and Queen decide to close the castle doors, and keep Elsa hidden from the world to protect both her, and others from her rapidly growing powers. For many years, the two sisters never see each other, with their relationship only worsening after a series of events including the untimely death of their parents when their ship is rolled by a wave, Anna's over-eagerness to marry Prince Hans of the Southern Islands (whom she just met), and the exposure of Elsa's powers to the kingdom's frightened subjects at her coronation as Queen. Anna goes after Elsa with the help of the rugged ice trader Kristoff, and his reindeer Sven, to bring her frightened sister out of her self-imposed exile, and end the infinite Winter that has befallen Arendelle.
The plot does indeed follow the traditional Disney formula, however this movie will surprise even the most cynical of Disney fans with it's uncanny knack for poking fun at, and even subverting certain tropes and cliches usually surrounding the "Disney Princess Narrative". Frozen has a cast of many interesting characters (something lacking in recent Disney films), including (believe it or not) a comic relief character who isn't annoying or detracts from the movie, and is actually quite funny. The writing is clever, insightful, and very fun, making it a movie that adults will love just as much as the children (maybe even more so).
Frozen sports some of the best 3D animation I have ever seen in a movie. All of the backdrops are gorgeous, the characters look great, but the best parts definitely lie in the animation of Elsa's powers, as the ice effects will dazzle any and all viewers and really make this movie quite literally magical, though I would probably still just see it in 2D.
The voice acting and singing is definitely top of the line, thanks in part to Disney's decision to cast mostly broadway actors and actress who provide their own singing voices, thus preventing any vocal whiplash during the musical numbers ("cough" like in Aladdin "cough"). There isn't exactly a weak-link in the casting, but the star of this show is definitely Idina Menzel (of Wicked fame) who gives an excellent vocal performance as Elsa, with a very honorable mention going to Kristen Bell as Anna. However, where this movie is at its weakest is in its songs...now hear me out, the singing is very good, they are staged very well, and the songs aren't "bad" (though there is one particular stinker that stops the movie dead in its tracks for 3 minutes) but what really puts me off about them is their tone, almost all of them sound incredibly pop-esque, as opposed to the broadway style musical numbers found in movies like Beauty and the Beast or The Hunchback of Notre Dame, even the movie's showstopper song that I really liked (Let it Go) definitely sounds like it was written to be covered by a pop artist and make lotsa money (and lo and behold Demi Lovato shows up in the credits singing it).
Frozen was a sheer delight to watch, and a very much-needed breath of fresh air in this rather lackluster year for animation in general, in fact I'm quite sure that Frozen is a shoe-in to take all of the Oscars in the animation department, especially since it's competition includes such dreck as Free Birds, and Despicable Me 2. Take the family and go see it to both have a great time at the movies, and expose your children to some quality animation.
- Great characters
- Great plot that toys with expectations a little
- Beautiful animation
- Excellent voice-work both acting and singing
- Slightly hollow pop tone to some of the songs
- Slightly formulaic