If Disney’s Frozen has a single problem, it’s under/mis-marketing. Most of the posters and trailers, focusing on the more “buddy movie” moments and on comic relief snowman Olaf (Josh Gad), will give completely the wrong impression of the film. Instead, not only does this film, based upon Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, deliver all one would want from a Disney Princess tale, it goes further. This film may be the biggest shake-up to the formula in years.
Princess Elsa (Idina Menzel) has a gift, a power to conjure cold, snow and ice. But she is scared of it, of what it can do, leading to her isolating herself from everyone, including her sister Anna (Kristen Bell). On the day of her coronation though, circumstances lead her to be revealed, and she retreats into the wilderness in the hope she can let it loose without harming anyone. But this act has put the kingdom in grave jeopardy and Anna decides to set off to try and bring her home and put things right.
This film stands head and shoulders above many other Disney films in one main respect; character depth and focus. The first act involves quite a lot of set-up for the later stages, but it is entirely necessary as this story is so dependent on the dynamics between the main characters. The relationship between Anna and Elsa is integral to the whole story, with them both representing different sides of one’s issues of growing up. Anna is forever thinking that everything will just fall into place when she comes of age, and in many ways quite naive, learning that things don’t just “fall into place”, you have to work on them. Elsa is far more fearful, both of changes within herself she doesn’t fully understand, and blocking the real help she needs from coming. It’s the depths of these two that drives the film and leads to the big questions like “will Elsa go full on Magneto with her powers?”. Plus this is definitely a rare case of a Disney movie passing the Bechdel Test.
As for the rest of the cast and story, let’s get the main concern out of the way given how much he’s been marketed; Olaf isn’t a bad comic relief at all. In a way he represents a lost part of Anna and Elsa’s childhood together, and his hopes of seeing summer and warmth despite the obvious problem makes him have a weirdly tragic side. There’s excellent support all round, with an interesting set up of having two hunky male love interest characters, Hans the Prince (Santino Fontana) and Kristoff the Ice Farmer (Jonathan Groff) (with his reindeer Sven). How these two, Anna and Elsa fit together in the end makes for an extra edge to things and the resolution to this may surprise you. In fact, that’s the real joy of the story here, in that the final act, even though one may know how traditional Disney fairytale fare plays out, it actually delivers a few points that turn the whole thing upside down. Not only are they good turns, but they fit the story and the morals it’s making like a glove. To say more would cause major spoilers, but this is likely to be one people really remember.
Aside from plot and story, purely technically the film is a marvel too. The Winter (well, technically cursed Summer) scenery is a joy to look at, just in time for Christmas. It’s very good to see them drawing on actual Nordic and Scandinavian influences for a lot of the designs and situations, especially a bunch of Trolls that turn up. But while it’s gorgeous on the eyes, it’s even better on the ears. Not only are the songs by Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez incredibly memorable, but the cast give it their all as well, not least thanks to some very wise casting. Olaf’s first song In Summer works thanks to Josh Gad’s experience with The Book of Mormon, and the real show stopper is Idina Menzel giving all the talent she displayed in Wicked for the centrepiece of the film Let It Go. It’s very probable that Frozen is the best soundtrack Disney has had since Aladdin, and they fit the story well, especially the way they completely change mood over the course of their scenes. A guarantee; you will cry by the end of the song Would You Like to Build a Snowman.
Frozen is best seen in 3D. While the depth adds a lot to some of the landscapes, chase scenes and snow effects, it’s really worth it for the short at the start, Mickey Mouse in Get a Horse. It’s a whole bundle of fun, one of the best things Disney’s done with the character in years, and it demands that extra dimension. It’s also worth staying until the very end of the credits. Not only is there a good post-credits Easter-egg scene, but there’s some extra hidden gems in the credits themselves.
Frozen is a must see for this Christmas. Just as one may think the Disney formula has been done to death, to the point that movies like Enchanted and Shrek can spend all their runtime saying that, this has come along to show it can evolve. It has a clever screenplay, songs that will rattle in your head right through to next Christmas, and incredible characters. In fact, while Anna is the official Disney Princess here, it’s more than plausible Elsa will be the one the fan base will embrace and truly treasure. It’s a fantastic treat for a family, but even if you don’t have kids, it’s more than worth seeing if you’re a bit nostalgic for classic Disney. An ideal Christmas treat, go check it out.