I know, I know, I’m one of the last three people in the whole world to have seen Frozen…but at least I caught it a few hours before it picked up its Oscars. Some thoughts:
In general, it’s an impressive film, and it’s definitely in the upper tier of modern-era Disney animated features. I don’t think it quite reaches the topmost tier alongside Beauty & the Beast, but it’s a solid companion piece to Tangled and Brave and more of a traditional musical than either of those. One online comment I scanned earlier today referred to the movie as “Wicked Light” — which is both an apt characterization and a very good reason for Disney to be developing a stage version.
The opening setup sequences are troubling in a couple of respects. First, I need a second look at the initial sequence between the sisters’ parents and the rock troll elder. While the trolls are ultimately portrayed as benign, the elder’s blocking of Anna’s memories is a key catalyst for the subsequent crisis — which is a trifle disconcerting when we eventually see the trolls again. The second catalyst is the late King’s and Queen’s spectacular failure to follow up on the elder’s advice that Elsa must learn to control her powers; rather, they reinforce Elsa’s choice to try and suppress them instead. The parents’ deaths are also peculiar. Their passing is decidedly convenient for the plot, and — amazingly — causes no political upheaval whatsoever in Arendelle. It’s unclear how much time elapses between the deaths and Elsa’s coronation, but I had the definite sense that Elsa wasn’t old enough to take the crown immediately. Yet we see nothing about a regency council or royal advisors, and no one objects when Anna puts a wholly foreign noble in charge of the kingdom while she goes after Elsa. This is…odd at best.
The other scene I want to see again is Anna’s initial dockside meeting with Prince Hans. Despite having waited 15 weeks to see Frozen, I had managed to avoid being spoiled for Hans’ character arc, and I entirely failed to anticipate the twist he springs on newly white-haired Anna on her return to the palace. One key reason for this involves the last few moments of that first meeting, in which Hans’ horse drops him into the fjord…and even though Anna is no longer there, the bit is played purely for its comic effect, with no change in the tenor of Hans’ reaction. It’s a very sneaky fake-out, and I’m not sure whether to compliment the creative team for its deviousness or chastise them for essentially cheating viewers with regard to the scene’s true context. In the end, Hans emerges as one of Disney animation’s creepiest villains (offhand, I’d rate only Frollo of the much-underrated Hunchback of Notre Dame as nastier), in which light it’s unnerving that he’s also one of the few who survives mostly unscathed by film’s end.
The preceding reservations notwithstanding, I enjoyed the movie very much. The animators do their usual brilliant work with the various sidekick characters, the deliberate winks at fairy-tale convention are clever — clearly, both sisters have seen Enchanted, the film that introduces the phrase “true love’s kiss” to the Disney canon — and the chemistry between Kristen Bell’s Anna and Idina Menzel’s Elsa is charming throughout. (It may be just me, but I also find it amusing that both actresses were cast against type: the blonde is playing a brunette, while the brunette is playing a blonde.)
My overall grade: B+ (A for voice performances, A for visuals, B for music, C+ for script/story). Not quite a classic, but a very respectable effort.