Sunday, December 1, 2013

Review of Frozen: This Ain't Your Father's Disney Musical

Once upon a time, Walt Disney Pictures made animated features based on fairy tales where there was a beautiful princess who had to be saved by a Prince Charming, and it all ended happily ever after.

Then Enchanted came along and made a bunch of money. and Disney decided that the old formula could be revamped and improved. That's why Brave won Best Animated Feature at the Oscars last February.

The likely winner in 2014 is Frozen, a new spin on Hans Christen Anderson's "The Snow Queen" and Disney musicals in general. There's the beautiful princess, and two handsome love interests. However, the villain isn't where you expect.

It begins in Arendelle, where there are two princesses, Anna (Kristen Bell--yep, Veronica Mars could have done her own musical if given the chance) and Elsa (Idina Menzel). Elsa has the power to produce winter, but it causes an accident that almost kills Anna. The King and Queen decide to keep the sisters separate, and erase the memory of the accident. The castle is also closed to everyone. After the King and Queen die, Elsa is about to take the throne. While she looks cold, she is struggling to keep her icy touch in check. The pressures overcome her, and she puts the kingdom under eternal winter.  She's forced to leave and build her own Castle of Solitude.

Meanwhile, Anna wants to marry Prince Hans (Santino Fontana) after knowing him for one entire song. Elsa objects, which caused her power to go out of control. Anna endures very cold conditions to get her sister back with some help from Kristoff (Johnathan Groff), an ice deliverer, and his reindeer named Sven. Kristoff is also skeptical about Anna thinking Hans is "meant to be".
To serve as comic relief, there's a talking snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad) who wants to experience summer...although he's not aware of what that's like. There's a great song where he dreams of being in summer and getting a tan.

What's great about this movie is that Elsa is not the villain. She is the victim of a power she'd give anything to lose, but thinks pushing people away is the only thing she can do. Her fear amplfiies that power to disastrous results, and freezes her sister's heart. When Anna is told that true love can save her, she thinks kissing Prince Hans will solve everything.

She is right. True love will save everyone. Where it really comes from makes this a very different kind of Disney musical. It's a great story, with Disney princesses taking charge of the "happily ever after" part. It also has two songs that could get Oscar gold. My choice would be "Let It Go" over "For the First Time in Forever", but "Reindeer Are Better Than People" may be a cult hit.

UPDATE: here's "Let It Go", thanks to YouTube...

Before the movie, there is what seems to be a Mickey Mouse cartoon from 1929 called "Get A Horse". After a minute or two, it's more than that. We see the original Mickey Mouse emerge from the 3-D. That genre-bending touch could lead to the Mouse's first Oscar for Best Animated Short. He won in 1932 for being created, but not in competition.

As far as the trailers are concerned, there's going to be a flood of new animated movies. There's The Nut Job, about squirrels hoping to break into a nut shop to survive the winter, the Lego Movie, about a Lego piece who is "the chosen one" for some mission, and Walking With Dinosaurs, which might remind people of The Land Before Time. There was also the trailer for Muppets Most Wanted, where Kermit is mistaken for a jewel thief. Even with Tina Fey with a ridiculous accent, Ty Burrell with a pencil-thin mustache, and Danny Trejo somehow appearing, I'm not sure about this one.

I also saw Hunger Games: Catching Fire recently. This franchise will succeed through the end thanks to Jennifer Lawrence. She's born to be Katniss, and her performance is the best thing about this movie. he movie is wise to show that just because she and Peeta survived the 74th Games doesn't mean they go back to their lives as nothing happened. The scars from that experience reveal themselves time and again. She's also identfied as a threat to the status quo at Panem, and a symbol of revolt. She'd rather not have this status, but the more the government responds in severe ways, the more she's willing to fight. Her last defining moment in this movie is proof of that. It should be interesting how they turn Mockingjay into two movies, since the overall plot goes from a game to a war.

1 comment:

Dan O. said...

Of course the kids are going to love it more, but there's still plenty to be enjoyed by the parents in this flick. Good review David.