You may remember that some time ago I was definitively outraged at the announcement of Frozen. I won’t go into detail here but if you want to know my reasons they can be found HERE.
However, given the Frozen frenzy that has taken over the world recently and the announcement that Frozen is now the highest grossing animated film of all time I figured I should give it a watch.
I was actually pleasantly surprised by Frozen. I remember watching Princess and the Frog and Tangled through half covered eyes at the cringingly awful, dumbed-down dialogue and animation. They were both so inherently unenjoyable and disappointing. Frozen, on the other hand was genuinely fun to watch. The story is interesting and the songs really carry it, the film even have the old-style musical motif that accompanies each character and here it’s used to great effect. The duets where Elsa and Anna’s melodies merge are truly beautiful moments with great writing. What’s more, the opening seems to be returning to the format of the Disney Renaissance films (Everything between The Little Mermaid in 1989 and Tarzan in 1999) which included a musical prologue of sorts, outlining the themes of the film. It’s a hopeful direction and I’m glad to see a little of the old Disney sparkle.
However, Frozen is narratively weak. Anna is our main character, she’s mildly clumsy and giggles a lot but is otherwise a totally bland female whose goal in life is to find a man. Literally. Disney tried to poke fun at the whole Disney Princess trope but absolutely, utterly failed. The assumption is that us, the audience, will cry out with joy every time someone repeats, “You can’t marry someone you just met.”, which they do repeat, many times. No one told the writers that self-referential humour doesn’t work when it’s delivered with a sledgehammer. In Addition, Anna is significantly more weak and anti-feminist than any of the princesses who “married a man they just met”. Even Snow White and Cinderella had to endure parental abuse before breaking away, defying standards, so they could live their life and eventually getting a Prince Charming as well. Anna wakes up one day and decides she wants a man, sings about it and gets one. That is the conclusion of Frozen and I fail to see how that is progressive in any way. Besides, the two men that she ends up falling for both bring along a debatably credible side plot. The merchant rivalry and magical trolls don’t really add much to the story and serve to confuse the message and narrative more than anything else. Kristoff, particularly seems to have been shoved in because they wanted Anna to get a guy, rather than actually learn that maybe there is something more valuable than marriage. She could have trekked off alone into the wilderness to fix her relationship with her sister and save Arandelle but instead she runs crying to the nearest burly male to help her. No hope of a positive message there.
The story structure of Frozen just doesn’t work. The driving force of the plot is Elsa, not Anna. Elsa is making changes and dealing with a personal struggle, Anna is just reacting to these things as she bobs along. There’s really no journey for her. At the beginning of the film she loves her sister, despite Elsa’s behaviour, and she wants a husband. By the end of the film she has not changed either of these views or learnt anything new. The character who grows in the film is Elsa. She discovers how to deal with her problems, how to let love rule her life, instead of fear, and becomes the ruler she was born to be. I think the fact that Elsa’s song ‘Let it Go’ is considered the definitive song of the film is proof that something is wrong. If the audience is in complete agreement that the best moment of the film is the song that doesn’t even include the main character there is a problem. Elsa is strong, independent and feminist. She is a queen, a fighter but still a young girl dealing with growing up through the metaphor of her powers. Surely that is the story young girls want to hear? Not the story of being ditsy and idiotic until eventually someone much stronger and more interesting than you gets to take over?
I stand by many of the things I said in my original post. Idina Menzel does play basically the exact same character as she did in Wicked. Yet, unlike Wicked, Frozen refuses to actually focus on this clearly interesting and relatable character: The type of character that made a Broadway musical a cool thing for teenage girls to watch. It’s not an adaptation of The Snow Queen, it’s a vague allusion with some bastardisation thrown in. This is epitomised in the fact that the character they named after Hans Christian Anderson actually turns out to be pure evil. Way to respect the original work, Disney. The animation is better than I expected but there are moments where it is impossible to tell which female character is which when you can’t see their costumes. The character design is deeply flawed. The comedy aspects take the form of not one, but two anthropomorphic sidekicks, both of which are relatively unnecessary alone but certainly don’t need to both be around.
- Entertainment: 3/5
- Artistic: 2/5
- Intellectual: 0/5