Movie Review #763
Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee. Screenplay by Jennifer Lee. (Inspired by the story “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen. Story: Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee & Shane Morris. Additional story: Dean Wellins.) Produced by Peter Del Vecho for Walt Disney Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures. Starring the voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk, and Ciarán Hinds. Credited voice cameos: Livvy Stubenrauch, Eva Bella, Spencer Ganus, and additional voices by Jennifer Lee. Premiered in Hollywood, California on November 19, 2013. Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures in wide release on November 27, 2013. Sing-along version released on January 31, 2014. Rated PG: some action and mild rude humor. Runs 102 minutes.
In case you actually haven’t seen “Frozen” yet, you probably need a disclaimer: It’s not the “Citizen Kane” of Disney movies, nor is it the best Disney movie since “Fantasia”, nor is it the new “Lion King”. It’s a classic of its very own. It’s a movie that will have you in love with it, no matter how old you are, which is a great thing to be able to say about any animated movie. I am told that by my second viewing of “Frozen”, it won’t be the same spellbinding escapade as it was the first time around. That, to me, is like saying that by your second trip to Disney World, you’ve already done all the rides so it won’t be fun anymore.
The movie brings to spirited life one of Hans Christian Andersen’s lesser known fairy tales, “The Snow Queen”. Anna has grown up in a large castle without any friends. Her sister and her were once best buds, but something changed that ever so suddenly, and she can’t figure out what. One day her sister, whose name is Elsa, is crowned Queen and humiliates herself at the coronation by unveiling just what she’d been hiding from everyone in the kingdom for years: her ability to freeze anything she touches. She actually freezes everything eventually and plunges the world into an eternal winter. But despite the trouble Elsa has caused, Anna still wants her back and will do anything to return the world to summer, and to resurrect their companionship.
“Frozen” is a musical, and it’s much stagier than many live-action musicals tend to be. The animated set design is pitch-perfect, even if all it means is CGI to accentuate the 3-D that was available in most theaters and remains available on enhanced Blu-rays. What’s best about this production, of course, is the music itself. Idina Menzel (who I myself recall fondly as Maureen in the flop/guilty pleasure musical “Rent”) has a gorgeous voice. If the opening number “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” doesn’t say so, “Let It Go” surely does. I’m about as sick as you all are of hearing the song on the radio, but in “Frozen”‘s triumphant context, it’s as if it were a whole different song. The real surprise here is that Kristen Bell provides the beautiful voice of Anna, the girl who is searching for her recently crowned sister. Since when can freaking Veronica Mars sing? I wouldn’t a thunk it, but she does quite well.
The real showstopper here is Olaf the Snowman. I don’t recognize the actor’s name, but if he doesn’t benefit from the movie enough that I can recognize his name in a good five years’ time, then his character needs to be looked at by casting directors for voice and appearance roles alike. He’s basically the Jar-Jar Binks of the movie, and at the same time, “Frozen” would be a remarkably dull movie without him. His annoying quips are actually, you know, funny. Try not laughing when he randomly pulls out of his hat, “I don’t have a skull…or bones.” My sister and I skimmed back over lines like that over and over just to enjoy the hilarity of Olaf delivering so enthusiastically. I don’t imagine such a happy-go-lucky fellow when I hear the word “Olaf,” but to be honest, this guy’s just plain adorable to watch. He’s hands-down the greatest snowman in any medium since Frosty the Snowman.
I’ve every right to do to death how much I loved “Frozen”, and so I will, in hopes that it means you who haven’t seen it will see it. I would’ve seen it earlier myself, if I’d known just what I was missing. Sometimes it’s just hard to describe how fun this movie is, so maybe none of the recommendations did me any good (sorry, guys!), at least not for a while. Anyhow, I’m extremely glad now that I’ve seen the movie because I love it. I love it, love it, love it, love it, love it. Every waking moment of it (almost) was fun to watch. It’s a bit of a pain for me to note the one obvious flaw in the movie, which is that the writing, near the end, got seriously lazy. You don’t have to say that love has melted the snow, because the prophecy earlier in the film was that only true love can melt the snow. Now that the snow’s melted, I think we can put two and two together. And seriously, a personally cloud for Olaf to keep him alive during the summer? That’s just as lazy as killing him off because it’s summer, and as we all know, that’s not the favorite time of year among snowmen. That’s, like, two flaws out of an otherwise outstanding film. ✴
– Alexander Diminiano