10 December, 2013

Review: Frozen directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee

Oh, hey, Frozen, you sure are super, super white! What's that you say? It's the setting? They're pseudo-Scandinavian? Oh. Ok. Except no. I finally get a female focused Disney film that doesn't end in a wedding and what do I do? I ask for more. Why shouldn't I? This is a film for all of our children set in a fantasy kingdom where dignitaries from far away lands arrive to witness a queen's coronation. Why are only some of our children represented? Whatever. Let's move on.

There's a lot to like about Frozen. While I'm not a fan of the musical interludes, I know Disney makes serious money on their soundtrack hustle. There was nothing objectionable here. The instrumental tracks felt stronger than the vocal ones, although I heard kids singing the vocals as we left the theater. Visually the film is beautiful, with some of their best character conception in decades. A Ghibli influence was noticeable in the troll scenes, but not in an intrusive manner. Anna and her sister Elsa were distinct characters with different goals. Having been overprotected by helicopter parents (quickly dispatched), both are ready to face the world. Elsa greets the end of her invisible guardianship with fearful trepidation. Anna greets it with an overenthusiastic need for love and companionship. Both are logical outcomes of their situation.
Snow White, plus size Princess

It's interesting that in a film about fearing female power the filmmakers seem afraid to fully unleash the sisters. While there are villains to overcome and boys to consider and adorable sidekicks to meet (more Olaf, please) overall there isn't quite enough between them. Anna is perhaps too forgiving and understanding. Elsa is perhaps too self sacrificing. While Anna dominates the screen it's Elsa we want to spend more time with. Anna's conventionally quirky exuberance is familiar. She's a bit manic and a lot pixie. Her self confidence and loyalty are engaging, it's true. Elsa is a less common female lead. A reluctant queen afraid to indulge her own emotions, Elsa is a study in externally imposed self containment. The true message of Frozen is ultimately not of sisterhood, but of society's Good Girl imperative.

Elsa breaks out in Diva
When Elsa breaks free of her kingdom to live in splendid isolation she transforms. Joy lights her face, freedom infuses her body, and suddenly she gets a makeover. A free Elsa is an MTV Music Awards Elsa. She spins about and transforms from a beautiful woman into a white, ass-free Beyonce. As a viewer, I think WTF? Meanwhile, Anna is aged by her familial disappointment, a disappointment only more family interaction can heal. (It's a fantasy piece.) Anna is urged to see that everyone is imperfect and only though accepting our flaws can we stand together. Which is an odd message, considering the characters Anna sees as flawed are simply different than her. Add in a lovely piece about the joys of infidelity and Frozen is rolling toward the finale. Elsa sees that shutting the world out can't stop her from hurting them, but embracing it will. Anna takes her beer goggles off and her intrepid guide Kristoff continues to spend questionable quality time with his beloved reindeer.

Fantasia's Thinspiration Fairies
Frozen is a step in the right direction for Disney animation, but I left the film thinking they still have room for improvement. I definitely recommend seeing Frozen in the theater, but I can't unthinkingly swoon. I'd put Frozen near the top of the Princess films, however. This is better than Beauty & The Beast or The Little Mermaid, even if the stakes are far lower. We needed to spend less time tromping through the snow or eavesdropping on the various villains and more time exploring the women at Frozen's heart. This is the rare Disney film that leaves you wanting more than you had and probably asks for a repeat viewing.


  1. Good review. A pleasant time for anybody who sees this, even the parents themselves.

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