Mania Review: Frozen -

Mania Review

Mania Grade: B+

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  • Starring the Voices of: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk and Ciaran Hinds
  • Written by: Jennifer Lee
  • Directed by: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
  • Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
  • Rating: PG
  • Run Time: 108 minutes
  • Series:

Mania Review: Frozen

One for the sisters.

By Rob Vaux     November 28, 2013

Cold Shoulder or Winter Wonderland?
© Walt Disney

 I think it’s clear that we’re in the midst of a second Disney animated Renaissance, albeit slightly more modest than the first one which began with 1989’s The Little Mermaid. With John Lasseter’s arrival from Pixar, the House of Mouse has shown an eager desire to both revive and reinvent its “princess” stories. The Princess and the Frog and Tangled were tentative first steps. But now Frozen arrives to redefine what these figures are supposed to be, and in the process perhaps show the way to Disney’s animated future.

Indeed, these are the first princesses who actually seem born to rule: doing real, important things rather than fulfilling the tweener fantasies about gowns and balls and boys and stuff. The eldest, Elsa (voice by Idina Menzel) possesses the power to control snow and frost: a power that almost killed her sister Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) when they were younger. She’s learned to repress it lest the people she rules turn on her with a torches-and-pitchforks party. But in the process, she pushes Anna away, and on the day of her coronation, it all goes to pot.

The energy focuses on these two, though Anna has a pair of potential suitors (one handsome and charming, one snarkier but still charming) to keep up appearances. And the format closely follows the Broadway musical model that’s served them well since Howard Ashman’s day. This time, they’ve tasked Book of Mormon scribes Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez to handle the songs. They’re bolder and showier than the typical Randy Newman rut previous animated features have slipped into, and well-suited to a positive but comparatively serious story like this one. It’s big and brassy, but never overwhelming, and the showstopping centerpiece “Let It Go” (accompanied by the staggering creation of an ice palace from Elsa’s powers) makes a strong case at the Best Original Song Oscar this year.

That’s a good thing because some parts of Frozen reflect a slightly rushed schedule. Not in the story, which sparkles under directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, and finds the right tone for a tale that requires no small amount of delicacy.  But some of the animation feels a little rushed: a few cut corners and speedy renderings that suggest haste winning the battle over quality. It still looks good, just not quite as good as we’ve come to expect from Disney.

The trappings, too, sometimes cling a little too close to the past for comfort. There’s a few colorful sidekicks – a reindeer and a snowman, the latter of whom I tried so hard to loathe before voice actor Josh Gad won me over – who clearly serve to sell toys first and participate in the tale second. The plot stumbles from time to time, and while it endeavors to strike out in new directions, it still can’t leave the sanctuary of the mothership like it should.

Contrast that, however, with a refreshing take on some of Disney’s classic tropes like true love and the value of friendship. Frozen received a lot of buzz around the studio for its “twist” ending, and while it’s not quite as surprising as it appears, it carries a wisdom that sneaks up on you if you let it. The screenplay carries its share of clever lines (Bell makes the most of them), and the pacing is brisk and upbeat. We expect all of that from a Disney film, but by altering the traditional formula in subtle ways, this one shows us that they’re unwilling to simply rest on their laurels.  

You can see that most in the two sisters, in the way they bounce so agreeably off of each other, and in the fact that they resemble no Disney princesses that have come before. Elsa is reserved and somber, afraid to unleash her power and consumed with the guilt of carrying it in the first place. Anna is bright and effervescent, but also a bit of a klutz and given to awkward ramblings when she gets nervous. That comes on top of the bravery and strength and stalwartness we’ve come to expect from such figures. In short, they’re the kinds of figures that little girls can really relate to, instead of just presenting a perfection that no one can actually achieve. They’re such strong personalities that the movie doesn’t even need a traditional villain, though one eventually shows up. It’s their dynamic that pulls us along, makes us care, and ultimately lifts Frozen above the by-the-numbers also ran it might have become. These are not your mother’s heroines, and animation is just a little bit stronger for them as a result. 


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CaptAmerica04 11/29/2013 7:33:55 AM

You left out Merida as one of the most refreshing of the "new" Disney princesses, and the one to strike out farthest from the Disney Princess mold that has been laid out and repeated so often in the past.

Dazzler 11/30/2013 6:18:54 AM

Ice queen could have gone the evil route in this but did not.  Good message there.  Tad boring at times, but it kept my interest to the end.  They probably could have left the silly snowman out of the movie but I get it's for kids sake, but I don't think kids are that dumb they need a silly goofball character in every toon movie.  With all the tech with question and get a fast answer from web these days, kids can get smarter if they want to.  Musicical was ok but not rememberable to me to buy it. 

TheMovieM8niac 11/30/2013 11:06:46 AM

Like all things movies too are changing with the philosophies or our up-and-comnig youth. When someone is stuck in the gunslinger days where the role of a female is to make chow and care for the children, there's a limit set on them. Nowadays females have more responsibilities of having the same, but adding in a dual role of fatherhood by being the provider at the same time; this means the woman needs to be stronger as a youth, just in case.

Unfortunately, there are still some movies claiming to boost the moral of women, like the Dr. Doolittle movie entitled Dr. Doolittle: Million Dollar Mutts that has the eldest daughter following in her father's footsteps, proving women can do the same job, just as well. She doesn't prove this though, because there is not ONE shot in the film where she isn't displaying her ample bosom in a low-cut top. What this film does is fall back into the "olden days" where women showing cleavage work in the bar in order to manipulate men.  Thestory would have been much more palatable, had she moved ahead solely on her merit and kindness. Also, the only intelligent male in the movie was a guy that puppied around after her.

As long as we keep moving forward with what society is approving, the scripts will become richer and more in demand. It sounds like this movie is another big step towards our "today" world. For that I applaud and look forward to seeing it myself. Keep growing, or be run over!

jsmulligan 12/1/2013 12:15:26 PM

We took our 4 year old daughter to see this on Wednesday morning and thought it was fantastic.  It held her attention pretty well until she started getting tired and started moving around to stay awake (not Frozen's fault, she woke up at 6:30, showtime was at 10:40, movie didn't start until after 11 due to previews and the short).  Enjoyed the songs and story, laughed quite a bit, and it even had my wife tearing up early on.  I really like how they subverted the usual Disney idea of "true love".

jsmulligan 12/1/2013 12:17:23 PM

Capt - While done under the Disney banner, and Merida has been crowned as an "official Disney Princess", Brave was technically a Pixar flick, so that might have something to do with the ommission.

LadyBrowncoat 12/2/2013 10:35:02 AM

 Saw this and thought it was outstanding.  Idina Menzel has such a powerful singing voice, and she didn't sing a note in Enchanted, so it was good to see that they utilized her talents in this one.

ignitethepages 12/3/2013 12:41:45 PM

Took my two girls(5 and 3) to see this, my three year old teared up at the beginning.  I think that is the first time a movie has touched her heart like that and that made the whole movie worthwhile for me.  

XeroWarp 12/3/2013 5:29:40 PM

 This beats anything Pixar has done lately and will be a definate Blu Ray purchase! Great film.



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