Thursday, 21 November 2013

Frozen (Review)

Rating: ½

Disney is once again turning to fairy tales as the source of their next animated adventure. This time it's Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen that is getting the Disney treatment. But in an attempt to make the classic tale a little cooler has Disney lost track of what makes it so enchanting?

Cool As Ice
With a catchy new title, Frozen is the story of two sisters. One is called Elsa. She is struggling to control her ice powers and so runs way to hide in the mountains where she can't hurt anyone. The other is called Ana. She is desperate to find Elsa and bring her home to undo the icy damage she has left in her wake. On her travels Ana meets the lovable talking snow man Olaf and the lonesome ice farmer Kristof. The story turns into a classic quest very similar to Disney's wildly successful film Tangled. Maybe even slightly too similar to Tangled. For example: Ana's personality and appearance are nearly identical to Rapunzel's, not to mention that her relationship with Kristof is the same as the one Rapunzel has with Flynn Rider. You could almost call Frozen Tangled in the Snow? 

Snow Song
Something that Tangled did fall a little flat on was the songs whereas Frozen is a return to form with songs such as Let It Go rivalling some of Disney's classics. The spine-tingling musical numbers were written and composed by the husband-and-wife songwriting team of Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez who have had previous success with The Book Of Mormon and Avenue Q. Let It Go is the uplifting ballad Elsa sings as she releases the full force of her ice powers. Similar to Defying Gavity from Wicked the number will leave you frozen in awe. The least successful number though was Fixer Upper which although it was catchy seemed a little pointless and unnecessary.

Sisterly Love
Kristen Bell does a brilliant job bringing to life the quirky Ana. Idina Menzel on the other hand gave a good performance but I found her miscast as Elsa. She has a very distinctive voice and it is just too recognisable as Elphaba in Wicked the role that she originally became famous for. Elsa's songs are already very similar to the ones in Wicked but I think casting Idina was a step too far. A lesser known actress might have given the part a little more individuality.

In fact my number one problem with Frozen was Elsa! I think the decision to make the Snow Queen misunderstood instead of outright evil was incredibly disappointing. I was hoping for her to be regal and malevolent similar to other great Disney villainesses such as the Evil Queen or Maleficent. Instead Elsa was pathetic and doe-eyed. Clearly Disney just wanted another damsel to add to its popular princess line. I think Elsa would have still been a popular character even as a villainess. And Disney should learn from their early work, and realise that children nowadays enjoy being scared as much as they did in the 1930s - and shouldn't shy away from having the occasional evil leading character. Also, surely the most powerful element of the original fairytale is the ice-cold wickedness of Andersen's Snow Queen, so it's a shame that Disney decided to water her down so much.

Josh Gad was hilarious as Olaf the snowman! Even though he contributes little to the story he was clearly a favourite of the children in the cinema as they roared with laughter whenever he was on the screen.

Winter Wonderland
I'm a big fan of animation so I have to talk about the visuals for a moment. In some points in Frozen I found the animation a little lackluster. Maybe after Tangled, the second most expensive film of all time (no joke), Disney was trying to cut corners to save a little money. Elsa's ice palace was beautifully detailed and her stunning ice powers are a definite highlight of the film. Although the ice and snow looked very realistic the fabric the characters wore seemed stiff and some of the extras had clearly been duplicated. But people who aren't animation geeks probably won't even notice.

Heart As Cold As Ice
The film had a magnificent opening sequence which continued to build momentum brilliantly until about halfway through the film, but then it started to lose focus as too many elements were added into the plot and far too much of the conflict between Ana and Elsa is caused by misunderstandings and accidents. Sadly, this diluted the drama making it less satisfying than it should have been after that fantastic beginning.

I know I've been pretty critical of Frozen but it's only because I have such high expectations for Disney animated fairy tales. Overall it was great fun and it's message of sisterly love was heartwarming. I think maybe I would have enjoyed it more if it wasn't meant to be an adaptation of the Snow Queen because I'm a big fan of the original story which is so epic and could have made a great film. Frozen is a cool adventure for all the family, but it could have been so much more.

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1 comment:

  1. Hello, nice review. I thought I was the only one who thinks Idina was a miscast as Elsa. I completely agree with you, her voice does not match Elsa's visual image at all. That was my only complaint with Frozen.

    What I disagree with you is the songs. Although "Let it go" is a really good song, overall Tangled songs are better in my opinion. I only like one or two songs in Frozen, but I like twice as many songs in Tangled.