Saturday, January 11, 2014

Frozen



Here is yet another time where my review is coming a little bit late in the game. 2013 hasn't been a terrific year for animated movies. The Croods was terrible, Monsters University was very lackluster, and Despicable Me 2 was good, but not great. After so much positive word-of-mouth and so many box office dollars brought in, I had to see if Frozen could finally break that trend. Surprisingly, I didn't hear a lot about this film until probably a month or two prior to its release, and even then the trailer failed to excite me very much. Only my incessant following of awards rumors gave me the slightest indication that Frozen would be worth seeing. 

Anna takes special pleasure in waking up her sister Elsa to make a snowman, but her excitement grows when Elsa's gift to generate snow transforms the ball room into a winter wonderland. However, as they play Elsa accidentally strikes Anna with her magic in a misguided attempt to catch her fall, and their parents immediately take extreme precautionary measures to protect both girls. Over the years Anna cannot play with Elsa anymore, and all the memories of her sister's gift have been taken away in order to preserve her life. However, on the day of Elsa's coronation a love-struck and naive Anna inadvertently brings out her sister's powers in front of their subjects, leading to her banishment and an eternal winter spreading over the kingdom of Arendelle. Not one to give up, Anna treks through the snow to not only save her freezing people, but also her guarded sister from a frigid self-imposed isolation before all hope is lost.

This film completely took me by surprise, particularly because part of me was expecting a watered-down version of Tangled. Instead, this ended up being one of the best and infectiously entertaining films of the entire year and one of Disney's better efforts. I couldn't help but be drawn in by the beautiful animation and the likable characters. What pushed this film over the edge for me, however, was the music. The songs were powerful, inspirational, and even heartbreaking at times, incredibly performed by Idina Menzel (Wicked) and Kristen Bell (who I had no idea was so musically talented). This song alone makes this movie a must-see.

As I said, the trailer for Frozen makes it look like a film primarily focused on entertaining children without much humor or character development that would appeal to all ages. I even went into this movie expecting the film to get a three star rating, which I always try to avoid doing. I was therefore surprised to find that Disney actually went to great efforts to make a film that everyone could enjoy (as the enormous box office receipts can attest). Even some of the sillier characters like the reindeer Sven and the magical snowman Olaf were far more amusing than I was expecting.

About halfway through the film, however, I thought I knew exactly where this film was going and was a little disappointed by my expectations. I started to lose investment in the story at this point, thinking that the creative potential this film had started out with in the first half was being squandered for a more stereotypical Disney-fied third act. Thankfully, the film threw me through a loop with its brilliant subversion of probably every audience member's expectations. The character of Anna is a great update on the average Disney princess (with a few exceptions), as she ultimately is the one who shows her strength instead of merely being saved.

In short, Frozen is a tremendous family film with a powerful and unique message that is definitely worth investing in emotionally (not that you'll be able to help it). It sets a new precedent for the power as well as the ultimate meaning of true love in a Disney film, and the incredible music and captivating visuals makes this not only the best animated film of the year (there's no doubt it will win the Oscar for Best Animated Film) but one of the best films of the year period. I was totally charmed by this film, and I give it a solid four stars.

FROZEN is rated PG for some action and mild rude humor