Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Frozen (2013) (Movie Review)

     Before I review today’s movie, lets quickly look back at 1994, when the animated event of the year was this little movie called “The Lion King”. When that film came out, it was just this monster hit, breaking the box office more than any other animated movie that came before, selling more merchandise than any other and has a devoted massive fan base to this very day. Sure there were hits after words, and the critical consensus would often say something like “best animated movie sense The Lion King”. But no matter how successful future animated films would get, the critics and fans would still say “best animated movie sense The Lion King”, as if they never did surpass that movie, and all previous films just didn’t matter in the long run. So for the longest time it seemed that no other animated Disney movie could beat “The Lion King”, at least in popularity and success. Then in the winter of 2013 came another little animated Disney movie titled “Frozen”, and it took the world by storm. After all these years Disney did the impossible, they finally made an animated movie that actually surpassed “The Lion King”, but again in regards to box office success, merchandising and a massive fan base. Now I loved this movie when it first came out, but to be honest, I haven’t really thought of it much sense then. So I’m going to finally view this movie again to see if Disney’s runaway hit still holds up ... the short answer is YES!

      Our story is based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale “The Snow Queen”, making this Disney’s third animated adaption of one of his fables. The other two adaption’s are “The Little Mermaid” and a short film version of “The Little Match Girl”. Why Disney hasn’t done “Thumbelina” yet is anyone’s guise, but give it time, I’m sure they’ll adapt that popular Hans Christian Andersen fable as well. By the way, “The Emperor’s New Groove” doesn’t count, because that really wasn’t an adaption of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, they just have a similar title. Anyway, let’s get back to “Frozen”, which revolves around a young princess named Elsa and her sister named Anna. The former is born with mysterious ice related powers, which are also a little out of control. After accidently injuring her sister Anna, Elsa locks herself away in her palace with no connection to the outside world. The years aren’t kind to either siblings as the parents sadly die, the two can’t be there for one another, and Elsa is forced to take on the title of Queen. While Anna tries to make a life for herself, Elsa’s powers are revealed to everyone, forcing her to flee the Kingdome, leaving a terrible snow storm behind in her place. Thus, the young sister Anna embarks on a quest to save the land from an eternal winter, as well as rescue her sister from herself. Along the journey she makes new allies, as well as new enemies and a wild fantasy adventure ensues.

    There’s a simple formula that goes into just about every animated Disney movie, and it’s been my observation that the studio will do one of three things with that formula. Let me paraphrase it this way, there are Disney movies that stay within the box, Disney movies that break out of the Box, and Disney movies that tilt the box. “Frozen” is a Disney movie that takes all there classics tropes, formulas, clichés and tilts them on their side. It’s all very familiar to us, but presented in a way that feels fresh, new and isn’t just being satirical. The 2007 film “Enchanted” parodied the formula, but “Frozen” still maintained the same spirit while changing the game around. Here are some examples, we have a princess locked in a tower, but it’s due to her own personal struggles and not an evil villain keeping her locked away. We have a magical sorceress threatening a kingdom, but she’s not evil, just conflicted and needs guidance. There’s even a romance that blooms over a short period of time, all while the characters playfully mock the notion of love at first site, but without falling into self parody. The cliché of the princess falling in love with someone she just met is taken a step further as movie affectionately works in a stranger danger message. Without going into too much detail, there’s a surprise villain that I initially didn’t like at first at it felt like a cheap twist I saw coming from a mile away. However, this villain twist dose convey a really good message to young viewers, alerting them to the dangers of new people who seem perfect, which is all the more relevant today with the advent of online dating. Even the moral of finding true love is given a nice albeit predictable twist. Needless to say everything works hand in hand with a well written screen play, and an outstanding cast of memorable characters ... which reminds me.

    I love the Characters in this movie, it’s one of Disney’s best ensemble casts to come in ages. Princess Anna is just brimming with personality, I honestly can’t think of a moment in the film in which she didn’t put a big smile on my face. Her antics are funny, I love how determined she gets, I love her passion and think she’s the cutest of all the Disney royalty. Her sister Elsa also has a lot of personality, the only difference is that she masks her emotions. It’s also a nice touch that she takes on the status of queen, and I’m so grateful that the studio didn’t make her a villain, which she so easily could have been. Thus we have two terrific leading heroines for the price of one, and we latch onto them both for different reasons. Elsa stands out for her internal conflicts and raw emotions, while Anna wins us over with her irresistible charm and likability. The boy friend character named Hans is also very likable and his budding relationship with Anna is another one of the films many highlights. I like that a good chunk of this film comedy comes from the main characters themselves and not just the comedic side characters. Having said that, the films comedic relief is a magical snowman named Olaf, and he’s hands down my favorite sense the genie from “Aladdin”. So many of Disney’s comedic reliefs are so obnoxious and loud where as Olaf is charming, lovable, soft spoken, has his own character dynamic and is honestly quiet funny.

    The movie also has a nice variety of entertainment, and even some well placed action sequences. In the mid 90’s I felt that Disney lost some of it’s magic charm with perhaps a little too much action and not enough simplicity. “Frozen” strikes this perfect balance by giving us an adventure through a magic kingdom that’s very absorbing and has just enough exciting encounters along the way. The formula is actually kind of like “The Wizard of Oz” in a sense, as we follow one girl on a journey through an enchanted world, she makes several friends along the way, and the experience just feels light as air, even when our hero’s are attacked by wolves or a giant ice monster. The movie also unintentionally reminds me of the X-Men, which may sound like a random comparison, but really look the similarities here. We have a character “born” with magic powers, and is driven away by normal people who fear her gifts. She has ice themed powers just like the character Iceman. She also conceals her powers under her gloves while refusing to let anyone get close to her, just like the X-Men character Rouge. Even strains of her sisters hair turn which after a near death experience which again is just like the character Rouge.

    Okay, I went a little off topic there so let me compensate by addressing the next big highlight of the film ... the animation. I usually prefer traditional hand drawn animation over 3D computer animation, but I just can’t deny that the art work in “Frozen” is gorgeous. The detailed winter landscapes, the warm lighting, the imaginative designs, the colorful textures, it all just pops, and honestly, I think this is one of Disney’s best visual achievements. I could just get lost in this environment, and the winter setting dose create its own unique atmosphere that makes it stand apart from other fantasy worlds we’ve seen. Okay, lets finally talk about this films iconic sound track, as if it even needs mentioning. The music is unforgettable, and catchy, but it also has substance as the majority of these songs help move the story forward and convey what the characters are either feeling or experiencing. In short, this is an animated musical at its very best. Also, the majority of Disney animated musicals would only feature maybe five songs but this film goes the extra mile with several songs, all of them great and it just feels like a real musical that’s destined to be a Broadway classic.   

     Over the past couple years I’ve seen some wonderful animated movies, and while “How to Train Your Dragon” is still my favorite of the new millennium, “Frozen” is that rare instant classic that disserves every bit of its praise. It’s an important sign for me that Hollywood can still release quality material, and it gives me great hope for what Disney can do in the future. Now to be perfectly honest, I can’t say that “Frozen” is one of my top 10 favorite animated movies, or heck even top 10 Disney, but I do still love this movie, and look forward to watching it again. The animation is gorgeous, the characters are outstanding, the morals are pure, and the music is unforgettable. It’s without a doubt one of the greatest animated movies of the millennium, and I’m overjoyed to hear the critics and fans say ... best animated film sense “Frozen”, instead of “The Lion King”. 

                                                      I give “Frozen” 4 ½ stars out of 5.    

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