First things first: if you’re expecting a faithful animated telling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, you are likely to be disappointed. Frozen is an even greater departure from its source material than Tangled (Walt Disney’s last CGI-fairy tale) was from Rapunzel.
This said, despite its deviation from a rich original story – and despite not actually being as good as 2010’s Tangled (more about that in a minute) – the makers of Frozen have nonetheless managed to craft a thematically dense tale of their own creation. There’s a surprising lot seething beneath the surface of a fairly straightforward narrative.
And although Frozen falters in the end, by suddenly drowning out its surprisingly subversive messages with ye olde “importance of true love” insistence, there is still a lot of interesting content that precedes it. Not to mention a gorgeous Scandinavian aesthetic, and some marvellously memorable Broadway-style songs – including the Oscar-nominated show stopper Let It Go.
For the record, Frozen centres on two royal sisters, Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) whose once close relationship is threatened by the fact that Elsa has magical abilities. Taught to be fearful of her powers, an emotionally distraught Elsa eventually flees, plunging her kingdom into an endless Winter. It falls to Anna, aided by misanthropic ice salesman Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer Sven and animated snowman Olaf (Josh Gad), to find Elsa and convince her to end the enchantment.
Truth be told, with the exception of the songs, written by husband-wife team Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Frozen isn’t as consistently and effortlessly entertaining as Tangled. The inclusion of Olaf and a band of rock trolls, though suitably Disney-esque and fairy tale-like respectively, feels strained. At times it’s as if Disney is trying too hard to replicate a recipe, whether all the ingredients are suitable to toss together or not.
This said, Frozen can still be celebrated for mixing up the Disney Princess formula more than ever before. For example, hyper-but-sweet-hearted Anna is subjected to severe criticism for wanting to marry someone she has just met. Meanwhile, aloof Elsa’s struggles with anxiety, shame and guilt over hiding her true self, make her arguably the most flawed Disney Princess to date.
Disney-Pixar’s Brave was supposed to be groundbreaking in terms of female character depiction, but in actual fact it is Frozen that is really bucking the trend. Ultimately, the new film can be boiled down to a well-handled, non-sentimental tale of sisterly love, and that is definitely unusual for an animated film. Critical commentators with a gender focus will be plucking at Frozen for a loooong time to come.
Frozen can definitely be recommended as a big screen experience, although a 3D viewing isn’t essential. The film is beautiful, it’s fun, it’s action-packed and it’s empowering – ticking all the boxes for a good family (and animation enthusiast) outing to the cinema.
Last Updated: January 23, 2014