dir. Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
Release Date: Nov 27, 13
With Frozen, Disney’s in-house animation studio is now 3 for 3 in the past four years with Tangled, last year’s wonderful Wreck-It Ralph, and now this film, a story of true love that’s both unconventional and, by Disney’s standards, just a little bit radical in its thinking. Just in time for the holidays, here’s a movie about love in all its forms, and how some of the unhealthier ones have become too predominant. Especially that whole “love at first sight” thing.
As kids, Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Wicked’s Idina Menzel) were inseparable, sisters and best friends whose adventures and imaginations were endless. A regular part of their games was Elsa’s magical powers, the young girl able to conjure snow or ice from nothingness. When one of their games turned dangerous, Anna was forever marked, and her memory was erased in order to protect both girls. The castle was put on lockdown, their parents died at sea, and they remained homebound until age 18. Now Elsa is ready to become queen, and Anna a princess with a severe case of wanderlust. When Elsa’s powers become publicly known, her uncontrollable panic and fear casts the whole kingdom into eternal winter, which Anna must stop with the help of the goofy Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer Sven, and a sidekick in the form of Olaf the snowman (Josh Gad).
A loose adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, Frozen wonderfully chucks the typical conventions out the window in no short order. Though Anna becomes smitten with the dashing Hans (Santino Fontana), she’s too busy saving the kingdom to enjoy her happily ever after right away. And Elsa is far from a Disney villainess; co-director Jennifer Lee’s screenplay sees Elsa not as a monster but as a scared young woman who’s ill-prepared to handle the responsibilities conferred upon her as queen, especially when she can’t even control herself. “Don’t let them in” is a common refrain for Elsa, and as the winter turns even colder and more dangerous, her inability to overcome this deep-rooted mental block could spell doom for all.
Menzel and Bell are perfect foils for one another, the former a buttoned-up queen and the latter a quirky spin on the Disney princess that feels like the typical Zooey Deschanel persona made doll-like for a new generation of young viewers. In the world of Frozen, Disney princes and princesses stumble over their sentences, say “like” a lot in casual conversation, and are rather awkward as a whole. And it’s wonderful. Even when Elsa’s power reaches a point that even her beloved sister’s life may be in danger, neither Menzel nor Bell stop the characters from being human beings with real faults and anxieties.
Despite a premise that screams Disney formula, Frozen has a few brilliant tricks up its sleeve, particularly when it comes time for the film to lay waste to the tropes of true love. Neither queen nor prince nor princess nor stable boy turn out to be who we’re trained to assume they are, and Frozen shakes up the formula of how Disney defines true love, if at least for one film. As Elsa’s showstopping musical number “Let It Go” suggests, perhaps the key to happiness doesn’t lie with a horse and carriage, but with just cutting out the expectations of others and living on your own terms. This is a fantastic movie, by far 2013’s best animated feature (a different review of similar length to this one could be written just on the film’s many technical marvels), and perhaps most importantly, a Disney story of a far-away kingdom for the modern world.