16 July 2014


Missing out on films is common for me lately. Frozen came out when I had no money or nearby friend who wanted to see it. Then when it showed on campus, I was busy with exams. But thankfully babysitting fixed this problem in no time.

Now for my typically cynical few cents.

To put it simply, this is one of the best Disney movies I've enjoyed in years. With the exceptions of WALL-E, Toy Story 3, and Wreck-It Ralph (my #1 fav recent Disney movie), I have lost interest in the majority of Disney's works since the turn of the century. Not that their other movies were bad, but I just found them passable and mediocre. If it were anyone but Disney, that'd be a compliment. And I can agree with some critics who say the Princess line-up past Mulan has been especially unimpressive. The Princess and the Frog was forgettable in the long-term and New Orleans does not interest me at all as a setting. Tangled's trailers did not impress and I still feel no obligation to see it. Brave was a committee-intrusive mess with horribly misleading marketing.

So for now it seems Frozen is tapping into something that Disney has been missing in a long while that I'm not sure I can convey reliably. The music is far more memorable and the comedy is as quirky and fun as ever (from the view of a 20-year-old anyhow). I usually hate comic relief gimmicks like Olaf, but his obliviousness to the fact that snow + sun = water is reality is hilarious. The animation is colorful, expressive, and gorgeous, especially the spiraling snow and ice during the "Let It Go" sequence, etc. It's Disney, people. But for some reason, something about the entire film, from the music to the story themes to the comedy and the art somehow struck gold with me. I haven't felt so happy to watch a children's film about princesses in years.

Ok. Between this and gorillas riding horses and wielding two
machine guns, I dunno which one is stupider-looking.
What especially helps is the self-aware commentary and trope discussion throughout. By this point I will admit that is definitely one of my weak-points when it comes to humor. As fun as it was watching Elsa shoot down Anna and Hans' plans for marriage based on love at first sight, it does seem a bit awkward, given the numerous arguments about how "progressive" and "feminist" this movie is. I appreciate Disney taking a stab at shallow attraction, but declaring this to be a triumph of strong independent female characters is ludicrous. This is a whole other rant for when I need to explode, but for now let me say this. A "strong" female character should be a good character in the same way a "strong" male character should be. They must have a compelling, understandable, or relatable arc that the audience can recognize. I believe Anna and Elsa succeed in this regard... for the most part.

Anna is an energetic redhead who is narrow-sighted thanks in part of being isolated from others and especially her sister. She cannot relate to her at all, but she sure as hell wants to try anyway. That is something I admire. Yet, she lacks common sense (like forgetting to bring a coat or dress in pants on a hike in the mountains) and trusts so easily she cannot plan at all (to the point that all she choses for herself is finding Elsa and marrying Hans). She's sweet and kind, but she adorns a majority of traits seen as belonging to a Mary Sue: clumsiness, socially awkward, adorable, sleepy-headed, stubborn, etc.

Guess she is not titanium, huh?
Meanwhile Elsa is a psychologist's worst nightmare due in part to the trolls and her parents being absolutely horrible and scaring the poor girl to death. Her running from her problems is what jumpstarts the entire plot and I believe that this is one of the best things about the film. But of course, Elsa's story is only truly interesting because of her sister and how they need each other to bring peace of mind for both their sanities. I may be an only child, so I have little basis for my commentary, but the theme of sisterly love was a great story for Disney to focus on.

But when you start to think more about the movie and bring in all sorts of social commentary, Frozen becomes a mess. (BTW, anyone who says "Let It Go" is a metaphor for coming out of the closet is - to be frank - an idiot grasping at straws that are nonexistent. In the context of everything that happens in Frozen that theme makes no damn sense.) Though I can say I like Anna and Elsa, I know they are very flawed and broken girls, absolutely terrified and trapped in their own little worlds their parents forced them into (with good intentions, mind you). They are not "strong" and "independent" as feminists keep toting. Yes, Anna is a female lead and Elsa a female antagonist, but they are not exactly bad characters. They are deeply troubled. I thank Disney for keeping mind of this fact, especially when either girl does something stupid for the plot, which is very, very often.

Somehow, like Persona 4's Teddie, I end up liking the most
annoying character in theory and practice.
As for the other characters, Kristoff was alright. He was by far the smartest character due to him having the most common sense of the bunch. Hans' character turn-around by the end came out from left-field, but upon a second watch, the build-up may be more noticeable. Still, the subtlety was a bit too subtle. And Olaf grew on me for better or worse. The trolls who cared for Kristoff were insufferable at best and offensive at worst.

Meanwhile, the rest of the movie was pretty solid. There were two or three too many songs that add nothing to the story and act as filibusters to keep children entertained just because. ADHD continues to be a concern we must accommodate for apparently. I didn't mind Olaf's silly song as it gave him some character, but the trolls' short period of time in the spotlight was the worst part of the movie, period. It was so bad, I felt my blood boil in rage. I was very much offended, only for me to slap myself and remember that this is just a movie... with a moment with a shitty message for engaged ladies, regardless of what kind of man she is supposed to marry.

Perhaps my biggest complaint of all is that this movie should have been its own thing, and not a loose "adaptation" or "inspiration" of The Snow Queen. It only seems faithful to the concept and trope of "defrosting the ice queen", which can be key in any kind of story. What could have been an intriguing, magical, and fantastic concept has been stripped to a personal story with limited external involvement or consequence. And almost no sensical magic. I know, it's Disney. They simplify everything. But whatever themes were present (mainly and only the "snow queen") in the original narrative only seem to be superficially referenced here. I know little of the original tale, unfortunately, but I'm sad that there's not even a possible reference to the corrupted glass that blinds the hearts and minds of mankind. The lack of fantasy and an explanation for the origin of Elsa's powers make this movie fall short when you start thinking about plot points, actions, and motivations seriously.

That being said, there is a lot I can rant about, but I still enjoyed Frozen. For once in over a decade I finally cared about a story about a Disney princess (or two this time). I can't say this will be a classic, but it's a step in the right direction. "Let It Go" may annoy some, but honestly, it's one of the most memorable earworms from Disney in a long time.

And yes, I like both Idina Menzel's and Demi Lovato's versions. Don't harass me about this.

3.3 out of 5

For a more qualified and critical look at how this movie is somewhat overstated in its "pro-feminism", read this excellent article.


Voltech said...

"Ok. Between this and gorillas riding horses and wielding two
machine guns, I dunno which one is stupider-looking."

You would think that the answer to that is obvious (apes with machine guns, given that that takes place in what's ostensibly a serious drama), but then I remembered that Centaur Pierce Brosnan is a thing that exists, and therefore invalidates both. Such is his awesome power.

Anyway, Frozen. Man, I seriously want to see this movie (I got dragged to 47 Ronin instead when it was in theaters, and it was...unpleasant). I want to see what it's all about for myself; given the good word I expect some real depth, but a part of me thinks that I'd be all right with it if it's just a simple, straightforward romp with some good spirit. That seems to be in short supply at times.

But until I see the movie, I'm more than willing to put stock in your review. I suppose I'm a little concerned about the plot points now -- because I'm me -- but on the other hand, it sounds like I can overlook the flubs and foibles because of the overall package. I've done it before, and I can do it again. If nothing else, I would like to see what the leading ladies have to offer. Maybe there's something they can teach us all...?

Side note: I suspect I'm one of the few people left on the planet who hasn't heard "Let it Go." So I'm just going to do the smart thing and assume that it's "Let it Snow" in G Minor and sung backwards.

Melanie~Light said...

...That sucks. No matter where anyone stands on Disney - love, apathy, or hate - their films are more qualified for your buck than some Hollywood mess-up of mythology staring Ne-"whoa". I feel for you, man. I feel your pain.

The best way to judge the film is on its own merits. Ignore all the commentary when you watch it. The mere mentioning of feminism pisses me off when discussing this movie because the spokespeople seem to want to only use their analytical glasses because two women carry the plot and theme on their shoulders. It's like when MovieBob talked about how misguidedly people use the Bechdel Test. Rather than judge a (coincidentally) female character on her own merits as a good character, people focus on how many vaginas are present and if they are PMSing and crying.

And the whole "Let It Go" can be a gay anthem has to be the most insane drug-induced fantasy I have ever heard. It makes no sense in the context of the film. You'll find more truth out of looking at some toast and finding the Virgin Mary.

Anywho. If you have the chance to see the film, do so. Just don't drink the Kool-Aid completely. I do believe Disney is onto something with Frozen; they have improved their "magic" per se. But it's merely close, but no cigar. After nearly 15 years of "ok", I can forgive some of Frozen's flaws.

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