<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee. The voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk, Ciaran Hinds, Chris Williams, Stephen J Anderson
Very loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, Frozen is a treat for the eyes and ears but at points seems a bit confused as to whether it wants to be something different and new or classic and traditional.
Disney Animation Studios has been rejuvenated. It’s like they want to bring back the classics of yore: the fairy tales we all grew up on like Snow White and Cinderella. They did that with Tangled in a way and in Frozen they’ve taken Hans Christian Anderson’s tale about a female protagonist who sets off on a quest to save her male best friend from the evil Snow Queen. A total reversal of the ‘knight in shining armour’ syndrome most old fairy tales were predominantly about. Thankfully new imaginings like Snow White and the Huntsman introduced more ‘feminist pleasing’ female leads to a new generation of youngsters.
Okay so in Frozen, the Snow Queen isn’t all that evil. Set in a fictional Scandinavian town called Arendelle (sounds like something out of Lord of the Rings), two princesses are left orphaned after their royal parents are tragically lost at sea. Princess Elsa (Idina Menzel) has had a gift ever since she was a child; a gift her parents wanted her to conceal for fear of alienating her people and turning them against her. This gift was simply to turn everything into ice or create snow with a wave of her elegant hands.
But holed up behind a door in a room, she becomes a recluse who won’t play with her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) or build a snowman with her like they used to. Until one day the princess comes of age and is crowned Queen and the doors of their castle are finally opened to the public.
Anna immediately starts thinking about boys and falls for Prince Hans (Santino Fontana) but Queen Elsa will have nothing of it. In anger, her powers are revealed and she flees her kingdom but not before bathing it in ice and frost. Anna must go after her to put things right.
Along the way Anna meets a lowly ice-seller called Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) – who will soon be out of business thanks to Elsa’s power to freeze everything – and a snowman called Olaf (Josh Gad) who is so merry that you wish you had him come deliver presents on Christmas. And of course a love triangle develops in the process. No, the snowman isn’t involved.
It’s been a long time since I’ve heard such wonderful music and song in a movie. Any movie, animated or even the so-called ‘musicals’ that come out now and then. Classic films like The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast had such memorable tunes that we still remember them: Can you feel the love tonight, Under the sea, A whole new world, Beauty and the beast. Sadly, no animated film in recent times has thrown up anything remotely resounding. Until Frozen. The soundtrack composed by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez as well as some by Christophe Beck is a magical almost theatrical presentation. Thoughts and dialogue are expressed through song.
There’s ‘Do you want to build a snowman?’ which is so beautiful in its simplicity and rhyme. ‘For the first time in forever’ is marvellously inspiring. And then there’s ‘Let it go’, an anthem of sorts that touches the soul. I only wish there was more and you can bet that Broadway will soon stage a theatrical production of Frozen.
Visually and musically it’s enchanting and endearing. But at points you wonder: is it trying to tell women they need a man to be complete? Is it that whole thing about having love and love’s first true kiss that they want us to believe in? The man will save the day sort of stuff. Some songs like ‘Fixer upper’ where a group of trolls try and convince Anna that Kristoff can be just as good as a prince if she helped ‘fix him up’ do seem to be suggesting that. But then they do a little about turn and say ‘of course you can’t change who someone really is, but with love you can make a difference’! Hmmm…
Then of course there’s the slight twist at the end where the ‘true act of love’ turns out to be something you probably didn’t see coming. So while Pixar’s Brave was well and truly centred around a female protagonist who held the movie up brilliantly, Disney’s Frozen straddles two fences. It wants to be modern and politically correct but it just can’t untangle itself from the roots that come with being part of a studio and production house responsible for the whole ‘love’s first kiss’ and ‘prince charming’ and ‘wicked witch’ world that we’ve grown up on.
There’s an interesting blog write up you can read from a feminist point of view about Frozen and written before the release (she may change her mind after watching it though). Check that out here: Reasons Why I’m Not Supporting Disney’s Frozen
I must say that though at times I did wince at the whole ‘I need a prince,’ sonata, I completely enjoyed Frozen. The music, the songs, the visually artistry of all that snow and snow flakes (perfect for 3D), the reindeer that sounds like Chewbacca from Star Wars and acts like my doggie, Olaf the witty snowman whose lines don’t sound like a dozen other token comic sidekicks from other animated films, and the shades of grey character in Queen Elsa are all worth watching this film in the theatre, in 3D.
One of my colleagues mentioned at the press show: ‘How will Bullett Raja every stand up to this?’ And she’s right. While Bollywood continues to churn out rubbish – albeit a lot higher production value rubbish – Hollywood utilises animation to tell old stories in new ways and makes them timeless masterpieces because we want classics to remember and to show our kids.