Review: Frozen / Cert: PG / Director: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee / Screenplay: Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck, Shane Morris / Starring: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk / Release Date: December 6th
Despite a marketing campaign that has focused on "cute" (read "horrifying") living snowman Olaf and portrayed the film as a remix of some art assets from 2010's Tangled, Frozen is actually an enjoyable fairy tale romp with some clever plot twists thrown in and positive messages for young girls that subvert those usually provided by traditional Disney princesses.
Extremely loosely inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's tale The Snow Queen, Frozen tells the tale of two princesses in the fairy tale realm of Arendelle, Elsa (Menzel) and Anna (Bell). Like a medieval version of Iceman from the X-Men, Elsa can control the cold, creating flurries of snow in an instant and turning castle floors into ice rinks, to Anna's delight, before a childhood mishap grievously hurts Anna and compels Elsa's parents to hide her power from the world and isolate her from her sister, until she can control her gift.
While trying to follow the warnings of some cute, helpful trolls that fear will be Elsa's undoing, her parents start down a path that does nothing but instil fear in her, both of her powers and herself, while traumatising Anna in the process!
Skipping ahead many years later to Elsa's coronation as queen, the sisters finally get to meet each other and their subjects again, but a minor argument results in a display of Elsa's powers and she flees the town in fear to the surrounding countryside and finally lets her powers run free. Of course, Anna goes after her to try sort things out and stop Elsa from inadvertently freezing the whole kingdom. However, fairy tale adventures are never so straightforward.
Elsa is not quite the evil presence hinted at in the trailers and the film ends up being rather empowering for the princesses. There is some love interest in the form of a couple of princes, but the heroines are not defined by them, don't quite need saving and are perfectly capable of sorting out their own problems, thank you very much. The Disney tradition of talking animals is turned on its head by ice farmer Kristoff and his reindeer friend Sven, who hold a few "conversations", with Sven providing the facial expressions and Kristoff the voice over for his animal companion. The filmmakers even manage to subvert the trope of an act of true love saving the day.
The film is frequently funny, the songs catchy and well thought out and as in a good musical they truly illustrate the character's inner thoughts in a way that isn't annoying. Due to the amount of action and drama in the second half, the film is a little front loaded with musical numbers, but they don't prove to be as incessant as one might at first fear. Even the nightmarishly cute Olaf is never too distracting from the main story of two sisters and their crippling psychological issues. In fact his existence makes sense within the context of the film, as an outgrowth of Elsa's psyche and avatar of a simpler time shared by the two girls.
It looks like Disney's own movies are taking a leaf or two from their Marvel Studios and Pixar stable mates, with a small but amusing scene sting after the main credits (as well as a disclaimer that Kristoff's assertion that "all men eat their boogers" may not be factually true) and a pre-show cartoon featuring Mickey Mouse diving between 2D and 3D that tries too hard and lacks the charm of the cartoons that inspired it.
Kids should love Frozen (and Olaf and those trolls), parents won't go out of their minds with boredom and little girls everywhere should learn a number of empowering, non-condescending messages about growing up and dealing with your problems.
Expected Rating: 4 out of 10