Film Review – Frozen
I kind of hate reviewing kids’ movies, because if I don’t like them, there is always someone who accuses me of being a bad person who hates love, children, and family. I don’t really dislike those things, or at least not all of the time. I just think movies for children should be held to the same standards as adult films; they need an interesting story, finely drawn characters, and—at the very least—directorial competence. I think kids deserve good movies. I am also not a Disney hater, although I have a lot of issues with that particular company. However, I love Beauty and the Beast and have been known to bust out The Aristocats on occasion. I approached reviewing Disney’s newest princess movie, Frozen, with the best mindset I could: I grabbed two of my favorite people—niece Alice (age 4) and daughter Io (age 23)—and made a night of it.
Frozen, directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, is the story of two sisters, princesses Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell). Elsa has magical ice powers and manages to accidentally injure Anna while playing one day. In order to cure Anna, the magical troll grandpa has to wipe away any memory of Elsa’s magic that Anna has. Elsa becomes distant from Anna as she tries to learn to control her powers, and the two sisters grow farther and farther apart over the years. Elsa eventually becomes queen, but her powers spiral out of control on coronation day, causing her to run away out of fear and confusion. Anna sets out to find her, joining forces with woodsman Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and magically alive snowman Olaf (Josh Gad). They have some adventures and learn some lessons.
My niece Alice enjoyed the movie. When asked what she specifically liked, she said “the magic.” Frozen is rated PG, and I thought some parts of it might be too scary for a four-year-old, but Alice seemed down with it. (But, I think her older brother might have been a little scared had we taken him. A sensitive child might need a little hand-holding during some of the more violent scenes.) Daughter Io also enjoyed the movie, but indicated her expectations were not that high. I had a pleasant evening with my ladies, enjoying a movie I found to be mediocre, but not offensively so. I’m glad Alice had a good time, but the movie seemed pretty forgettable to me.
Frozen does do some things well. Sisterhood is a complicated thing, and the film deals with Elsa’s and Anna’s relationship pretty well. There is a romance, but it is secondary to what is happening between the two women, which is a nice change of pace from the usual princess fare. The sisters desperately want to be close, but secrets and misunderstandings come between them. They both fall within typical gender stereotypes, but are not weak or silly: Elsa is strong and Anna plucky, although neither woman is particularly detailed or deep.
And that’s pretty much how I felt about the entire movie; it was entertaining enough to keep me engaged, but not interesting enough to leave me thinking about it after it was over. The songs were okay, but not great. The big moments were pitched high, but without any substance. At one point Elsa changes her style from restrained queen to what I can only describe as Las Vegas era Celine Dion, and it’s really weird. Even her walk changes to mimic someone wearing very high heels. And, as sweet as the character of Anna is, there wasn’t much going on with her. I kept wanting to get back to what was happening with Elsa, who had the more interesting storyline. (Although they did much less with it.) Also, the trolls were pointless, and the humor of Olaf had nothing to do with the rest of the movie. Maybe the plot was a little mature and Disney felt they needed to add something that younger kids could enjoy? I dunno. Those parts just felt like they came from a different movie.
For those parents interested in gender and racial issues, there is a bit to be concerned about. This story takes place in a Scandinavian-type country and everybody there is super white. There is not even a tropical trade delegation in the background during the coronation. One of the trolls is voiced by an African-American woman, but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t count. Because she’s a troll. The sisters do conform to traditional gender roles, and their body types are tall and slender with an emphasized bust. They also have those giant anime eyes, which kind of creep me out. I am not sure if the face-style is influenced by Japanese animation or made to appeal to the financially important Asian market.
I don’t hate this movie, but I find myself focusing more on what it doesn’t have than what it does. But, a lot of kids are going to like it. I just wish it was better. To be honest, though, I wish that about a lot of movies, so it’s not exactly a damning critique.
Final Grade: C+