April 3, 2015

Frozen (2013)
Grade: 66/100

Director: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Stars: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff

What it's about. Disney's blockbuster computer-animated musical feature, set in medieval Scandinavia. Beautiful young Elsa (Idina Menzel) is crowned queen of the village. She lives with her beautiful younger sister Anna (Kristen Bell) in a castle, but Elsa is isolated from Anna due to the former's magical powers, which she cannot fully control. Elsa can create ice, in any form or extent, with a wave of her hand.

A village celebration provides the opportunity for Anna to mix with the public. She promptly meets and falls for Prince Hans (Santino Fontana), whose handsome and pleasant facade conceals the machinations of a villain. She announces their sudden engagement to Elsa, who loses it and turns the palace ballroom into a hockey arena.

The many guests are shocked, and conclude that Elsa is a witch. A vituperative elderly foreign diplomat, the Duke of Weaseltown (Alan Tudyk), attempts to control the village after Elsa retreats into exile on a nearby mountain.

Because it is a movie, Anna decides to travel, by herself, into the mountains, find Elsa, and convince her to return to the village. Hans is smart enough to remain behind. During her trek, Anna promptly encounters Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), a predictably handsome, strapping, and heroic type who joins Anna.

They meet Olaf (Josh Gad), a silly and fearless talking snowman. The three reach Anna in her new ice palace, but the meeting does not go well. Anna is soon experiencing one of the cinematic death spells that occur very slowly and can only be broken by an act of true love, or some such nonsense.

Anna is returned to the village by Kristoff and Olaf, hoping a reunion with Hans will save her. But instead, he finally reveals his evil nature. Nonetheless, a happy ending is contrived that reunites Elsa and Anna, returns the village to summer, restores Anna to health, and puts Hans behind bars, yet fails to melt Olaf. You expected anything else?

The story is inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen story "The Snow Queen."

How others will see it. A tremendous financial success, Frozen had a worldwide box office that exceeded a billion dollars. The soundtrack album topped the billboard charts for months.

Critics were also pleased. At both the Oscars and Golden Globes, the film won Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song.

At imdb.com, the user vote total is a spectacular 330K. The user ratings of 7.7 are also high, although an age and gender gap is palpable. Women under 18 grade it 8.6, while men over 30 grade it 7.3, perhaps more suspicious of the power of sisterly love.

How I felt about it. One has to admit that it is a well made feature. It is not close to the quality of the Toy Story movies, and it also falls far short of the great animated films from Disney's distant past (e.g. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Dumbo). On the other hand, it is clearly superior to Tarzan (1999), and it is certainly better than Tangled.

If one accepts Elsa's spectacular powers (after all, it is a cartoon), and Anna's ceaseless determination to become BFF with her older sister, then the only problematic areas are Hans and Olaf. Olaf is a stock useless pandering / charming / annoying sidekick character, like C-3PO, or more like Jar Jar Binks. He is a contrivance to increase interest from younger children. You wouldn't see him in a Miyazaki animated feature.

Hans is like the Moon, hot and light on one side, and dark and cold on the other. The Moon doesn't rotate relative to Earth, but Hans executes a 180 degree turn in a single moment, when he decides to abandon Anna on the carpet after making a voluntary confessional speech worthy of a Bond villain.

I don't have a problem with Hans secretly wanting to marry Anna for her kingdom, more than for her comely face, body, and singing voice. But that doesn't mean he should completely change his personality in a single frame. You'd think that the audience was children.

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