Monday, December 2, 2013

I've been wondering what Josh thought of Frozen

I saw Frozen with Lily. Having had a day to reflect, I think I like it more than Tangled, which had previously been my standard for an outstanding Disney feature. Click here for my review of Tangled!

I didn't like the Mickey Mouse short that ran in the beginning, though Lily did. The trailers were pretty forgettable, except for the LEGO movie, which looks like it's going to be Wreck-It-Ralph, except with Legos, which might just might be the best possible concept for a movie, full stop.

The movie itself

I tend to like media with female protagonists. So does Lily. She kind of aging out of princess culture. (Though we did put together a list of the best princesses.) I think we're going to have to amend our list to include two new additions from Frozen.

The look of Frozen was clearly influenced by Tangled's success. This is even lampshaded when Anna strikes a pose in front of the Swing, which is the painting which served as the main influence for Tangled's visual design.

Sven the reindeer maps directly to Maximus and Anna looks more than a little bit like Rapunzel. (I read after we saw the movie that Rapunzel gets a cameo in a crowd scene, but I didn't see her.)

Frozen is the story of two sisters, Elsa, the elder, voiced by Idina Menzel, and Anna, played by Kristen Bell. I've loved Bell since her Veronica Mars days. It's great to hear Menzel sing. I seem to recall that at some point, Tangled was considered as a sequel to Enchanted, and echoes of that can still be seen in its character models.

With Enchanted, they made what I can only call an interesting decision, in casting Idina Menzel, with her strange and off-putting speaking voice, in a prominent role in a musical, and then not giving her any songs! (I had initially assumed that her numbers had been cut, but an interview suggests that she was hired for the role solely as an actress.)This is remedied in Frozen, where she gets a show stopper of a number with "Let it Go".

(Though to quibble, "fractal" was probably not in common use in 17th century Norway, or wherever this movie is set. )

Elsa has the ability to create ice and snow, She hurts her sister while they're playing as children, and their parents rush them to some local trolls, who heal Anna, but remove her memories of her sister's powers. Anna can't understand why her sister, who had previously been her best friend, suddenly wants nothing to do with her.
Because of her regret, and the fact that her power manifests on its own when she becomes emotional, Elsa retreats into herself.

Time passes and their parents die, so you can cross that one off your Disney movie Bingo card. Fast forward to Elsa's coronation. This might be my favorite part of the movie. Anna meets Hans, a handsome prince, who proposes to her after their duet. They return to Elsa to ask for her blessing, who essentially says, "No, you just met him," which is all kinds of awesome.

Listen, I developed a huge crush on the woman who would later marry me, almost as soon as I met her. She had infectious enthusiasm and big green eyes and long hair, and may have in fact been Rapunzel in disguise. Later on we dated and we got married about three years after our first date. So while there was an element of mutual attraction right away, we weren't ready to get married later that night.

Anna is upset by this rebuff and yells at Elsa, who is already having a rough day. Elsa's ice powers are triggered by the stress and she manifests them in front of everyone before fleeing the castle for the mountains.

I read a review that criticized the movie by pointing out that this scene didn't pass the Bechdel test. The Bechdel Test has been around for quite a while, but it's getting a lot of press recently, which makes me happy, because I'm glad broader is talking about the concerns it raises. It doesn't indicate whether a movie is good or bad (for instance, Shawshank Redemption fails, but Sucker Punch passes easily), but rather it looks at gender bias.

In order to pass the test, the movie must meet three criteria: 1.) It must have two women, 2.) Who talk to each other 3.) About something other than a man).

While it's possible to have a conversation about how it's foolish to marry a man you've just met that would meet the standards of the Bechdel test, you'd have to go through a lot of contortions. I just don't think that using this particular conversation to criticize the movie is in any way fair.

I really enjoyed the slow pace of this act. I read an interesting piece about how a fair number of summer blockbusters are written with the same formula and all seem the same. I really enjoyed a movie that bucked the trend.

The review is going to get increasingly spoilery as we progress, so you've been warned. The music is reversible, but time is not. Turn back, turn back, turn back...


Elsa was, by far my favorite character.

I really loved her body language, how even when she was fighting for her life from merciless assassins, she would turn away even as she fired shards of ice at them, as if she didn't want to have to see them hurt. She never stopped trying to do the right thing. I really liked the line from Fixer-Upper, by the trolls. "People make bad choices if they're mad or scared or stressed". It really seemed to apply to her. She seemed horrified that she might have plunged her country into an eternal winter.

Anna was okay, but there was nothing to distinguish her from dozens of other plucky movie heroines. She could team up with Amanda Seyfried's big-eyed ingenue from Epic and we'd have a Veronica Mars mini-reunion. Also, the "Look at me! I'm comically clumsy!" schtick kind of got on my nerves.

I liked Hans and I was disappointed at his abrupt heel turn.  I thought we were going to get a movie without a human villain. I suspected that he was going to turn evil, but I was hoping that he would occupy the role played by the Baroness in the Sound of Music, whose only failing is that she's not the person the protagonist loves. It's not a huge deal, and it certainly falls into "I would have done it differently" rather than "this was a decision that makes for a bad movie" category. I think the movie would have been more interesting without the element of moustache-twirling villainy to it, is all.

(SPOILERS FOR TANGLED: As time goes on, I increasingly feel that it's an outstanding movie marred, and maybe even ruined by the ending. In the end of Tangled, where Flynn is dying, he reaches up and cuts off Rapunzel's hair. That wasn't his choice to make. It should have been Rapunzel who did it. It deprotagnizes her, reducing her from someone who does something to someone who has something done to her. It's such an egregious unforced error by a movie that hadn't even stumbled up until that point, and the more I think about it, the more it bothers me.)

Olaf the snowman was much better than I'd been expecting. I've had my fill of wacky comedy sidekicks that are annoying rather than funny (Mushu, I'm looking at you), but his gags ranged from the inoffensive to the actually funny (In Summer was one of the high points of the movie)

While we're on the subject, Fixer Upper was a pretty great song, and it was both funny, and, for lack of a better word, wise. (It's about loving someone in spite (or perhaps because of) their flaws
We’re not saying you can change her, ‘cuz people don’t really change We’re only saying that love’s a force that’s powerful and strange
People make bad choices if they’re mad, or scared, or stressed
Throw a little love their way (throw a little love their way) and you’ll bring out their best
Anna has been poisoned by Elsa's magic, and will turn into an ice statue unless saved act of true love. I love Enchanted, and there is the scene where Edward steps aside because he knows that that Robert is Giselle's true love. At first it seemed like the movie was going to parallel that story, with Kristoff returning Anna to Hans so he can give her True Love's kiss and break the spell, but they had been dropping subtle hints that the movie was going to be something more. In the end, it's Anna's act of devotion towards her sister that is the act of True Love that breaks the spell. I was hoping for this and I was thrilled they went this route. Familial love is under represented in movies, and it's nice to see it getting the spotlight.


  1. I really enjoyed reading this! I completely agree with all the things you mentioned. Like how Hans as you put it, abruptly turned evil in the end. I wasn't happy with that either. But then again if hadn't, Anna wouldn't have had the chance to commit that act of true (sisterly) love.

    As a Disney girl, that was something completely unexpected but refreshing. If i grew up with Disney movies highlighting that kind of message, I most definitely would have done things differently. haha yeah... Disney has had a big impact on my life.

    Anyway, hope to read more of your posts! :)

    1. Thanks very much! I don't have much to add to what I had originally written in the review, except that I like the movie the more that I think about it.