30th Nov2013

‘Frozen’ Review

by Jack Kirby

Stars: Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk, Edie McClurg | Written and Directed by Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee

Frozen-characters

In a break from usual Sunday morning screening traditions, Disney’s Frozen was preceded by a performance of one of its songs by Willemijn Verkaik, star of the West End’s Wicked. Which was quite nice. It was only a slight shame that the song had been playing over the PA as we filed in, stealing some of Verkaik’s considerable thunder, but not to worry. Also before the film proper, we were treated to a Mickey Mouse short cartoon, which mixed traditional black and white animation with 3D trickery, which was fairly neat I guess.

The main feature is loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen and apparently inspired by the scenery of Norway. It’s the tale of a pair of royal sisters, the reclusive Elsa (Idina Menzel), who has X-Men-style ice powers and Anna (Kristen Bell), who is slightly dippy and outgoing. When Elsa accidentally reveals her wacky mutant talent at her own coronation to a shocked general public, she runs away into the wilderness and ensconces herself in a quickly whipped-up fortress of solitude, in a scene not dissimilar to Dr Manhattan’s construction of his Martian palace in Watchmen. Anna, with grumpy ice salesman Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer Sven and a living snowman called Olaf (Josh Gad) give chase to try and bring her home and sort everything out.

Frozen comes from the same wing of the House of Mouse as Wreck-it Ralph and more significantly, Tangled, both of which I enjoyed in recent years. Comparisons to Tangled, with its plucky princess protagonist, slightly less than heroic male counterpart with comedic steed and general good-natured attitude, are warranted and should be welcomed. When it comes to princesses, adventures and goofy sidekicks, I guess Disney knows what they’re doing better than most and Frozen is likely to slide into their canon of animated classics like an object moving without the restraints of friction offered by travelling across a plane of ice.

Personally, I was a bit strung out by the film’s first third, which crams in song after song. Basically every utterance is the prelude to some ditty about playing in the snow or eating cakes or filling in a tax return or whatever. Which got a bit much. The film hits its stride when the characters are on the road and the songs give way to a bit more dialogue, action set-pieces and jokes. There’s also an admirable level of pathos in the film, with the plot unafraid to explore the depths of Elsa’s feelings of isolation and guilt. It also looks at how events are twisted to suit a narrative, as demonstrated by the attempts to demonise Elsa by those that would benefit from her being out of the picture. There’s also some very sad parts, though Disney have never been afraid to expose their young audience to some fairly traumatic scenes (there can be few childhoods in the Western world that haven’t been scarred at least a little by some innocuous-seeming animation, whether it’s Bambi’s mother being shot or Mustafa being trampled to death).

A rather too jam-packed soundtrack aside, I found Frozen to be a completely enjoyable winter romp, with some very likeable characters. It’s good to see a pair of female leads carrying a film, each with fleshed out, distinctive and rounded personalities. This kind of fare may not be to all palates but like Wolverine, Disney are pretty much the best there is at what they do and if you’re looking for something to entertain the family after a busy day Christmas shopping, look no further.

Frozen is released across the UK from December 6th.

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