EXPECTATIONS: I should be very excited for this film. Since Lasseter took over, everything Walt Disney Animation has put out has been strong. Every bit of animation we've seen on this so far has been beautiful. It's co-directed by Jennifer Lee, creator of Wreck-It Ralph, and Chris Buck, who made Tarzan and the strangely great Surf's Up. Plus the whole thing is similar to Tangled, which is one of the best Disney films in years. So I really have no reason to be wary about this film... except one.
That freaking snowman.
Yeah, that one.
Look at that stupid thing. I have never seen a character design that irrationally irritated me as much as that abomination does. It just has "Dorky Comic Relief" written all over it. Every joke in the trailers is literally "Look, his body parts are falling off. Because he is made of snow, you see. And his body parts are as well. And so, ipso facto, there is comedy to be gained from his loss and subsequent regaining of the various parts of his body." That's comedy! That's comedy, right?
... I hate that snowman, you guys.
REALITY: Well, don't judge a snowman by his outward appearance, I guess is the lesson here. That freaking snowman (voiced by Josh Gad) is named Olaf, and it turns out he's not a bad little character at all. He's utilized well and is not at all overexposed, and his whole existence fits well with the film's themes. Essentially, Olaf is better than I thought he would be, and the rest of the film I thought would be pretty good turned out to be great. Being wrong is awesome!
Frozen tells the story of two princesses, Anna (Kristen Bell) and her older sister Elsa (Idina Menzel), who has grown up hiding the fact that she has snow and ice powers from the world and her sister. When Elsa is forced to open up the castle gates For the First Time in Forever (capitalized because it's the name of a catchy song), Anna meets a prince named Hans (Santino Fontana) who she immediately falls for and gets engaged to. The ensuing fight between the sisters causes Elsa to reveal her powers and flee the kingdom, accidentally casting them into a never-ending winter. Accepting responsibility, Anna goes into the woods after her, with the assistance of backwoods ice salesman Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), and Olaf, the snowman that Anna and Elsa built as kids accidentally brought to life by Elsa's magic.
I don't even want to know.
This is the first time that Disney has introduced two princesses simultaneously, and so it is important that I note, this is both of their stories. It is a movie primarily about sisterhood and acceptance, and the film is nice enough not to forget that. As the relationship between Kristoff and Anna grows closer, the movie still respectfully focuses on Anna's quest primarily, making the romance a secondary notion until the Disney-brand True Love becomes a factor in the third act. What this brand of storytelling gives us is an interesting and plot-driven tale which plays on its own formulas, creating a series of twists on already expected twists. I want to be very clear here, in case Disney marketing is paying attention: Frozen is not a "girl's movie," it is a solid movie about two girls, which chooses to rely on its own strength instead of putting in pandering "better appeal to the boys" nonsense.
Part of the rebirth of this power-to-the-princess movement (which has actually been in effect since The Little Mermaid), is Disney once again bringing back character songs, like it has with Tangled and Princess and the Frog. I realize that it became overused, but I am glad this trend is returning after years of Shrek-esque licensed pop songs, and weird Phil Collins narrative "Na na na Here's what's happening on screen, but in a really general way so it can be played on light rock radio later la la la la la STRANGERS LIKE ME!" This film really goes all over the spectrum, as it contains a great score, many very good songs, one terrible one, and then gives us Idina Menzel singing what is one of Disney's best songs in years. "Let It Go," Elsa's anthem, is essentially Frozen's "Defying Gravity," a bombastic ode to self-acceptance and empowerment delivered by a powerful voice and an impossibly catchy hook. The animation on that sequence alone is worth your admission.
I mentioned earlier that Olaf's existence is pure dark comedy, and I'll explain that a little bit more. Olaf is excited about everything all the time, and Josh Gad lends him the endearing squeakiness that is needed to keep him from being irritating. What this means, though, is that Olaf actually is really happy about summer happening, because he has no idea what will happen to him then. He has an entire song about this. In other regards, Olaf is a character of function, a problem-solver as well as comic relief. He's surprisingly lovable. However, the film also includes some other bizarre magical characters, a family of rock-trolls that raised Kristoff. The trolls are what I assumed Olaf would be. They're poorly designed and forced plot devices, and their song is godawful. They feel like they came out of a totally different movie, like a lesser Don Bluth film. Mercifully, the trolls appear only twice in the whole movie, and once is only for about two minutes.
That minor misstep aside, Frozen is a worthy addition to the Disney canon, and is the best entry so far in what seems to be Disney's third Renaissance. As a grown-ass man with too many opinions about princess movies, I am authorized to say that Frozen is fun, exciting, and genuinely surprising. The animation is incredibly beautiful, with intelligent details like the instant stiffness from Anna's dress freezing. Most importantly, it builds off of the concepts laid down by Tangled, demonstrating that the modern "princess" movie is just a marketing gimmick which allows studios to tell the otherwise radical story of women as people.
|That Friggin' Snowman!||8/10|
|Those Friggin' Trolls, Though!||4/10|
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