If you listen to the drones of the hoi polloi, you’ll have heard that Frozen is the greatest Disney film since The Lion King. While Frozen is a beautifully animated film, it is a movie that ultimately succumbs to the predictability that it aims to eschew. A film like the excellent Tangled has no preconceptions of originality, and Tangled is a great film because of its unpretentious simplicity, and its willingness to be an exclusively visual film. In contrast, Frozen attempts to provide a novel spin on the ‘Disney Princess’ model, and despite a solid first hour, its final act is inherently disappointing.
The best animated films have dark or at the very least sophisticated undercurrents. Compared to Toy Story 3’s sincere rumination on the inevitability of mortality and how to cope with our impending death, Frozen largely to panders to children. This is not a flaw, given it is first and foremost a ‘kids movie’. However, what is so disappointing about Frozen is its incapacity to follow its interesting and original ideas through to fruition, instead falling back on the easy and expected throughout.
While Elsa’s oft quoted line “you can’t just marry someone you just met” is very witty, it implies a meta self-awareness that is rarely continued. Every time Frozen ventures down a path of self-reflexive originality, it fails to continue down that path and starts taking the road most travelled, ensuring that its narrative is climactically conventional.
For instance, Hans, the fiancé of Princess Anna – the sister of Elsa, an exiled queen who can control the snow – is, from the outset, clearly telegraphed as an eventual villain. He is the same smarmy, manipulative archetype that we’ve seen in Beauty and the Beast and countless other films. However, there was a point in Frozen where I felt as though the film was about to make Hans the romantic interest of Elsa, subverting the expected norm. This would have been interesting, given I originally expected Kristoff to get with Elsa given their mutual infatuation with the cold. Unfortunately, Hans does eventuate as the villain. While the film’s interpretation of ‘true love’ is an effective inversion of predictability, these instances are few and far between in the film.
The clunky insertion of incongruous musical sequences disturbs the flow of the film’s exposition. A sentient snowman clearly designed for comic relief has a nonsensical conception (how can Elsa, a witch whose power for years has merely been manipulating the snow, suddenly create sentient life without questioning that ability?). This makes Frozen’s narrative a little messy, and a little uneven.
Yet despite this, Olaf the snowman has some genuinely funny dialogue, and many of the film’s elaborate musical sequences are beautifully conceived and directed in their own right. For an animated film, the 3D is incredibly immersive, going so far as actually making the cinema feel icy cold (though I’m sure the air-conditioning in the cinema had something to do with that). It is visually dazzling, with the vibrant blues and whites popping of the screen and the ornate designs of the castles and snowed-in kingdom are impressive to say the least. Frozen is an incredibly watchable film, and I enjoyed it almost in spite of itself.
A strong 2.5 stars.