johnlink ranks FROZEN (2013)

As usual, when it comes to uber-large movies, I’m a year late to the party. We’ve had this movie for awhile. The kids have watched it a couple of times. But watching this with them tonight, on a snowy Thanksgiving-Eve, was the first time I had ever seen it all the way through.

disneys-frozen-2013-movie-trailer-snowball

I watched FROZEN (2013) on 11.26.14. It was my first viewing of the film.

Walt Disney Animation Studios has been the forgotten younger sibling of Pixar for years. They started slowly with underwhelming entries like BOLT and TANGLED. Even some of their successes, like WRECK IT RALPH, felt like a Pixar castoff despite the quality storytelling.

FROZEN, then, turned out to be the studio’s step into the limelight with a hugely satisfying and quality production. The method used to get there is amazingly simple, yet amazingly smart. They took a classic Disney formula: take an old story (in this case, Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen”) and dress it up with music. Be sure to have a couple strong males, at least one quality female lead, and plenty of sidekick humor. Add action bits, some romance, and some faux-danger. Mix it all up, and spit out a movie.

Only, this time, writer Jennifer Lee (who co-directed with Chris Buck) does plenty to manipulate these tropes. First, she makes this a female-centric story. Our main protagonists are sisters Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell). Anna is soon to be Queen, but she has a secret: she has magical powers which can create and manipulate ice and snow. The men in the story are the support. The two central ones are Elsa’s love-at-first-sight fiancee Hans (Santino Fontana) and the more rugged (and more modest) adventurer Kristoff (Jonathan Groff). These two are not marginalized in this story, but they also don’t trump the girls, particularly Elsa, from being a self-sufficient doer.

FROZEN sets up a story in which a character needs an act of true love, which becomes an assumed kiss by a man, to save a central character. Instead of falling back on this easy concept, the climax finds an alternative route, one which works in an amazingly satisfying way. When considering how every Disney movie for nearly a century has dealt with the ‘true love’ idea, this one is refreshing and powerful. What also works is the twist which launches us into the movie’s final act. Rare is the Disney movie which hides its characters’ true intents from the audience. We are usually made aware of the villain long before the hero knows they are the protagonist. This choice also makes the movie more interesting in that Anna, even though we really like her, is the de facto villain in the film for a long time. Even if she means well, she causes every bad thing in the movie to happen.

Olaf-the-Snowman-Likes-Warm-Hugs

Of course, we need our humor. This comes, for most of the movie, in the form of an accidentally created magical snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad), a childhood invention of Anna and Elsa. He comes to life in the second act and brings a truly sharp wit and humor to a movie which had been surprisingly dark up to that point, despite the efforts of some optimistic musical interludes. But Olaf is a shot in the arm. He is a truly great sidekick character from a company which practically invented and then perfected the idea of the goofy ‘other’ as an induction of humor in kids films.

The list of things which do not work in this film is small. For all of the songs which went viral, this is a musical with a couple of clunkers. The first song between Elsa and Hans is a little too cute for its own good. The musical quirks of the song pull from its needed plot movement: this is the song when these two fall in love and decide to get married. Perhaps Elsa is just that desperate, but the movement feels forced. Another song is sung by magical rocks in a forest. That one actually DOES serve the needed push to get Elsa and Olaf closer, but the song itself is not a high point.

Beyond that, there may be some criticism of specific moments or beats or sequences, but they would be much quieter protestations compared to the mountain of stuff which makes FROZEN one of the most satisfying animated films in recent memory, and certainly the best non-Pixar animated film since THE LION KING.

FROZEN is a keeper, and it belongs on the Disney short list.

SCORES

When considering an animated film, ACTING takes into account both the voice work and the animation utilized to create character.

FILM: 8; MOVIE: 8; ACTING: 7; WRITING: 9

8+8+7+9+0=32

FINAL SCORE: 8 out of 10

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~ by johnlink00 on November 26, 2014.

One Response to “johnlink ranks FROZEN (2013)”

  1. It’s light, fun and most importantly, perfect for anybody to watch and enjoy the hell out of. Good review John.

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