February 25, 2014

"Frozen"

        I finally saw “Frozen” this weekend with T, who had been wanting to go for some time.  Although inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” all that it really has in common with that tale is a snowy queen, a sliver of ice in a heart, and a reindeer.  If they’d titled the movie “The Snow Queen,” that might have irritated me, but since the movie never claims to be Andersen’s tale - and is, as it happens, a much better story anyway - all is well.  I never particularly liked Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” anyway.
        I enjoyed the movie very much, the more as it has a couple of interesting differences from your average Disney animated feature.  Most importantly, this is a story about family dynamics and love between sisters as much as - or more than - romantic love.  Although the sisters Elsa (the “snow queen”) and Anna are antagonists through most of the story, everything they do towards each other is really done out of love.  This is also a story about figuring out what your gifts are good for.  It’s got the message (certainly common enough in movies for children and young adults) that what makes you different makes you special.  But this movie goes a little further, with the message that your gifts become positive and productive only when they’re controlled by love rather than fear.
        As for the romance in the story, Anna’s notion of “love at first sight” is rejected by other characters, and although Anna does come to a more developed love eventually, Elsa is shown as complete and happy without a romantic partner at all - another unusual twist for a Disney princess.
        The ice and snow are beautifully animated (although a yellow stained spot on the movie screen showed up a lot more noticeably in this movie with all its white!)  I will say that I wasn’t particularly smitten with the songs, and I wasn’t a huge fan of their very pop style, but that’s just a matter of taste.  The design element I found most jarring was Elsa’s ice dress.  For the most part the movie goes for a Scandinavian-inspired style, with great traditional architecture and Norwegian designs on clothes, etc… but when Elsa lets loose her icy powers, she gives herself a slinky dress that looks straight out of some anachronistic red-carpet event, complete with slit up the thigh.  Even weirder, she starts sashaying about like a runway model with swaying hips and provocative glances over her bare shoulders, all while singing about how being a good girl is what’s holding her back…  The sudden sexualization (however minor and G-rated) is slightly inappropriate anyway, but particularly strange considering that it’s in the scene where she’s committing herself to total isolation.  Still, despite finding this one aspect of the movie jarring, it really wasn’t too egregious.
        I didn’t find the comic sidekicks as charming as some others in the history of animated movies, although they were fine.  (My favorite comic character was actually the villainous Duke of Weselton dancing at the ball.  Also, I liked Hans and Anna’s line that was something about how it must be love because we always finish each other’s… sandwiches.)  But while aspects of the movie were merely fine, there were other aspects that were exceptional.
- There was one plot twist that actually took me completely by surprise.
- The portrayal of the sisters’ growing estrangement and continuing love was very strong.
- The depiction of snow and ice as both positive and negative, dangerous and vital, was nuanced and interesting.
- Some of the scenes were visually gorgeous, including the storm at sea and most of Elsa’s cryokinetics.
- There was very little violence and even the villain got only one punch in the face and then was sent home in disgrace.  (But in the Mickey Mouse short shown before “Frozen,” Mickey and his gang were quite disturbingly gleeful about excessively repeated explicit cartoon violence.  Yuck.)
        I cried copiously throughout the movie, and while that doesn’t necessarily say much since, as my family will tell you, I cry at everything, I did find certain scenes very moving.  As for T, she enjoyed the movie thoroughly.  Her favorite character is Sven the reindeer, but she rates the entire movie “totally awesome."

[Picture: Frozen poster, art director Michael Giaimo, 2013.]

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