dirs: Jennifer Lee & Chris Buck
When they’re this enjoyable, watching kids movies, or at least movies aimed at kids and their guardians, is a joy, and you thank the heavens above that you’re a parent and that you get to share these sublime experiences with your kids.
When they’re the usual terrible children’s fare, be it Smurf this or Shrek that, then it’s a purgatorial experience that makes you curse the universe for ever fooling you into breeding in the first place. You start making appointments to get your tubes tied before you even leave the cinema.
Thankfully, nothing needed to be ligatured or sterilised as a result of watching this film with my glorious child in tow. We both enjoyed the hell out of it, and that is exactly as it should be. It may not be as almost completely perfect as Tangled was, since while I liked some of the songs here, I loved the songs in Tangled, and that matters when it comes to a musical comedy animated movie thingie etc.
So some of the songs aren't that great, though the central one, sung by one of the sisters when she turns evil, is pretty strong. They're that musical theatre kind of songs, that's fine if you can handle that sort of thing, but purgatorial if you can't.
Nothing in this flick, song-wise, is anywhere near as great as the "I've Got a Dream" song from Tangled, but at least everything else is in perfect working order. Well, maybe not perfect, because this is Disney after all, and it's an experience in treacledom at the best and worst of times.
And, well, it's impossible to ignore that thing that Disney does so well, which is craft familiar confections with the same conservative, inherently sexist conception of female protagonists perpetually cute and perky and waiting for a man to complete them so they can live happily ever after. Instead of just having one princess, this has two, so double the girliness and falling over, and double the unrealistic representations of insectiod girl bodies where wrists and thighs are thinner than eyes. Manga/anime has nothing on Disney.
And yet, everything I've mentioned and could mention is stuff outside of the frame of my actual experience in the cinema. Sure it's clichéd, clichéd in the sense that the paradigms and dynamics of how these stories are constructed seem to never vary, to be ticked off the same clipboard checklist that's always used without fail 1) Animal sidekick? Check. 2) Rough but handsome love interest of humble origins who plays by his own rules? Check. 3) Small creature magical or otherwise for comic relief? Check. 4) A convoluted premise that could have been solved from the start if someone had just mentioned something to someone? Check.
It almost was so unnecessarily self-sabotaging, what kicks the drama off, that it made me think the protagonists were slightly idiotic, but that's by the by.
Two children play, in a mythical place called Arendelle which is meant to be some generic Nordic/Scandinavian type place. Elsa has Iceman-like powers, creating ice and snow on demand, like one of them fridges from the 1980s where you push your glass against a lever and then ice cubes cascade out onto the floor, with a few going into your glass. The other sister, Anna, gets hurt by accident. Anna's parents, and some trolls (?), decide that the best solution is to erase Anna's memory of what happened, and to effectively isolate both the sisters from each other, and everyone else in Christendom from Elsa.
I never had an inkling of why they did any of this, and it seemed so fundamentally arbitrary that it bugged me for much of the flick, so much so that I'm still thinking about it now. In fact, you know what? It made no sense. Elsa and Anna, you had terrible, well-meaning, best intentioned parents. Their stupid decision made everything else happen because of their reckless over-parenting. Clearly, had the era the flick is set in allowed for helicopters, they'd be in helicopters exhibiting their best helicopter parenting above you right now. Instead, they drown at sea during a shipwreck, which is probably the most deserved fate I've seen in a film since the end of Zero Dark Thirty, where a certain bearded guy cops bullets to the face.
The sisters grow up, and Anna sings songs about missing her sister, and wanting to play with her. Elsa almost reaches out, but decides she can't, not until she figures out how to control her awesome ice powers.
Fear becomes inextricably linked with her abilities, and when she starts worrying about losing control, and freezing stuff, she loses control and freezes stuff. It's kind of like when a guy starts worrying about not being able to 'perform' in bed, and you end up making your fears a reality in a way that leaves everybody unhappy. Or so I've heard. From some other guys.
She has a particularly big freak out on the day she's meant to be crowned queen, and, during her coronation, which was pretty boring anyway, she freezes the whole town, despite the fact that it's summer. Way to mess with local organic farmers, lady.
She leaves town, perhaps forever, and decides, "Forget all y'all fools. I'm doing my own thing." In probably my second favourite bit of the whole film, and it's a film I like a lot of, Elsa sings a song where she lets go of her previous constrained life, while she constructs her own ice palace on top of a mountain, deciding that everyone else sucks, and she'll be better off on her own.
You go, girl. Let it go indeed. Loved that bit of the film. Sometimes, isolated jerks and anti-social people should be left on their own. They'll be way happier that way, and so would the people who would otherwise have to put up with them.
The problem is, though, all of Arrendelle is under ice, and getting icier, and that's not going to be good for all the people of Arrendelle if they become popsicles. So Anna has to set out and blah blah blah.
I can be dismissive about this kind of stuff and plot, but that's not to say it didn't breeze along and provide us with a likeable (enough) bunch of characters to be entertained by with their copious amounts of shenanigans. Anna couldn't possibly solves her problems herself, she needs some big burly guy called Kristoff to help her out, and not even just him, but his companion/life partner Sven the reindeer, and a snowman called Olaf, and so the whole gang is trying to save both Elsa and Arendelle.
Small irritating magical companion? Tick that off the list, too. Doubtless, Anna and Kristoff and the other hangers-on will have adventures and such before the end, and most of it will pan out exactly as we expect.
But, and this is a big but, just like the one's Sir Mixalot can't lie about liking, it manages to tie all these elements together really well. Of course the visuals are magnificent, the 3D was competent (as it usually is in 3D animated movies versus 3D live action flicks drowning in CGI), the voice work is fine, the gags come thick and fast, with a decent mixture of visual and verbal gags, and the story isn't all wrapped up in a pretty bow by the end.
These Disney princess shenanigans are basically a way of selling more princesses that look exactly like the other Disney princesses to the aspiring 2 to 10 year old girls out there, and I can't ignore that it's about marketing. But thankfully they subverted the archetype enough for me not to want to hurl my masticated popcorn at the screen. In fact, despite seeming to flirt with it at the beginning, romantic love between two simpletons arises, but is squashed by experience and necessity. In fact, it's the whirlwind 'romance' between Anna and some idiot that prompts Elsa to go berserk and freeze everyone in the first place. It's the sheer stupidity of Anna wanting to marry some tool she's known for ten minutes that tips Elsa over the edge.
What really got me the most, what really sealed the deal for me as to whether I'd like this film or not, is the resolution both to Arendelle's climate change problems, and to a wound that Anna's suffers towards the end. An act of true love will save Anna, but it ends up not being the moment you'd assume, given the obsession with hetero-normative monogamy these stories invariably obligate.
It was a moment of such love, such beauty, and such power that it brought me to tears, and I can't remember the last time Disney did that. It was a truly lovely moment on the way to a predictable end.
It's Anna's story, but it almost seems unfair that it is so. You'd think that Elsa, with the powers and all, would have been the natural lead. They almost take the tack that Elsa will become a villain, and she would have been a pretty awesome villain at that, but they manage to have her straddle the line. That hardly makes her a complicated character, since Disney loathes complexity (it's written in its charter - no moustaches, no complexity), but it begrudgingly allows for nuance, sometimes. It's made pretty clear that Elsa could have become a full blown villain, were it not for the pure love of her little sis.
I liked it a lot, I really had a ball watching it, and my soon-to-be seven year old daughter loved it too. She said "Frozen is a great movie. I like it how the baddie isn't too bad, and is good on the inside, but she acts a little bit like she's a bit bad sometimes. I would like to recommend Frozen to all kids who like movies at the cinema, or who are having a movie party." She loved the snowman character the most, truly showing that my inner child was long ago strangled in the crib, and that adults hate the bits kids love the most and vice versa, but she thought it was the best animated movie we've seen since the last one.
She says that about everything, but she's probably right.
8 times if I had freezing powers I would definitely be freezing Melbourne on one of these 35+ degree days out of 10
“I can’t feel my legs!”
- “Those are my legs.”
“Ooh, do me a favor and grab my butt.” – that’s what friends do for each other - Frozen