Loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's 'The Snow Queen', Disney's newest movie is one of the best animated films of the year - but that's not saying much.
"You know, there’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you." explained Inga to Frederick in Mel Brook’s classic comedy
Young Frankenstein, referring to the operation which successfully took away part of the doctor’s considerable intellect in order to repair the damaged mind of his creation. "In the transference, the monster got part of your wonderful brain. But what did you ever get from him?"
I’ve had a version of that question rolling around my skull for years now ever since The Disney Company started buying up a good chunk of my geeky obsessions. Marvel Comics, LucasFilm, The Muppets, Pixar, the list is staggering. Thank the Lord they can’t buy the Catholic Church (you know they would if they could), otherwise I’d have no choice but to simply give up and bow down before the almighty mouse overlord. Still, even without a religion under their belt, the sheer amount of intellectual properties now owned by Disney is impressive, and I’ve often wondered when we would start seeing some aspects of their acquisitions begin to bleed over into their main brand. Well, I’ve finally gotten my answer because I’ve just seen
Loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s
The Snow Queen (and I mean very loosely, as in both stories have snow in them and that’s about it),
Frozen tells the tale of Princess Elsa, burdened since birth with the ability to create ice out of thin air, and her younger sister Princess Anna, who accidentally receives a near fatal case of brain freeze from her sibling while the two tots are playing around the family castle. Hoping to find a cure for both children, the king and queen travel with their daughters to consult the magical rock trolls who live in the nearby mountains. It’s from these creatures that the royal family receives the dubious advice to lock Elsa away from all human contact, teach her to suppress any strong emotion, and to allow the trolls to magically remove all of Anna’s memories of her sister’s abilities. Fearing for their eldest daughter’s life if she is perceived to be a witch by the citizens of their perpetually sunny kingdom, the parent’s reluctantly agree to all of the trolls’ conditions.
Completely isolated from the public and from each other, the girls grow to their teens behind the castle walls. When their parents die during a sea voyage, however, Elsa finds she has no choice but to undergo the coronation which will crown her as the new queen. While Elsa makes her plans to make it through the ceremony without revealing her powers, the ecstatic Anna wanders off into the city for the first time and immediately falls head over heals for Hans, the youngest of thirteen princes from a neighboring kingdom. When Elsa sensibly denies Anna permission to marry someone she has just met, Anna creates such a scene that Elsa looses control and inadvertently exposes her abilities to a horrified public. Terrified that she will be arrested for witchcraft, Elsa flees to the mountains, unaware that her emotional turmoil has created an ice storm so severe that the entire kingdom has frozen over.
And so begins a series of adventures as Anna pursues her sister into the mountains in order to bring Elsa home and return the weather to normal, enlisting along the way the help of Kristoff, an awkward young ice salesman raised since childhood by the rock trolls, Kristoff’s reindeer companion Sven, and a sentient snowman by the name of Olaf. In many ways the movie is classic Disney, just with the standard tropes multiplied by two to up the stakes a little. There’s two (not one, but two, count’em two) princesses, two dead parents, two potential suitors for the youngest girl, and two goofy non-human sidekicks. It’s almost as if the filmmakers looked at the success of their previous effort,
Tangled, and said to themselves, "Hey, let’s do the same thing all over again, except this time… let’s make two of everything. It’ll be twice as good, right?"
Well, no, not really. In a year notoriously weak for its animated features,
Frozen ranks near the top of the heap almost by default, but it’s not quite the return to the renaissance days of
The Little Mermaid or
Beauty and the Beast that the advertising would lead you to believe it is. While the movie mostly follows the Disney formula, it messes up some of the ingredients, in particular the musical numbers. The music is serviceable and advances the story along like it should, but the tunes are forgettable and the lyrics are nowhere near as clever as they think they are. Once the film is over, odds are you’ll be hard pressed to recall enough of the melodies to be able to hum a few bars.