I’m not a monster. I have no way of proving this, other than hearing testimonials from friends and loved ones. My heart pumps regular blood and not acidic bile. I am capable of love and being loved, and in spite of much speculation, my inner child is very much alive. Neglected but still alive. None of this would be readily apparent while sitting through a Disney film.
“Frozen” is typical by Disney standards—in story, character, and execution. Sure, the package is prettier with the kind of computer-generated, three-dimensional visuals often seen in Pixar films. Still, this is as traditional a Disney film as one will find: beautiful princesses, handsome barrel-chested heroes, cute animals and enough musical numbers to stage the inevitable Broadway show, which will likely be produced.
The story loosely follows Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” and tells the story of two sisters. Elsa possesses magical powers and can create ice and snow at will. Her sister, Anna, is accidentally injured because of her powers, and her parents decide it’s best if she hides these abilities. After their parents die, Elsa becomes a recluse, afraid of the harm she might cause, and Anna is left to wonder why her sister has become a closed-off Ice Queen (tee hee).
As they get older, the divide grows. Anna is desperate to find a life away from the cold and closed-off walls of the castle. Elsa reluctantly takes the throne, but her powers soon reveal themselves causing the people of her kingdom to become fearful and distrusting Basically, it’s pretty much what happens in almost every Disney film. Anna tries to bring her sister back, but inadvertently gets cursed with a frozen heart and will turn to ice only to be thawed by “an act of true love.” Excuse me for a moment, while I vomit into a trash receptacle.
While in the wilderness, Anna runs into an old acquaintance, Kristoff. The two take off to try and rescue Elsa. Along the way, audiences are subjected to the kind of snappy banter than can only exist between two perpetually sexually frustrated Disney characters. Of course, because this is a Disney film, there’s a cute reindeer and a talking snowman. Because, dammit, somebody in this movie has to provide the comic relief and 7-year-olds have the attention span of a crack addict with a strobe light strapped to their faces.
Perhaps fatherhood has softened me a hair, because even as I witnessed the catalog of constant, cute annoyances that permeate this formulaic nonsense, I didn’t hate it. The characters, though cookie-cutter, were earnest and fun. The visuals were well-rendered. I didn’t even mind the songs, though none of them were particularly memorable. Musical numbers in movies are always kind of a mixed bag for me. The movie itself really can’t be called a “musical”—only in the Bollywood sense, where big production numbers get peppered between narrative set pieces. To take a dramatic pause and break into song, filmmakers should make sure they’re catchy enough to have audiences humming the tunes while leaving the theater. Twenty minutes out the door, I couldn’t hum a bar of any of them to save my own life. Fortunately, there are very few scenarios outside of the “Saw” movies where something like that would happen.
Yet, “Frozen” is good, clean fun. It’s a Disney film ice sculpture: a movie dripping in every cliché that people love (or hate) about the studio. I found myself liking enough of “Frozen” to recommend it, though mostly for the superior visual design and some solid voice acting. I did like that the “act of true love” that frees Anna isn’t the standard kiss from a handsome lug, but an act of sacrifice to save her sister. Even though most Disney films are painfully antiquated in terms of social messages, seeing a girl choose to save her sister instead of falling into the arms of the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Aryan hero makes me groan a little less. With Disney-animated features, that’s about as close to a win as I’m going to get.
Starring Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Idina Menzel