(Or, Tangled, Loose Ends and Nordic Beauty)
Well, I saw it. I finally know what she’s letting go of. Kinda’. But not really.
Several people have told me Frozen is the best animated Disney movie in decades, or their new favorite. Friends have hyped it so much that I’m a bit afraid to say this: it’s not my new favorite. Wait, don’t be angry! I didn’t hate it; I just didn’t fall in love with it. The opening song gives us a vague thesis—”Beware the frozen heart”—but I was a bit confused at Disney’s attempt to flesh it out.
For the first 20 minutes or so—however long it takes for Anna to leave town—the plot moved too fast for me. I didn’t become attached to the main characters, understand them as whole people, empathize with either of them, or satisfactorily understand Elsa’s gift-curse-ability-random-thing. If the song “We Know Better” and the concept of an ancient, feared prophecy hadn’t been cut from the film, I think I would have liked it much more. I felt like I was plopped into the middle of a story, even though I paid attention from the very beginning.
Spoilers and detailed comments:
- Dear Disney: parents are not useless. Sometimes the plot would work just as well if they stayed alive. Please stop disposing of one or both of them, post haste, in almost every story. It is disturbing.
- Elsa’s ability is never explained from any standpoint—scientific, mythological or emotional. We are supposed to be rooting for her to overcome something, but we don’t know what, as a specific emotion or attitude is never named. If I can’t pinpoint her problem, I can’t be satisfied at how it suddenly gets fixed. She says, “Of course! Love!” and everything thaws. In the words of Anna, “Wait, what?”
- “Meet my family.” Of trolls. That’s right: last time we saw Kristoff, he was a normal kid living among human ice miners. Now he lives with trolls. In the words of Anna, “Wait, what?”
- After Elsa builds that castle, she suddenly changes from normal-looking (well, Disney-normal, anyway) into unnecessarily seductive-looking. In the words of Anna, “Wait, what?”
Similarities to other films:
- Sven is basically Maximus, so he’s less amusing if you’ve already seen Tangled. The sisters’ faces are also similar to Rapunzel’s, as are the initial interactions between Anna & Kristoff and Rapunzel & Flynn.
- I loved seeing the Old Norse writing, partly because it reminded me of Hobbit runes. There is also resemblance between “Frozen Heart” and the Hobbit’s “Misty Mountains.” Even the sisters’ home, Arendelle, has a LotR-ish name. That all shouldn’t be surprising; J.R.R. Tolkien was heavily inspired by Nordic mythology, as NPR taught me last year.
It’s hard for me to analyze the production quality of an animated movie, but here are a few comments: little things like Olaf’s layers sliding around, and the trolls’ eyes blinking all at once, are nice visual treats. The animation of Elsa’s ice was beautiful and enjoyable to watch. Oddly, though, while she was singing at one point during “Let it Go,” I felt like I was watching a dubbed performance. Of course, all animated characters’ voices are “dubbed,” so that makes sense, but it usually doesn’t look that way to me. This time, it did—I think the character’s animation, particularly her mouth movement, was too understated to match the power of Idina Menzel’s vocals.
I haven’t put separate “music” sections in my movie reviews before, but I am now. In this review, it will be the non-judgmental section.
There are two songs that “everyone” was singing after Frozen came out: “Let it Go” and “Do You Want to Build a Snowman.” To my pleasant surprise, these were not two of my favorites from the movie—I preferred the instrumental/non-English pieces. “Vuelie” is pure choral ecstasy. “Coronation Day” reminds me a little of Mulan’s “You’ll Bring Honor to Us All.” As for worded songs, I especially liked the sisters singing simultaneously in “For the First Time in Forever”—the contrasting keys and emotions sounded grand. The vocal changes when Anna sings through a keyhole, and later with chocolate in her mouth, were cute. And “Fixer Upper” is just plain funny.
For a Disney film, Frozen has pleasantly little magic in it. Elsa’s ability is called “sorcery” by her enemies, but is portrayed as more of an odd talent.
The sisters show admirable love and dedication toward one another, but also normal human selfishness. Elsa’s leaving is an act of love; she wants to keep everyone safe from her power. Anna’s chasing her is more pragmatic, but still based in the belief that her sister would never hurt her.
This isn’t theology, but I want to applaud the writers for finally making a movie that points out the lunacy of thinking you’re in love with someone you’ve just met. Now if they can just keep that attitude going in future films. I hope!
- Family loyalty.
- Don’t shut others out.
- Some talents can be used for good or harm.
- Don’t trust the first guy who’s nice to you.
- A nice guy may actually be just trying to use you.
- Don’t get engaged to someone you met that day.
- Sisters need each other more than they need men.
- Don’t hold back what comes what naturally to you, even if others think it’s weird.
- Fear inside you hurts the ones you love.