Frozen: The Siblings Ascendant

So by now, I’m sure that most people have heard of Disney’s latest animated venture, Frozen, which has ended up smashing quite a few records, and has set some new challenges for Hollywood to follow. The movie has been both a critical and commercial success, whether we talk in its home North American territories or globally. All through the last three months, it has been the talk of much discussion pretty much everywhere. Myself, I wasn’t even aware of the movie until quite recently. I’m usually not all that big on animated movies these days, mostly because they’ve just fallen off my radar of late. But then I started hearing from social media friends about Idina Menzel’s track “Let It Go” from the movie and the portrayal of sibling relationships in the movie. And I was interested.

I saw the movie a little over two weeks ago, in 3D. Given how long the movie came out, I feel quite fortunate that I managed to get such a late viewing of it here in Dubai, but I suppose that speaks for the incredible success of the movie in the first place. I went in with some moderately high expectations, nothing particularly specific, but expecting a similar kind of wonder that I’ve felt on watching Disney’s classics from the 80s and 90s. And you know what? I came away amazed and ecstatic, brimming with energy verve to talk about it. For my money’s worth, it was one of the best movies of 2013, and I gave it place of honour as the best movie of the year, even above Pacific Rim (review), which I just loved.

Frozen WallpaperI grew up watching Disney films. I grew up watching Disney cartoons. The Lion King, Aladdin, The Little MermaidDuck Tales, Pinocchio, Winnie The Pooh, Hercules, and more. In college, I went back to the days of my childhood and binged on Disney stuff that I’d missed otherwise. Mulan, Fantasia, Dumbo, Tarzan, Beauty and the Beast, and more. I remember all of it very fondly. I remember being amazed and wondered out with the grandeur and simplicity alike of these stories. I remember how much fun I used to have. I remember how I would eagerly anticipate the mornings and evenings when I could watch an episode of Duck Tales or The Little Mermaid or Hercules. Those were some good days.

In recent years however, I’ve kind of fallen off the map. I have somewhat kept up with animated stuff, mostly thanks to the amazing work that Pixar has been doing, and I loved Tangled and Brave when they came out. But amongst all of it, even my personal all-time favourites like Aladdin and The Lion King, nothing has moved me on a deeply personal level as much as last year’s Frozen did. There are quite a few reasons for that.

Frozen, unlike any of the other Disney movies, is about the relationship between two sisters, from childhood all the way through to when they are adults. It has the hallmarks and cores of every Disney movie, such as the beautiful princesses, the handsome princes, the snarky and lovable sidekicks, and some madcap adventures. But, at its heart, its about two sisters who are alone in the world and have just each other. The movie is about their trials and how they eventually reconcile. There are no paupers turned princes here, no women masquerading as men to prove their fighting worth, no epic romance plots. It is a simple story, and yet in that simplicity it is a grand story nonetheless. That’s what I love about it, most of all.

More than anything else though, after a long, long time, there is an animated movie that has a true sense of wonder to it, the sense of wonder as pertains to magic. Not since the days of Hercules and Aladdin have I felt like this. Honestly. Would it be hyperbole of me to say that this movie might as well mark Disney’s big revival in terms of its animated content? I think not.

In a world where a criminally disproportionate amount of movies are made about men by men and featuring all the manly things, Frozen is a beacon. Just like Hunger Games (review) and Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Tangled and Brave are. In recent years, we are beginning to see more and more positive representation of women on the big screen and it is movies like these that are leading that charge. I’m a huge fan of all these movies. I love the message that they send, and I love that people are responding to that message, that they are accepting it.

It all works together to create a really great movie. Despite the fact that Frozen has two male protagonists who are romantic interests for the leading ladies and that there is indeed a romantic subplot with both Hans and Kristoff, the plot remains focused on what Elsa and Anna are going through. The story is about them, and it never loses sight of it. I really must credit the movie’s writing team for how well they play with Disney’s own tropes and cliches and deliver some great twists all throughout. There are so many moments in the movie where you are like: oh, this is going to happen like this and this because that’s how Disney has always done it. But then, BAM! Tables are turned and the plot goes in a different direction and you are left with your jaw hanging open because the twist is brilliant. The climax, which brings all the characters together after all their madcap adventures, is the perfect example of this, although I won’t give any details about it.

The movie really has to be experienced first-hand to get the full force of the message and effect.

In many ways, Frozen is a classic Disney movie, but it is also something completely different, it is a modern Disney classic, you could say. It sets a new bar for story-writing that is all too common in movies today. And that’s what we have to learn from it, the ultimate lesson: movies with female leads with female-centric stories actually can do damn well at the box office and they should be given more of a chance than they are. Hollywood executives always make excuses for why they don’t make all that many female-centric movies. The simmering controversy about solo Wonder Woman and Black Widow live-action films are a great example of that. Executives cite the failures of movies like Elektra and Sucker Punch of Chun-Li for why female-centric movies don’t work. They forget the root cause though: a female-centric movie is like any other male-centric movie, it just needs to be competently written and competently acted and competently marketed. That’s it. The first of those was the problem with Elektra. The first and second were the problems with Sucker Punch. All three were the problems with Chun-Li.

But take heart people. For Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Frozen are there to lead the charge. I mean come on, Hunger Games: Catching Fire grossed more on the box office in North America than Iron Man 3 did! There’s a very important lesson here.

Anyways, sorry for going on that bit of a stand there. Back to the review.

Another truly awesome thing about Frozen is its musical soundtrack. Idina Menzel’s Let It Go and Do You Want To Build A Snowman which is performed by Idina, Kristen Bell and Agatha Lee Monn are just amazing. The latter song comes first in the movie and it is just after the change in the status quo between Anna and Elsa. It is one of the most emotional of Disney’s songs that I’ve ever listened to. Anna’s enthusiasm and her desire to just hang out with her elder sister is brought across really well, as is the distress that Elsa feels at having to cut herself off from Anna and the loss of their parents. Quite heartbreaking indeed. But then comes along Let It Go and I did cry for all three and a half minutes of the song. I haven’t cried watching a Disney movie ever since Mufasa’s death in The Lion King or seeing Jafar break apart Jasmine and Aladdin’s relationship in Aladdin or seeing Ariel get betrayed by Ursula or seeing Hades manipulate Megara into betraying Hercules in, well, Hercules. For some reason, this song really got to me. It is about breaking free, and stepping outside of the boundaries placed by society. It is Elsa’s epiphany, where she learns to live on her teams. Idina Menzel’s voice is perfect on this song. Even as I write this entire review, I’ve been listening to the song on repeat. Its been almost an hour now. I’ve spent several hours looping the YouTube video and watching it frame by frame there.

I don’t know. I’m silly like that.

Frozen Cast

What I’m trying to get at is that Frozen‘s soundtrack, with the original songs composed by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, and the score itself composed by Christophe Beck, is one of the best Disney soundtracks ever. Just is.

The voice-overs are also excellent. Idina Menzel performs as Elsa. Kristen Bell performs as Anna. Alan Tudyk is the scheming and hilarious Duke of Weselton. Ciaran Hinds is the most awesome as store owner Oaken. Jonathan Groff is Kristoff and Josh Gad is Olaf, the snowman that Elsa’s powers conjure up later on in the film. Each and every voice-actor was superb, particularly the leading ladies who really made their chemistry shine through with the dialogue. You could feel that chemistry. All the emotional beats throughout the movie were just perfect.

And that’s really all I have. Isn’t for just any reason that I consider Frozen to be the best movie of 2013. There are several reasons, each as awesome as the one before or after. If you haven’t seen it yet, then you are missing out on a really incredible piece of Disney history.

I leave you with the following video, which was put out recently and is just mind-bogglingly amazing.

Posted on February 1, 2014, in Movie Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Only one note to correct. Elsa didn’t have a love interest. The guys were part of a triangle involving Anna.


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