Last week, in his feature on the same film, James Dix told you to see Frozen for the music. Well, I certainly don’t disagree: the songs are at worst solid throughout, and are at best a collection of diverse tunes that serve the story well whilst lingering in the minds of the audience. Let it Go – the Katy Perry-esque pop ballad that comes midway through the action – is the supposed highlight, but this is partly due to the nature of it, i.e. the accompanying showy vocals and visuals, and the fact that it also plays over the end credits. Whilst entertaining, there are other mini-gems such as Do You Want to Build a Snowman?, In Summer and Fixer Upper which display a range of emotions, setups and involve an array of characters.
But whilst James Dix quite clearly knows more about the musical production values than I do – rightly lauding it because of the talent involved – there’s much more to this film than merely the musical elements. It takes Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen (a story which I am unfamiliar with, incidentally) and delivers a script which is genuinely intriguing, no longer falling into conventional pitfalls of predictability that so many children/family films tend to do. It also means that I’m hesitant to give away certain details of plot, character and theme (as well as individual jokes and moments) in order for the experience to remain as exciting as it should, which is a refreshing thing to say about such a film. It would be unfair, though, to characterise this as aiming towards a young audience and nobody else – instead it casts its net far wider and gets away with it (not an easy task), and this is partly what makes it great.
Pixar have shown for the best part of two decades that both children and adults can find the same characters – and hey, even the very same jokes – very amusing indeed. Frozen, co-directed by one of the screenwriters of Wreck-it Ralph, treats its audience with intelligence – and is much the better for it. From the first scene I was completely on board with the film, and I (or it) never let go past the credits, by which time I was beaming (as were the kids and everyone else in the screening). The writers and directors may have a Disney background, but as well as knowing the history of the studio there are also gentle nods to the likes of Les Miserables, Sweeney Todd and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Perhaps no surprise, given that Wreck-it Ralph employed a similar amount of knowing references (e.g. Alien, Alice in Wonderland, The Incredible Hulk) – a clear indication of playing to a wider, more film-literate audience.
Frozen involves an Emma Stone-like protagonist – well-meaning, bashful and totally likeable in her actions – attempting to connect with her elder sister and also to save the city from freezing. The order of importance here is significant: it’s fundamentally a film concerned with characters rather than narrative quests. If Brave was a film about mothers and daughter relationships, then Frozen is for all the siblings (particularly sisters) out there. This has the added bonus of giving us two strong female characters at the centre of the story (and who are the real heart of it), with the male characters (humans, a reindeer and a snowman) providing the comedic supporting cast. Many animated films now rely on an entertaining poster boy/girl for laughs – Shrek’s Donkey, Despicable Me’s Minions and so on – and Olaf the Snowman, all at once naive, cute and hilarious, is no exception here.
But what’s great is that it isn’t just Olaf: all of the characters are well-rounded, fresh and stray from stereotypes for the most part – as does the film in general. This leads to a genuinely great ending for all of the right reasons (I’ll say no more), and means that the picture doesn’t rely on any singular strength for its success. The themes work, as does the music, as do the characters, as do the visuals. Without going into detail about the beautiful landscapes and frozen palace imagery on offer, as well as the nifty camerawork that’s often lacking in animations, it’s suffice to say that it adds another level to Disney’s latest success.
James Dix argued in his article that one of the reasons to go and see Frozen was because it’s Disney, and they rarely get it wrong. Well I’m not so inclined to agree – they’ve had a largely rough time since the turn of the century up until the Pixar acquisition – and yet even with self-confessed ambivalence towards Disney growing up, this one totally works.
Frozen very much lived up to my already pretty-high expectations, with Disney getting ever closer to regaining their crown as the kings of animation. Ultimately it’s an all-round joy, and if it wasn’t for the superb Wreck-it Ralph it would be the best animated film of the year.