Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Frozen



Speaking of Disney, let’s take a look at Disney’s new blockbuster animated film. Is it worth all the hype and the overwhelmingly favourable reviews?

Well, to start with, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Frozen is a return to the days of animated Disney musicals. Unfortunately, Alan Menken didn’t compose the music and Howard Ashman didn’t write the lyrics. Some of the songs worked for me, but most fell into the so-so range. Still, the musical side of the film was a definite highlight.

Another highlight was the animation, which is as gorgeous as we have come to expect from Disney. I, of course, did not watch it in 3D, which usually taints whatever it touches. But I hardly noticed I was watching a 3D film in 2D. Excellent work! There are numerous examples of clever and funny dialogue, one of which even satirize Disney animated films of the past. And (big sigh of relief!) there is almost no sign of the redemptive violence common to so may Disney films. Good stuff!

So Frozen has a lot going for it. Nevertheless, my overall reaction to the film was one of disappointment. With such positive reviews, I was expecting, at the least, a well-told original story. I didn’t get it. For me, the plot of Frozen was a mess. Although the sister (Anna) is the protagonist of the piece, which is a nice change, the story revolves around Elsa, a woman who grows up with the magical ability to manipulate ice. This ability is, unfortunately for Elsa, largely uncontrollable and therefore seen as a curse, forcing her into a life of obscene isolation (motivated by a laudable desire not to hurt those around her).

Such a story, properly fleshed out and logically told, might have worked as a foundation for a good Disney animated film, but Frozen, in my opinion, is poorly fleshed out and both randomly (while predictably) and illogically told. Good guys and bad guys alike suffer from a lack of character development and Elsa in particular is a complete mystery. Where did her powers come from? What are they exactly? How can she live such a completely isolated life? Does she ever eat? If so, how does she get food? What is this bizarre kingdom Elsa and Anna dwell in and what are their roles (I know it’s a fairy tale set in Scandinavia, but it bears no resemblance to The Snow Queen, which inspired it, and doesn’t provide me with enough context)? How can a snowman talk, but not the reindeer? These are just a few examples of a plot that I found full of holes and inconsistencies, with a chaotic randomness to the story that left me profoundly unsatisfied, even when the film was generally fun and beautiful to watch. I do not recall feeling this way about most previous Disney films. Maybe my brain was frozen (the temperature here in Winnipeg having hovered around -30 for most of December) and I missed something.

Whatever the cause of my disappointment, I had the feeling the writers and directors were going through the motions to create another Disney blockbuster for Christmas, which they certainly succeeded in doing. But I keep hoping for more and I cannot give Frozen more than ***. My mug is up.

I should mention that Janelle, who accompanied me and knows much more than I about Disney animated films, liked Frozen more than I did and would have given it ***+.

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