Friday, November 29, 2013

Film Review: Frozen

"Frozen"  *** (out of ****)

In my opinion it has not been a very good year for animated movies. Nothing has really stood out among the pack which I would declare as a true masterpiece.

This year I have seen "Epic" (2013) which reminded me a bit of a Hayao Miyazaki story because of an environmental theme which runs through. It is a theme which can be found in Miyazaki's work. Speaking of Miyazaki, his son Goro directed what is shaping up to be one of the year's best films, "From Up On Poppy Hill" (2013), which I have reviewed. Disney released "Planes" (2013) earlier in the year, which I honestly enjoyed a great deal. The "critics" (puppets, sheep, whatever you want to call them) unfairly damned the movie, getting involved with Disney politics. Highly unprofessional on their part. Dreamworks released "Turbo" (2013) which I felt was a complete misfire. It had a similar theme to "Planes", but, "Planes" had everything "Turbo" lacked (heart and humor). Though Dreamworks also released "The Croods" (2013). Not great but good and it had some entertaining moments.

I mention all of this because I was greatly looking forward to "Frozen" (2013), Disney's latest release. I thought this might be the best animated film of the year. There was a lot of good buzz proceeding the movie and I remembered how much I enjoyed "Tangled" (2010). I liked that one so much I even placed it on my top ten list that year. "Frozen" had a similar look. The female characters here resembled the Rapunzel character in "Tangled", especially around the eyes.

But "Frozen" didn't live up to my expectations. Mind you, "Frozen" is not a bad movie. It is not a mis-step for Disney. It has some effective moments but it is not a masterpiece. It is not one of the year's best films. Nor is it one of Disney's best.  What I loved about "Tangled" was the humor and songs. It was one of those movies which adults and children could both enjoy. I saw "Tangled" with my niece and we both walked out of the theatre loving the movie (I have reviewed it). "Frozen" will please a lot of children but the adults may not be as involved. The reason? The songs aren't as memorable to me and the humor doesn't gel as nicely here and translate as easily for adults. Disney keeps "Frozen" at the kiddie level. Which is fine. Overall I recommend the movie for children. They will be entertained but I was expecting more because I know Disney is capable of more.

"Frozen" is very loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen". Though Disney and the screenwriter, Jennifer Lee, who also co-directed the movie, take all the religious aspects out of the movie and present a more basic story of good and evil within us. For example, Andersen's story dealt with the Devil and God.

Here we follow two sisters, Anna (voiced as an adult by Kristen Bell) and Elsa (voiced as an adult by Idina Menzel). Elsa has a special power. Anything she touches turns to ice. One day, while the girls are playing, Elsa accidentally hurts Anna. Their parents immediately take Anna by trolls to heal her. Since only Anna's head was injured the trolls are able to help by erasing Anna's memory of the event and her memories of Elsa's power. The parents separate the two girls until Elsa can learn to control her power. But Anna doesn't understand why her sister doesn't play with her anymore. All she knows is she has lost her only friend.

As the years past no one enters the castle until the day Elsa, the eldest sister, is crowned queen. Each girl views the occasion differently. For Anna it is a chance to interact with people, since her sister does not speak to her anymore. For Elsa it is a day of trepidation. Will she be able to control her power?

Without revealing too much, things go wrong and Elsa, accidentally, freezes the land, putting it into a deep winter. Now Anna, with the help of a young man who is in the ice business, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) must find Elsa to see if she can reverse the spell.

The movie adds humor with the introduction of a snowman character, Olaf (Josh Gad) who dreams of what life would be like in Summer, not realizing the effect heat has on snow. Elsa created Olaf when she was a child and now he is come to life. He will help Anna and Kristoff find Elsa and lead them to her ice palace.

The movie, co-directed by Chris Buck, who directed "Tarzan" (1999) and "Surf's Up" (2007) and Jennifer Lee, on paper sounds entertaining enough. And could have worked. But, I just wasn't impressed with the songs, except for one, which Elsa sings while creating her palace. And the humor didn't bring me in.

"Frozen" has heart and some scenes which work. It is not so predictable and some events caught me off guard, especially since it doesn't follow "The Snow Queen" faithfully.

It is no "Tangled", which I truly feel is a Disney masterpiece but "Frozen" is fun and I'm sure children will enjoy it a great deal. For that reason it is worth seeing.