Posted March 16, 2015 by Daniel Hodgson in
Frozen is more concerned with getting to the next song than emotionally connecting with the audience.
I hate Frozen. I hated it on its initial release, and I am reminded how much I hated it with Frozen Fever, the cutesy cartoon short which precedes Cinderella.
Frankly, Frozen blows. I say that to mean that it’s a story poorly told, an evaluation of the film’s quality that’s different than my feelings about it, although one has a hand in the other. With Frozen Fever in theaters, it’s time I got this off my chest, so I can finally, you know…
Frozen stumbles right out of the gate, a folly it never recovers from. It’s no sooner that we are introduced to Anna and Elsa (voiced by Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel), the princesses of Arendelle, than they are torn apart. A song about their painful separation, “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” follows, but we can’t connect to it emotionally because we’ve barely met them; we can’t empathize with Anna, as the song intends, because we don’t know the first thing about either of them, or how they relate to each other.
Compare this to Up, in which the first ten minutes chronicle how they meet, how they grow up together, get married, how they spend their days together, and how tragedy strikes them. After a montage without a word of dialog, you feel like you know them, and only the hardest of souls won’t shed a tear at their misfortune. On the other hand, what does Frozen begin with? A song about ice, “Frozen Heart,” which does introduce its theme, but its an idea adrift, without characters or a story to connect itself to.
During Frozen’s overly-busy, disjointed first ten minutes, essentially a prologue to the rest of the film, Elsa nearly kills Anna with her magic. Then, her parents take her to a shaman, the leader of a strange clan of rock-men who roll up into boulders. He advises them to keep Elsa locked away, to repress her emotions and keep her powers a secret. “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” plays as the sisters grow up. Then, the parents—who are total strangers to us—die at sea. Poor Anna and Elsa, I guess.
Do you remember your reaction to how Mufasa died in The Lion King? Likely, it was shock, horror. That story took the time to develop both Mufasa and his son Simba as characters. I understood how Simba felt, feeling the same thing myself, and pitied him. Not so with Frozen, which is more concerned with getting to the next song than connecting with the audience.
Then the movie has the audacity to begin its lecture about the obvious foolishness of marrying someone you’ve just met. Big talk for a movie about a cast of characters you barely know. The doomed romance between Anna and Hans (Santino Fontana), the engine for Frozen’s plot, is a criticism of Disney’s own fairy tales, from Snow White to Sleeping Beauty, in which archetypal characters meet, fall in love, and get married soon afterwards. That courtship in those films is abbreviated is a necessity of storytelling, not something to be taken so literally, as Frozen does, given that they are simple tales for children told within the space of 80 minutes or less, a fraction of Frozen’s bloated running time.
Along the way, we meet the sentient snowman Olaf (Josh Gad), the Jar-Jar Biggs of Frozen, an obnoxious idiot who utters phrases like, “Watch out for my butt!” The story comes to a crashing halt while he sings about basking in the sunshine during the summer as a creature made of ice. May his wish come true.
Eventually, Frozen gets to that song. You know the one I’m talking about. The one that gets stuck in your head for days on end through the brute force of its key refrain. That one. The song itself changes mood to match Elsa’s disturbing rollercoaster of emotions, and Idina Menzel oversings it in her big loud voice like Christina Aguilera at Superbowl XLV. Some claim that “Let It Go” is a coming-out song for Elsa, who is different, secretive about her true nature, and shunned for her differentness. There are several other reasons to interpret the Frozen has having a pro-gay subtext, but the film is coy about it, and the filmmakers are equally non-committal when queried about the subject; as a coming-out song, it’s still halfway in the closet. Compare this to ParaNorman, which had the guts to come right out and say what it’s really about, unambiguously.
There is a brief moment in the film towards the end that I liked, in which Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) is about to allow Anna to run off with Hans, prompting an expression on Sven, his reindeer, which says are you @#$%ing kidding me? It’s a priceless reaction shot, and got a laugh out of me. So I’ll give it that.
I have to admit, musicals aren’t my thing, but animation definitely is. I went in with a bias towards the film, at least from a genre standpoint, and walked out loathing it. One might argue that I’m hardly target audience, but I’d counter that I loved Cinderella, which is easily the best film in Disney’s Neo-Renaissance, with Wreck-It Ralph as a close-second. But let’s face it, most of the so-called Neo-Renaissance films, live action and animated, don’t measure up to the studio’s output from 1989 to 2000. Even a couple of post-renaissance films, namely the brillianty daffy Emperor’s New Groove and the lovable Lilo and Stitch, are worlds better than the gaudy Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent, both soulless CGI extravaganzas. My point here is that generally speaking, Disney hasn’t been good in a really long time, and Frozen is a symptom of studio that has lost its way. I mean, have you seen Alexander and the Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? Yikes.
I’ve been carrying that around with me since late 2013. It feels good to finally be able to…let it go…let it go…