Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

02 December 2013

The Snow Queen: Thoughts on Frozen

About Disney's Frozen:

1. Frozen is a musical! After all the complaints I've made about faux musicals like Brother Bear where the characters' feelings are expressed through music but the characters don't actually sing, Frozen has its characters belting. The movie's story is told through song. The plot advances through song. It's wonderful.

2. And they cast singers. No Hollywood community-theatre version of a musical here: Frozen stars Idina Menzel (Wicked), Jonathan Groff (Spring Awakening), Josh Gad (Book of Mormon), Santino Fontana (Cinderella), and Maia Nkenge Wilson (Book of Mormon). The only Hollywood star is Kristen Bell, who, incidentally sings beautifully.

3. The only bad part about this is that the film eventually stops being a musical. There is room for an awesome eleven-o'clock number like "The Mob Song" (that "Kill the Beast" tune) in Beauty and the Beast, but Frozen is done with songs by the time we get to the final section of the movie. It's a pity. Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez's songs are great; giving us more of them would have made the film even better.

4. Frozen is a kind of spoof on the traditional princess story. In a good way. It has the same kind of silly Disney-princess in-jokes as Tangled (the film looks like Tangled, too). Love at first sight, the true love's kiss, and "the one" all come in for criticism in Frozen, and the filmmakers gentle poking at these ideas is good fun and quite funny.

5. The film also looks really cool. The snow is beautiful and the art direction looks great.

6. The script is a bit of a mess, though. There are plot holes galore: Why didn't the trolls help Elsa deal with her powers? How does love solve everyone's problems? Why couldn't Elsa at least talk to Anna, you know, through the door? (Surely, they could've played twenty questions at the very least.) What does Elsa eat up there on North Mountain? Why did Elsa need to take off her gloves to hold the scepter? Why didn't Professor Xavier come and take her to his mutant school?

7. There is an adorable baby reindeer. Seriously, he is the cutest thing.

8. There is also a snowman (played by Josh Gad), who has a totally different look than the other characters. It was cool that he looked like this, and he was way less annoying in the film than he was in that teaser trailer where he's falling apart all over the ice. But the trolls, too, have a different, less realistic look than the rest of the Frozen's characters, and that didn't really make much sense.

9. I think the music is the showcase here. The first real song, "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?", is heartbreaking and funny by turns, and also tells a beautiful story in a very short amount of time. It is a perfect use of a song in a movie: on the level of Aladdin's "One Jump Ahead". Okay, I overstate. "One Jump Ahead" is a brilliant song and "Snowman" is not nearly as perfect as that, but look at the sparkle of these lyrics:
Do you wanna build a snowman?
Come on, let's go and play.
I never see you anymore,
Come out the door;
It's like you've gone away.
We used to be best buddies,
And now we're not;
I wish you would tell me why.
Do you wanna build a snowman?
(It doesn't have to be a snowman.)
Okay, bye
.
10. I loved that the movie was about true love being love between sisters. This is a movie about young women coming into their own. This is not a movie about true love or any of that nonsense. Instead, two sisters learn to deal with something that has torn them apart. The most important relationship in Frozen is a sororal one. And unlike Brave, Frozen doesn't propose to instruct young women about correct modes of behavior, focusing instead on the love between sisters as a priority. This is extraordinary for a Princess movie.