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.


  1. My friend David asked on fb: "This is one of my favorite reviews from your blog. You're obviously in a good mood after seeing this. But you just posted that you were hating on the Idina Menzel casting. First of all, why do you not love her? Second, what changed your mind in this case?"

    Idina drives me crazy, actually. Her voice has a pop sound that she never bothers to tame, even when it is inappropriate, and so I often find her singing just a little too much, or even more frequently, out of place in whatever musical she's in. I am not a Rent fan in the first place, and I dislike most of their über-pop voices. Idina in particular, though, does this thing (that everyone notices, so it isn't like I just discovered it or anything) where she talks through the song instead of singing the notes that were written. It's the old Rex Harrison way of getting through a tune, but Idina can sing the songs, and sing them well, she just chooses, instead, to talk through them. As though talking is somehow more honest or more natural than singing. And I think that's annoying and weird. I hate when other singers do it and I hate it when she does it.

    As for Frozen, I only noticed her doing that talk-thing once, and I also thought her sound was much less poppy and way more legit than usual. I appreciated the effort. (It does get poppy at times – the duet version of "The First Time in Forever", for example – but for the most part I thought she classed it up.)

  2. And, for those of you keeping score, Kristen Bell appeared on Broadway in Tom Sawyer and off Broadway in Reefer Madness in 2001, three years before she became a Hollywood star. Just saying.

    1. Oh I figured you would. But I wanted to make sure your readership did as well :)

    2. You're like my field reporter!

  3. how is true love "nonsense"? maybe if you hate being loved, I guess.

    1. Hahaha. Well, "being loved" and the concept of "true love" are, in fact, two quite different things, as I am sure you probably know. Being loved, feeling love, and loving are all good and well, but they do not assume a permanence and certainly aren't ideas that are used to make young women believe that there's "someone out there for them" for whom they ought to behave or reform or be proper. "True love" is an ideological tool; it is pernicious, and yes, nonsense. For the record, I've got nothing against being loved.

    2. Well SAID (about true love)!

      Once I finally saw Frozen I had to come read your review because I was having a hard time putting my finger on my likes and dislikes about it. I didn't love it, and I expected to. Maybe that was the problem. But part of me did love it, and I think it had something to do with the sororal love and relationship; which I am feeling a bit burned by of late.

      Hm. Lots to chew on, so glad you keep up this blog.