By Simon Miraudo
April 9, 2014
With a billion dollars in the bank, two Oscars on the shelf, and the ire of ridiculous, right-wing pundits who think it’s turning the children of the world gay, Frozen has pretty much pulled off the trifecta of cinematic accomplishments. There was no way to predict back in November of 2013 – a simpler time – that Disney’s latest, non-Pixar-produced musical would become history’s highest grossing animated movie, nor that its show-stopping tune ‘Let It Go’ would become a karaoke anthem to rival kiss-off favourites ‘I Will Survive’, ‘Since U Been Gone’ and ‘Single Ladies’. All these weeks later, it sits among the top 10 biggest ever box office hits, and that damn song remains stuck in our heads.
For the rare parent who hasn’t been subjected to the film a few times already, the plot: In the fabled Nordic nation of Arendelle, young Princess Elsa (Idina Menzel) struggles with her ability to manifest ice and snow from nothingness, accidentally endangering the life of her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) in the process. Afraid of causing further harm, Elsa locks herself away in her bedroom, while Anna – who has lost all memory of Elsa’s magical talents – whiles away the lonely years in boredom. After their parents’ death, the newly teenage girls open the doors to their castle and await Elsa’s coronation. But, of course, her powers are inevitably revealed and everyone freaks out, causing Elsa to freeze the rivers and flee into the wilderness. Anna follows close behind, leaving her fiancé-of-a-day, Hans (Santino Fontana), in charge of Arendelle, and recruiting local ice-merchant Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer Sven, and talking snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) for help in ending the siblings’ – and kingdom’s – cold spell. Animated to intricate perfection, the character designs here are impeccable (even if the icy locations feel a little samey after 100-odd minutes).
Directed by Chris Buck and writer Jennifer Lee, Frozen is the result of a decades-long effort to animate Hans Christian Andersen’s fable The Snow Queen; surely an attempt by Disney to recapture the heights of their golden era. Though they dipped their toes into similar waters with The Princess and the Frog and Tangled, it was third time’s a charm with Frozen, which perhaps connected most with audiences, ironically, because it is the most modern and subversive-seeming of the lot. Consider the way Elsa – while performing ‘Let It Go’ – triumphantly turns her back on the haters and embraces the lifestyle she’d been told to hide for so long, and it suddenly makes sense why certain religious bloggers got so angry at the LGBTQ-friendly flick. I still haven’t quite figured out why they accused it of normalising ‘bestiality’ too. I must have gone to the bathroom during that part.
Despite its fairy-tale trappings, the picture twists expectations as often as possible, ultimately turning the romantic subplot on its head and focusing intently on the central sisterhood of Elsa and Anna. If only the skeleton of the plot – which involves our heroes walking in one direction, and then running back in the other – were as smart and revolutionary as the rest of the feature. Menzel and Bell are wonderful in their parts; it’s no surprise stage-powerhouse Menzel brings the house down at every opportunity, but Bell shows off some impressive pipe-work too (admittedly, on the flightier, funnier soundtrack cuts). Credit must partly go to song-writers Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez – the former being responsible for Broadway’s darkly comic sensations Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon – whose offbeat humour permeates proceedings. Gad, a delight in Mormon and a real burden in almost everything else, is so warm and winning as the summer-loving snowman Olaf. Clearly he should only ever work with Lopez.
Frozen will be available from Quickflix on April 30, 2014.