Movie Review: Disney’s “Frozen”

FrozenI’m really good at reviewing bad movies.  They’re fun to review because they give me a chance to express the venom that builds up in me as I watch a movie that assaults my intelligence or my values.  I have the opposite problem with good movies.  All that I can think of as I watch them is “This is a really, really good.  This is a really good movie.”

Disney’s Frozen (which has been out for more than a month now, showing  how often I go to movies) is a really good movie.  More than that, it’s a really, really good movie.  There, I’ve said it.  Now let me try to drill down a bit.

Plot?  The plot is very imaginative.  It’s loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, the story of a boy who gets an ice shard in his heart and is then rescued by a girl who was his childhood friend.  In Frozen, two princesses grow up in a sunny Nordic kingdom.  What the younger princess, Anna, doesn’t know is that her older sister, Elsa, has in her hands the power to create snow, frost, and ice.  Because the young Elsa doesn’t know how to wield the power, her loving parents make the decision to close up the palace and lock her away from everyone in order to protect Elsa from herself, and everyone else from Elsa.

When the parents die and Elsa eventually becomes queen, the palace is opened for the first time in years for the coronation.  Anna meets a charming prince, Elsa objects to their planned engagement, and all heck breaks loose.  Without giving too much away, a handsome, but awkward, young ice cutter and his lovable reindeer eventually figure in the plot too.  The ending is imaginative, unexpected, and delightful, and I can’t tell you any more in case I ruin it.

Visual quality?  Gorgeous.  This movie is a visual treat.  In a lot of computer animated movies, the animators become obsessively focused on motion — high-speed motion — which just tends to make me dizzy.  This movie,  however, gave the animators the opportunity to play with fractals and snow storms, and wind, and light.  I just sat back in my theater seat drinking in the beauty.  Did I say it was gorgeous?  Let me just repeat that:  gorgeous.  (There was also a clever visual reference that wonderful moment in Cinderella when the Fairy Godmother waves her wand, and Cinderella’s rags change into a sparkling silver gown.)

Music?  Pretty darn good.  My daughter has a semi-photographic memory for melodies and has been singing the songs all evening — and it hasn’t driven me nuts.  One song, sung by a goofy sidekick, is especially strange, whimsical, and clever but, again, I can’t tell you about it, because I’d be giving away one of the movie’s clever and delightful surprises.

Moral?  Just nice.  It’s all about love, of course, but it’s not mixed in with any horrible political correctness.  If anything (and I’m sure the movie’s makers didn’t mean to do this) the movie’s plot was a reminder that global cooling is much less pleasant than global warming.  Oh, and it also has a good message about . . . .  Wait.  I can’t tell you that either without giving away an essential plot element.

Message:  I care.  Oh, never mind.  That was George Bush, Sr.’s message.  My message is:  If you get the chance, see this movie.  It’s truly a delight — and I would tell you more but for the fact that giving away anything is really giving away everything in this intelligent, lovely movie.  And if it’s already left the theaters near your home, definitely rent the DVD — preferably in Blu-Ray so you get the full effect of the beautiful visuals.

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  • Ymarsakar

    It takes me awhile to figure out the good points. I don’t generally review bad stuff. I just avoid bad stuff. No free rent space in my head for the bad, the poisonous, or the corrupt. I have partitions for that.
    Japanese stories always surprise me (at least the good ones do) with how they meticulously research their subjects. No matter what the subject is, they can still retain basic humanity and respect for individual free will, no matter what they say about a culture at the macro level.
    In one series, given Japan’s more modern self defense concept, a bunch of Japanese school children are grateful that they were saved by the military might of a fictional superpower, ARUS. They call it the world’s police man, justice, and the land of the free. But when this power fails to save them, or merely decides not to because there is a higher priority, the Japanese high schoolers have to form their own government and save themselves, using their own military and political resources. Here I’m sitting and I’m thinking, “that sounds exactly like the American Revolution and government of the self, for the self, government of the people, for the people”. And it’s something the American Leftist Regime will never allow.

  • Ymarsakar

    And what gets me is the cultural divide, disconnection. Because from the Japanese stand point, high schoolers are still apprentices, legally children. But from the US perspective, I see the things they do and it’s much more responsibility and order than American college students and graduates can accomplish. Yet we call our 24 year olds “adults” (not really), and the Japanese consider people who run their school like its their own village, “children”. Or at least, that’s the meta, macro cultural outlook. It’s a moment when I can see things from both perspectives, and it’s jarring.
    Oh btw, when you say “political correctness”, you might want to call it by the name people are beginning to treat it as: mind control or brainwashing.

  • Ellen

    My granddaughter is five and has seen the movie three times.  I took her once and loved every second of it.  It’s one of the most beautiful movies I have ever seen and the music is a delight.  My sweet granddaughter has been singing the songs ever since she saw it.  It’s a classic, a real Disney classic.

  • Ymarsakar

    I’ll check it out. Since recommendations from solid individuals have proven worthwhile in the past, such as Stardust from Laer (cheatseekingmissiles).
    Hollywood is something I consider of a dumping ground for virulent diseases, if you get my meaning.

  • jj

    Though I am one who tends to believe that Disney still suffers from the loss of Walt, with whom the last genuinely original idea died, there’s little question: on the (all-too-rare) occasions when they get it right, they get it righter better than anyone.

  • Eidolon

    I hate to be the contrary voice to you guys. I enjoyed the film while it was happening, but it nagged at me for days afterward and I really ended up disliking it in retrospect. I’ll lay out my case briefly and you can see how you feel, because I’ve heard a lot of people praise it unreservedly and I want to see what you think. Spoilers.
    First, I felt the film was utterly lacking in theme. Sisterhood could have been a theme, and the writers apparently think it was a theme judging by the ending, but the sisters don’t work together or do much of anything together for the whole film. The ice powers don’t seem to represent anything thematically, they’re just random magical powers. Since she also becomes distant, one could associate them with metaphorical coldness, but that doesn’t work either; she’s only distant because she has to be. She’s still a warm and kind person. Also, she “releases” the powers and sings about how good it feels. The powers therefore can’t possibly represent isolation, as “releasing” that by being further isolated doesn’t feel good. So basically, the powers represent nothing, they’re just powers.
    Other elements are also thematically inconsistent — the one sister is mocked for falling for a guy right away and trusting him, which was a mistake, but she then grabs a different guy randomly and trusts him just as much and that turns out great. The guy who goes on the trip with them works with ice, but this turns out not to be thematic but just for convenience. I thought maybe he’d end up as a love interest for the sister with the ice powers, since he works with ice, but there’s no connection or any sort of repetition of any ideas that could possibly congeal into a theme.
    Second, I hate how the film refuses to criticize anyone except the one prince. A story like this is crying out for one of the characters to be at fault for this situation. The sister who has the ice powers should’ve been cursed to have them because she was cold or uncaring, say to a witch or peasant, or maybe because of something the parents did. Someone needs to bear some responsibility for this situation, because as it is it feels pointless. Neither sister grows or develops in any way; they’re nice at the start, they’re nice at the end. I also miss having a villain, but I can live with that.  But when there’s no real external threat, it’s extra important to have an interesting internal conflict, which isn’t present here.
    Third, basically everything in the plot happens for convenience. The whole magic troll thing seems to be coming in from a totally different movie, and all the rules we’re given are false. “She can’t remember her sister’s magic or…something bad” is fine, but she finds out and nothing bad happens. So the sisters lost out on all those years together for no reason at all. How able the girl is to move after getting her heart frozen changes repeatedly. I don’t even know why the prince brought the ice sister back without killing her; he had an excellent excuse to kill her in self defense in front of witnesses. Why he wouldn’t take that opportunity I have no idea. The resolution is the worst offender here. We learn that “love” gives her control of the ice. This is nonsensical. She doesn’t love anyone more or less at the end than she did at the beginning. Are they saying she shot her sister at the beginning because she didn’t love her enough? If she had been portrayed as being very cold and distant, and the ice powers were thematically consistent with that, then this would make sense, but as it is it’s just “okay, the movie’s over so she can control her powers now.”
    Finally, I feel like, to the extent that there are any morals, they’re all very bad. There are a few takeaways here.
    1. Old-fashioned courtship is stupid. Even though the younger sister’s relationship with the prince isn’t done like old-fashioned courtship, the implication is that that style of relationship was stupid and likely to lead to disaster, even though divorce was far less common when it was predominant. Clearly, a poorly-defined “boyfriend/girlfriend” relationship that’s meandering and not focused in its purpose (they only barely admit that they like each other, after spending tons of time together and saving each other’s lives) is preferred.
    2. When you release your anger, frustration, or other emotions, it may have devastating consequences for others. But as long as you feel a lot of love for those other people, the consequences will just melt away. The older sister has very likely caused utter devastation for her kingdom; the freezing occurred during the summer, when the crops were presumably growing. So she probably destroyed those, probably killed a lot of their cattle which had nothing to eat, probably froze some people to death who weren’t expecting this to happen, etc. This is why it’s such a mistake to avoid assigning blame to someone, because the consequences have been dire for these people and no one is called out for it. She barely feels bad for what she wrought on her kingdom, and everyone forgives her instantly. Her insane overreaction to everything that happened and the resulting destruction is okay, because she was upset at the time.
    I don’t think I’m reaching when I say that liberal values crept into a classic story and made it a lot less classic than it should have been. With the villainous prince, they’re taking direct shots against movies like Sleeping Beauty, implying that having the hero there and the princess end up together is simplistic and stupid. A more modern-style relationship is preferred. Actual damage done to real people by wrong actions can be cured by feeling emotions (well, not cured; ignored, anyway). No one learns anything and no one is called out for anything they did wrong. The older sister has a hardship through no fault of her own, the younger sister goes to save her, she does, end of story. There’s no drama when there’s no fault in any of the characters, or no fault acknowledged, anyway.
    That’s the real tragedy; there was a great opportunity here to tell a story with classical values. The girl should’ve been at fault and gotten herself cursed. The sisters should’ve had to work together, originally hating being stuck together but gradually learning sisterly love for each other, allowing the ice in the older sister’s heart to melt and giving her control over her powers. Lashing out and pouring raw emotion out over everything, as the older sister does, should be condemned for its devastating effects, and the importance of restraint should be emphasized. Love should be demonstrated through action, not through fickle feelings.
    I’d love to hear anyone’s rebuttal to the above points. I’ve been surprised by how positive people have been about this film, which I consider to have had the potential to be great but to have ended up pretty wide of the mark.

    • Ymarsakar

      I’ll be sure to compose a response after I’ve seen the movie and finished reading your review.

    • Bookworm

      Eidolon and Elaine, here are my thoughts about what you said. Everyone else: SPOILER ALERT!!

      I thought the theme all along was Anna’s maturing. She went from an impulsive girl who made stupid decisions, to someone willing to take the consequences of her actions. It’s true that Elsa’s coming out as a Snow Queen actually had little to do with Anna — it would have happened anyway — but it’s typical for an adolescent to react as Anna did: fall in love too fast, see herself as the center of the world, act impulsively, etc. Maybe it’s because I have teens in my life, but she struck me as a true teenager, but in a good way.

      I didn’t have a problem with Anna turning from Hans to Kristoff either. The Hans relationship almost spoofed the old Disney movies in which one dance meant love. We all know that’s not true . . . except that to a teenage girl it is. As for her relationship with Kristoff, my sense was that they were together for quite a while. I perceived time compression given all that they did and the distances they traveled. Also, Kristoff was there for the hard times. This wasn’t just a song and a dance romance. Instead, these two worked together at a solid level. Moreover, at the end, it’s clear that they didn’t marry. They love each other, but each needs to grow up.

      Kristoff’s profession? I didn’t care too much. They needed him to be in right place at the right time, and that worked as well as any other job. He needed a reindeer and a sled, and his job provided one.

      I assumed that the troll wiped Anna’s memory so that she wouldn’t demand that Elsa perform her Snow Queen magic. The troll also seemed to assume that Elsa would learn to control her magic as she grew up. Instead, she became embittered, which gave her less control.

      My experience is that anger and love are both extremely powerful emotions. But anger hurts everything it touches. Unexpressed, it turns people broody and depressed. Expressed without limits, it turns them abusive and dangerous. To the extent we feel loved and can give love, we exude a more positive, welcoming energy. When Elsa stopped feeling embittered, isolated, and uniquely alone, she was better able to control her emotions.

      Finally, when I watched the scene where Anna sacrificed herself to save Elsa, it seemed clear to me that this sacrifice did break the enchantment. I viewed it as coincidental that Elsa was crying on her when she melted.

      Incidentally, my teenage girl was thrilled by this ending. Instead of Anna being the passive recipient of a kiss, it was she who saved herself. My daughter didn’t see this as a feminist thing, because she thought Kristoff was wonderful and loved his heartfelt race through the blizzard. She just liked it that Anna’s virtue truly was its own reward.

      • Ymarsakar

        That’s an interesting interpretation, the she broke her own ice curse. I wasn’t sure what exactly caused the ending, so I shelved it.
        Anger is often a temporary emotion, something people church themselves up using short term stimuli or justifications. Hate and love are both far more durable emotions and motivations, manifested in revenge, duty, protection, etc. Anger I connect to lust or desire.
        While people say that the opposite of hate is indifference, those two aren’t both emotions. They are completely different world views or box perspectives. That’s like saying the opposite of matter is non-existence, when the opposite spin of positive matter is negative (anti) matter. They both neutralize each other. If the opposite of hate is indifference, then the opposite of love is also indifference. But it’s not the opposite, it’s merely the absence of it. The nullification of it by non existence.
        Why this is important is because of metaphysics. The magicians and ancient Chinese of old, always had to have this chart of X, Y, and Z labeled in a trinagle or geometric sphere. One opposes another. Yin vs yang. Aristotle had it. The 4 elements in Chinese alchemy had it. It’s a way of organizing human responses to powers beyond the human ken, by using geometry to constrain them and see their relationships, such as a magick pentagram or circle. The opposite and obverse side of hate is indeed love. They often come from the same thoughts and feelings, but oppose each other at the extremes. Many things in human life are like that. They have the same origins, but the end result is an opposition or conflict. Just as the United States of America funded the Soviet Union’s totalitarian control of humanity in WWII, so the US ultimately came to fight and attempt to use nukes against the same nation the US helped survive against Hitler. The butterfly effect, basically, or the kharmic cycle in reincarnation cycles and spiritual views.

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  • Ymarsakar
    There, I wrote it.
    If anyone wants to talk about spoilers, you’re welcome to in the comments at that link. I would like to get people’s honest impressions about the movie, without their spoiler inhibitions blocking them. That’s always a nasty thing, in my view, but also a necessary one. Since spoilers do ruin the surprise. But it stops people from reviewing the way they should.

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  • ELaineT

    I’ve been retroactively dissatisfied with the movie, too, Eidolon.  The art is gorgeous, and the music more memorable than many musicals, but the story is a mess. 
    Take the climactic bit of Anna saving her sister and turning into ice.  most commentators seem to think that act is the ‘act of love’ which saves her.  Huh?  She’s ice and stays that way.  Her sister hugs her and weeps over her and she thaws.  It’s her sister’s act that saves her.  But all her sister’s conscious actions towards her have been attempts to save her .  What makes this one different, and how does it lead to Elsa controlling her power and reversing it?  If it is touch, I didn’t get it.
    I agree, nothing is done besides Kristoff’s admiration of Elsa’s ice palace.  I’d’ve liked to see more of that to balance the fear mongering by others.
    our teen spotted Hans as a villain right away, BTW.  Said he wasn’t paying attention to  Anna after he knocked her down,  until he found out who she was.  I’m not willing to go back a second time to check. 
    I didn’t see relationships in it, except a bit of Kristoff with his ‘family.’  Everything else we have to take on faith as existing, and that’s not enough to convince me.