ReelReviews #10: Frozen (2013)




Disney has finally done it!

I grew up in the late 80s and early 90s when the Disney Renaissance was in full bloom, having been kick started by The Little Mermaid in 1989. At that time, Disney was making their best animated films since their heyday in the 40s and 50s. Unfortunately, the track record couldn’t be sustained, and it seemed as though Disney was losing their ability to make great animated films at the same time that I was going through my teens and losing interest in Disney films. This eventually lead to a dry spell for Disney in the early 2000s. The “Walt Disney Animated Masterpieces” during those days were films like Dinosaur (2000), Treasure Planet (2002), and Home on the Range (2004). films which I doubt you’ll be telling your grand-kids to see.

As we entered the 2010’s, Disney had somewhat of a “comeback”, and the era has been dubbed the Disney Revival. Of course, their all CGI movies like Toy Story had always been strong, but Disney finally made something decent in the traditional fairy tale genre when they did The Princess and the Frog (2009). It was a very creative film, and loud and colorful, but it was hard to follow and didn’t connect with audiences the way their past classics had. (I also thought the music was fairly bland, aside from the awesome villain song) Then came Tangled, and it was also pretty decent but perhaps in the opposite way – audiences and especially kids flocked to it, it really seemed to capture that old Disney style and strong musical traditions, but it was pretty bland and predictable. Finally, we had film’s like 2013’s Wreak-It Ralph, which did great at the box off, got great reviews, and were overall excellent movies that were perhaps underrated, because Wreak-It Ralph lost the “Best Animated Feature” Oscar to Disney’s own “safer” princess film, Brave, despite the fact Brave wasn’t nearly as memorable or fun as Wreak-It Ralph.

Finally, in 2013, Disney seems to have hit the jackpot. Here comes Frozen. I didn’t see it in theaters, so I managed to catch this one on DVD when it was first released on video – figuring that it might be my last chance to see a famous “winter” themed cartoon while it was still freezing outside.

Frozen, simply put, is the best Disney animated film of the 21st century. They get everything right in this film – its an old fashioned fairy tale story, it has a memorable princess (actually, in this case, a queen) character. The music is amazing and catchy, the story captures your attention and keeps you interested – the art design and effects are awesome, the acting is inspired, and so on, and so forth. There’s no traditional “villain” to speak of, but the antagonist in this movie was incredibly well thought out and perhaps one of the most clever and manipulative characters in Disney history – neither the main characters or the audience figure out the scheme until near the end of the film.

Frozen would be on par with the best known and loved Disney animated films like The Lion King, Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio, etc., except for one – and only one – major flaw in the film: the talking snowman.

Yes, I hated “Olaf”, the “comic relief” wacky sidekick who neither funny nor relief. Another critic described him as the “Jar Jar Binks” of Frozen, and I’m inclined to agree. It would be like taking a bad Jerry Lewis character from a B-movie and giving him a supporting role in an amazing masterpiece like Singing in the Rain. The film is still strong enough to shine through despite his distracting presence, but it makes the film fall just short of being a masterpiece in its own right. What’s really sad is I was pleasantly surprised the female protagonists in this movie didn’t have any “super cute animal sidekick” character like is predictably used in other Disney movies, and it was working fine on own merits. Then along came “Olaf” – more than halfway through the film – to do his “loveable moron” routine and quip unfunny one-liners from scene to scene. Maybe its just seeing it through the eyes of an adult, but the character can’t compare to other “wacky sidekick” characters from true Disney masterpieces, like Timon & Pumbaa from The Lion King (which actually served an important plot point to transition the story in the middle of the film), or frivolous “wacky sidekick” characters like the mouse from Dumbo (who is actually funny, likeable, and helpful, unlike the dorky snowman). “Olaf” does provide one key point towards the end of the film where he helps the lead character make her escape, but another character could have been substituted for this scene and it would have given the film far more depth. Otherwise, you could cut him out completely and the result would be a true Disney masterpiece

There’s also a lot of heated debate from the world of politics on this film. Strangely, fringe groups on both the right and left despise Frozen, for completely different reasons. Some leftists have called for a boycott because the film largely consists of blond haired and blue-eyed characters (apparently they’re shocked people would like that in a film set in Scandinavia, and missed the fact Disney just did a big budget animated film with all black characters and a black princess a few years ago). Some on the right have claimed the movie is “secretly” sending pro-gay rights propaganda. It must be pretty “secret” indeed, since I’m an adult viewer and all I saw was traditional heterosexual romance throughout the movie. So in conclusion, Frozen loses half a star for one of the worst and least funny “wacky sidekicks” in history. Aside from that, this is the perfect Disney film

*** out of ****


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