4 out of 5 stars (one of the best of its year)
This is a retrospective review of Frozen and contains spoilers.
Frozen earned “classic” status seemingly overnight. The 2013 film captivated audiences and critics with its gorgeous animation, catchy songs, and refreshingly strong female heroines. It also subverted many Disney clichés and told a dramatic story while containing enough slapstick to entertain youngsters. It eventually crossed $1 billion globally on a budget of $150 million and has since become a cultural phenomenon as well as promising a new direction for Disney animation.
As with anything popular, Frozen has developed a sizable backlash over the years for being severely overrated and having nonsensical plot logic. I hadn’t seen it in several years and never wrote a full review at time of release, so I decided to revisit Frozen right before its sequel comes out this Friday and see if it’s worth all the hype. My conclusion? Despite some tonal inconsistency and one or two unnecessary songs, Frozen is a gorgeous, well-acted fantasy drama with solid messages, kid-friendly humor, and a warm heart at its center.
While close as children, Princesses Anna (Voiced by Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Voiced by Idina Menzel) grew apart after a near-death accident involving Elsa’s ice powers led their parents to have Anna’s memory of the powers wiped via magic trolls and Elsa isolated until she could control her abilities. Years later, Elsa’s coronation goes awry when a lovestruck Anna asks for her blessing to marry Prince Hans (Voiced by Santino Fontana) after knowing him for approximately 9 hours. Elsa panics and accidentally coats the kingdom in snow before running away in fear. With Hans left in charge, Anna follows her sister, meeting the dashing Kristoff (Voiced by Jonathan Groff) and comic relief snowman Olaf (Voiced by Josh Gad) along the way.
Frozen is a prime example of a film’s good elements outweighing its bad ones. The animation has aged well and the voice performances are first-rate. I had forgotten how seriously Frozen takes itself most of the time and admire it for doing so. There’s a good amount of levity, but I would classify the overall story more as a drama with comedic elements than a comedy-adventure.
While Elsa has become a feminist icon for embracing her inner strength (via the powerful but overplayed song “Let it Go”), I’d argue that children can learn different but equally important lessons from both character arcs. Anna goes from a naïve romantic to someone who learns to give her heart to the people who earn it, and Elsa learns not to let the fear of hurting others keep her from opening herself up to them. In a time where it feels like women are told to fear any man that approaches them and not seek help for personal demons, I applaud Frozen for correctly telling its target demographic to ask for help when they need it and that the world has both good and bad men in it.
Fittingly, the heart of Frozen is the relationship between its heroines. Though they share only a handful of scenes together, those scenes are expertly written and convey as much information through dialogue as they do through facial expressions and body language. Those visual touches combined with the fantastic performances get you fully invested in their sisterly bond and ensure the 3rd act subversion of the “True Love’s Kiss” cliché lands perfectly.
However, no movie is perfect, and Frozen has a few flaws keeping it from 5 star status. While most of the songs advance the story and characters, there are 2 comedic numbers that cause some tonal whiplash and fall in the “cute but pointless” category. The first is Olaf’s song “In Summer“, and the second (and universally disliked) song is “Fixer-Upper“, in which the magic trolls singing about how good of a guy Kristoff is when Anna’s life is at stake. I don’t know about you, but if I was in danger of freezing to death, the last thing I would want to hear would be a song about how I should fall in love with my travel guide. Olaf’s jokes are also hit-and-miss for me, but if I was still a kid, I’d find him hysterical.
Frozen compensates for its tonal missteps via a dramatic story, beautiful animation, fantastic voicework, and strong central relationship while leaving enough unexplored thematic territory for its sequel to tackle. See Frozen.
Rated PG for Some Action and Mild Rude Humor