Pin It


Album Review

It’s official: Disney is courting the smart-moms demographic with its latest princess movies. In Tangled (2010), Rapunzel didn’t wait around for a prince to climb up her hair. And in Frozen, romance plays second fiddle to the evolving relationship between two estranged royal sisters. These princesses still wear sparkly dresses, the better to sell millions of tie-ins to parents of 4-year-olds, but they have personalities that go beyond “feisty” and make hard choices. That’s a breath of fresh air.

Nordic air, to be precise. The production team has jettisoned most of the plot of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, leaving it with a credit for “inspiration.” (Script credit goes to Jennifer Lee [Wreck-It Ralph], who codirected with Chris Buck.) That’s ironic, given that Andersen’s is one of the few fairy tales in which a girl saves a boy. But Disney has veered in a different direction, turning the “snow queen” from a cold-hearted witch who willfully brings eternal winter upon the land to a misunderstood girl with an unwieldy superhero power. The result is a movie less tense than it might have been — there’s no villain worthy of the name — but also more emotionally resonant.

Elsa (voiced by Tony winner Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) are heirs to the generically Scandinavian kingdom of Arendelle. Their parents separate them after Elsa accidentally endangers her younger sister with her ability to turn summer to winter and flash-freeze most anything. The king exhorts his eldest to conceal her powers, dooming her to a life of repression. When, after a sequence of unfortunate events, Elsa embraces her inner ice queen in the spectacular ballad “Let It Go,” any viewer who’s ever been labeled “different” is likely to be on her side.

The more conventional Anna, who just wants to do princessy stuff and roll back the perma-freeze Elsa has wrought, is an equally sympathetic figure. Frozen starts strong, with musical numbers that establish the sisters’ troubled bond and teenage Anna’s frenzied eagerness to escape her lonely palace life by engaging herself to the first hot nobleman she meets (Alan Tudyk).

Later, the film loses some focus, as Anna embarks on an Oz-style quest studded with the usual busy action sequences and comic-relief characters. For the littler viewers, there’s plenty of slapstick involving a summer-obsessed snowman (Josh Gad) and matchmaker trolls. Older ones are more likely to appreciate the sassing that flies between Anna and her reluctant companion, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), who’s basically Han Solo with a reindeer BFF instead of a Wookiee.

The object of the heroine’s quest is a witch/Darth Vader who doesn’t really want to hurt anybody, and that’s a bold switch in the formula that Disney half pulls off. By default, this fantasy’s only real villains are selfish profiteers — a believable twist, if not the most compelling one.

The songs by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez grow less clever and hummable as the movie continues, but the visuals remain gorgeous. The Arendelle palace teems with Nordic decorative motifs and rich hues — teal, magenta, turquoise — while Elsa’s arctic mountain lair sparkles beneath crimson sunrises and sunsets. The anthropomorphic snow critters she creates are less interesting than their environment, but overall, Disney has crafted another animated landscape magical enough to keep everybody in the family from fidgeting for nigh on two hours.

And those moms who don’t want their daughters piningly opining that “Someday My Prince Will Come”? They may have issues with the sparkly dresses and tiaras, but I think they’ll be pleased with Frozen’s twist on the notion that true love conquers all.

* Theaters and Showtimes

* Running time: 108 min.

* Rated: PG

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

Pin It

More by Margot Harrison

About The Author

Margot Harrison

Margot Harrison

Margot Harrison is the Associate Editor at Seven Days; she coordinates literary and film coverage. In 2005, she won the John D. Donoghue award for arts criticism from the Vermont Press Association.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Seven Days moderates comments in order to ensure a civil environment. Please treat the comments section as you would a town meeting, dinner party or classroom discussion. In other words, keep commenting classy! Read our guidelines...

Note: Comments are limited to 300 words.

Latest in Category

Recent Comments

Social Club

Like Seven Days contests and events? Join the club!

See an example of this newsletter...

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative

All content © 2016 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So Champlain St Ste 5, Burlington, VT 05401
Website powered by Foundation