Starring: Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars), Idina Menzel (Enchanted), Jonathan Groff (Taking Woodstock), Josh Gad (Jobs), Alan Tudyk (Serenity), Ciarán Hinds (The Woman in Black)
Directors: Chris Buck (Tarzan) & Jennifer Lee
Writer: Jennifer Lee (Wreck-It Ralph)
Runtime: 1 hour 48 minutes
Release Date: 27 November (US), 6 December (UK)
Animated Disney musicals have been around for a long time, but really hit a Renaissance during the 1990s. This is the time we got classics like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. But when the early 2000s rolled around, Disney took a bit of a different direction in attempt to compete with the rising popularity of Dreamworks SKG and left the musicals behind. This period was very much a mixed bag: for every Lilo & Stitch or Treasure Planet, you got a Chicken Little or a Home on the Range. But by the end of the decade, they rolled back around in quality with both more refined modern works like Bolt and Wreck-It Ralph, whilst also bringing back the classic musicals with The Princess and the Frog and Tangled. And now, their latest effort Frozen has been released, and it might just be one of their best efforts in recent memory.
The film is “inspired” by Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen according to the credits, and that is an accurate description as the story really bares little resemblance to the classic tale. But Disney has always had a loose attitude towards adaptation, and this creative freedom has allowed them create a much more nuanced tale. Sure, there is plenty of familiarity in its conventions here for the Disney purist, but Frozen is a film that truly shines when it goes off the beaten path. The film knows how to play with your expectations, and manages to weave a tale that has plenty of surprises but also manages to satisfy those basest of desires. I only wish the film did it even more. There are certain plot moments that do feel a bit cliché and might have you going “Come on!” or “I know where this is going”; sometimes they subvert these thoughts, but other times they don’t and what you think is going to happen happens. That’s not to say the story is bad, what is there is well done, but I think there were ways they could have made it even more original. Nevertheless, Frozen’s story is still a delightful yarn that should entertain both the young and the old, the newcomer and the veteran.
Unlike a lot of other animation studios, Disney doesn’t like to flaunt a star-studded cast around; name recognition of their company alone is usually enough to get butts in seats. The cast they have assembled though all do a wonderful job as both actors and singers. Kristen Bell’s Anna is a great protagonist, creating a character that is both more relatable and interesting to a modern audience without losing that classic Disney princess veneer. Jonathan Groff and Santino Fontana also do great voice work as Kristof and Hans respectively; both of them have good chemistry with Bell and both also manage to be radically different from each other and Disney princes of the past. Alan Tudyk seems to be having fun here as the pompous Duke of Weaseltown (“That’s Weselton!”), though his character ends up being nowhere near as important to the plot as it initially seemed. But two other cast members easily steal the show. Firstly, Josh Gad’s performance as the confused snowman Olaf is one of the best comic relief characters in Disney history; his mannerisms and odd sayings make for a character that is as fascinating to listen to as it is to watch the wonderful animation job done on him. And then there’s Idina Menzel as Elsa. My god, this is a true powerhouse performance. The relationship she has with Anna, the internal struggle she goes through and how she tries to deal with it; all of that on its own would be enough, but her singing voice is just superb and raises the quality of the film exponentially.
Bad songs can kill a musical, but Disney films always have at least one memorable song per film. “The Circle of Life”, “Beauty and the Beast” and “A Whole New World” are all songs burned into our subconscious, and Frozen’s “Let It Go” is one I think deserves to stand up there with those classics. The lyrics themselves are well written and serve a purpose to the story, but combined with Menzel’s bravado performance and the animation on display during the song makes for the most memorable sequences of the entire production. Some of the other songs are good as well; with “For The First Time In Forever” and “In Summer” being personal favourites, but “Let It Go” just outshines them all on every level. The only song I wasn’t particularly fond of was “Fixer Upper”; not so much because of the song itself, but mainly because it comes at such a time-sensitive part of the plot that it makes you go “Get on with it!” As said before, the animation on this film is excellent. The way these characters move, the way the world is designed, how detailed and fantastical everything looks; it is all masterfully done and marvel to watch whether you see it in 3D or 2D.
Frozen is the best “classic” Disney movie since Tarzan, and also the best animated film of the year. It’s ironic that a film about the land being stuck in winter would be so heart-warming, but it’s the truth. The story is different yet familiar, the animation is top notch, and the songs are the best from a Disney film in a long time. Do yourself and your family a favour and go see Frozen; I’m sure you’ll all enjoy it. Even if you don’t have kids, give it a watch. It really is a film that makes you feel like a kid again.
FINAL VERDICT: 9/10