Disney does two things pretty well: princesses and musicals. Frozen has both of these traits in force. It’s uncertain exactly what number renaissance Disney is up to at this point, but whatever it is they’re in the midst of it.
On the day that Princess Elsa (Idina Menzel, Glee) is to become the queen of Arrendale, she has an argument with her sister, Anna (Kristen Bell, Movie 43), accidentally freezes the entire kingdom over and runs away. Anna vows to track her sister down so that she may restore summer, with the help of ice vendor Kristoff (Jonathan Groff, The Conspirator), his reindeer Sven, and sentient snowman Olaf (Josh Gad, Thanks For Sharing).
Frozen boasts a simple quest set-up, but it has more to offer than point A to point B with a few songs on the way. The movie has psychological profiles that Disney has never really tinkered with before, and so we get a story about a relationship between sisters who have always wanted to be closer. This is a goal-oriented movie without a true villain as its centre, and sympathies are extended in every direction. Elsa is a tragic figure rather than an evil one, and she gets almost as much screen time as Anna. Despite the magic and royalty, the story of a strained sisterly bond makes Frozen identifiable to audiences and delivers a message without ever seeming preachy.
With songs from husband and wife team Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (2011’s Winnie the Pooh; Lopez was also part of the Tony award-winning writing teams for Broadway musicals Book of Mormon and Avenue Q), Frozen is almost a full musical. It begins with a suite of songs that work from both musical and storytelling perspectives, and Menzel is as powerful vocally as she’s ever been; even Bell, not known for her singing, is more than up to the role.
After a certain point in the narrative, the songs dry up altogether. Given how well the characters work together in both incarnations of “For the First Time in Forever”, it’s a pity that there could not have been more. The movie resolves more than satisfactorily without extra songs, but it’s unfortunate that Disney felt too gun shy to take the form all the way, and that Jonathan Groff, Tony nominated in his own right, doesn’t get a proper chance to sing.
Co-directors Chris Buck (Surf’s Up) and Jennifer Lee (Wreck-It Ralph) have created a funny movie with a strong emotional core and impressive design. For fans of animation and young children alike, this is close to perfection. A few more songs and it could have been as platinum as Elsa’s hair.
Frozen was released in Australian cinemas on December 26th.
Directed by: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee.
Starring: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad.