Frozen (2013) - 10 stars out of 10
Disney musicals of the past 15 years have been reduced to “movies with the inclusion of songs,” but “Frozen” is a true musical experience that offers a full expression of the characters’ thoughts and emotions through music. It is almost operatic in nature, with a series of musical numbers that tell the story and set it apart from any other animated feature. “Let It Go” is clearly an aria and is vital to understanding Elsa so that she is not viewed as a villain, and the duets between Anna and Elsa set the tone for their relationship. It is hard to believe that these songs were not written by Alan Menkin. They perfectly capture the magic that made my generation fall in love with Disney in the 90’s. I have to admit to growing emotional during “For the First Time in Forever,” simply because it was so overwhelmingly Disney. Without question, “Frozen” is the “Lion King” of this generation. It has been 20 years since I saw a Disney film become such a fad. Everybody is talking about it. Constantly. Just like “The Lion King” and “Cinderella” before it, this is the film that has brought Disney back into our hearts and could very well be the beginning of the next Disney renaissance. The success of this film begins with its unique story. Unlike any Disney film of the past, the story centers around two female heroes. The story maintains an ambiguity of who is good and who is evil, which allows the focus to remain on the broken relationship of the two sisters instead of the typical “we have to conquer the bad guy” storyline. This also allows for a very unexpected twist that usually is not an option since the bad guy is generally defined from the beginning in Disney films. There was even a moment when I thought “There isn’t really a villain in this film,” which made the moment of realization so much better. The next step to the success of “Frozen” is its ridiculously impressive animation. The ice in “Let It Go” is incredibly artistic and that will become one of those iconic Disney sequences. Everything is so realistic, from the icy mountains and the snowstorms to the texture of the characters’ skin. The visual appearance of the princesses is stunning and their big Disney eyes are magical. Disney really hit the mark with their casting of Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel. I really value when the voice actors provide the speaking and singing voices for their characters, and this might be the best combination of vocalists for any Disney movie. I am intrigued by the casting of Josh Gad as Olaf. This seemed like the perfect character to use as a cameo for someone popular like John Ratzenberger or Nathan Lane, but I applaud Disney for just picking the right voice for the part. As expected, Olaf’s comic relief did interfere with a few moments where the writers could have built up a strong emotional moment (a la Mufasa’s death); however, his role was small enough that he did not distract from the story and I enjoyed nearly all of his sequences. The thing that makes this film reminiscent of the classics from the 90’s is its blend of drama and pure comedy. All of the quick jokes that are not necessary to the plot show an attention to detail that places comedy into every scene. The introduction to the Duke of Weselton and the song between Kristoff and Sven are prime examples of this, while the running joke of falling in love with someone that you just met is cleverly used to poke fun at the classic Prince Charming love story and give a bit of foreshadowing. The musical numbers by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez are the icing on the cake. They really figured out the equation to create the sound of Disney magic. It is no wonder that I get choked up by their music, just as I do by their scoring for Finding Nemo - The Musical at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. While I loved this music, it lacks that “instant classic” quality of the music from Aladdin (One Jump Ahead-Friend Like Me-Prince Ali-A Whole New World) and The Lion King (Circle of Life-I Just Can’t Wait to be King -Hakuna Matata-Can You Feel the Love Tonight). I was singing “Let It Go” walking out of the theater, but most of the songs feel a bit more high brow than the simplicity of the music from the aforementioned films. And yet, the Sing-Along version of this film is evidence that after hearing it a few times, the music can become just as addicting as the classic soundtracks from the 90’s. I do question whether it was necessary to include Olaf’s “In Summer” fantasy sequence AND the trolls’ “Fixer Upper” which are so closely related in character, but I can look past that because “Love Is an Open Door” and “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” are so incredible. More important than anything about this film is its theme that “an act of true love will thaw a frozen heart.” Without spoiling it, I will also say that Disney did a great job of departing from their stereotyped definition of true love and ending the film with the focus on the right relationship. The experience of this film is designed to lead you into a unique fantasy world, give you a few laughs, and leave you with a warm heart. I cannot remember the last time that a film was such a huge deal, but I don’t believe that we will realize the true impact of “Frozen” on the Disney franchise until several years down the line.