Sunday, 9 February 2014

Frozen (PG) | Film Review

Frozen, dir. Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, scr. Jennifer Lee, based on The Snow Queen by Hans Chistian Anderson, st. Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad

Elsa (Menzel), princess of Arendelle, one day accidentally injures her younger sister Anna (Bell) with her ice and snow-conjuring abilities. She survives (albeit with a Rogue-ish sliver of white in her hair), but her parents suggest that only withdrawal from public life and solitude will prevent history from repeating itself, next time with maybe even graver consequences. Anna's childhood memories with her sister are magiked away in order to heal her, but as the pair grow, she becomes sad at this seemingly uninitiated distance Elsa has put between them. 

Disney's latest is just the kind of cockle-warming, fireside reminder of what makes them so enduringly popular. What their department lack in innovation, they make up in that same lovingly attentive commitment to production design that's been a staple of their work for 77 years, ever since Snow White was released in 1937. The songs may have got poppier, and Frozen is certainly the most transparent Disney's ever been in rooting its youthful energy and appeal in American kid-culture, regardless of the source material's European origins, but it'd be churlish to deny the ever-present and overriding allegorical messages that pervade their films - in this case, the sororal binding and loyalty that triumphs over all. Idina Menzel is a canny choice for Elsa, especially as Frozen's plot owes more than a little debt to Stephen Schwartz's Wicked, the musical that brought Menzel to public prominence (Frozen's centerpiece Let It Go and Wicked's first-half closer Defying Gravity are pretty much tonally and thematically interchangeable). But it's Kristen Bell's portrayal of the adorkable Anna that gives Frozen its forward momentum. Admittedly the character's a step backwards from Merida from Pixar's Brave - a long-overdue female protagonist whose ambition and contempt for following the social norms that restrict her sex roars forth from every frame - but the film surprisingly passes the Bechdel test, and Anna's girly infatuation with a visiting prince is assuaged by a third act plot development that absolves her character of the kind of ditzy-in-love motivations that have so often held back these kinds of heroines. There's a touch of final-act loose-end tying that's a mite ungainly, but as a whole, it's rousing, funny, and thoroughly entertaining stuff indeed.