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'Frozen' Review: Disney magic

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Frozen (2013)


Let's be honest: "Frozen" has become a phenomenon. It's not everyday that you see masses of screaming children gathered for a live sing-along of a Disney song on Good Morning America. One can imagine these very same children glued to their TVs, with the movie on repeat now that's it's been released on DVD. Those who have yet to see the movie might find songs like "Let it Go" unbearably corny and played with annoying frequency on the radio. What makes this Disney movie different from others of its ilk is its appeal to adults as well as children. Adults who have eventually, or inevitably seen the movie, might find themselves humming its tunes or strolling along with an unexplained smile on their faces due to having one of "Frozen's" songs blissfully lodged in their brains. A recent popular YouTube video shows two parents singing along to one of the film's songs during a car ride with their kids, who are obviously loving the idea of their parents playing two of the film's characters. The parents' impersonation is impressive--you can tell they're fans--but the end of the video is comic gold, when they stay in character, looking around and blinking with big-eyed Disney expressions, not knowing what to do after the music's stopped.

See the trailer for "Frozen."

So, what is it about "Frozen"--which, at the time of this review's writing, has just crossed the $400 million line in the domestic box office--that has caused it to burst through the undergrowth of kids cartoon movies and take its place as a cultural phenomenon? When's the last time you saw a Disney song being performed at the Oscars (which Idina Menzel does beautifully)? The film has been called progressive and in some ways it definitely is. Rather than focusing on romantic love between male and female protagonists, as we've seen since time immemorial in Disney movies, this film is about the relationship of sisters. In fact, early in the movie, one of the characters--Anna--'falls for' a dashing young prince who she shares a duet with which ends in a marriage proposal and acceptance. Typical Disney gush, you're thinking...that is, until Anna's sister withholds her blessing of the marriage, since, as she tells her sister, you can't possibly love someone you just met, and, later, when Anna is ridiculed by another male character for her impulsiveness and told flatly that he 'doesn't trust her judgment.' It's funny to think that this line of reasoning is progressive, but by Disney standards--where Sleeping Beauty get's kissed, awakened, and wedded like clockwork--it certainly is. There is a male/female love story in "Frozen," but it grows over time and takes a back seat to the sibling relationship that is at the center of the story.

This might be over-analyzing, but it's possible that the popularity of "Frozen" with adults owes to its rejection of fairytale cliches and unreality in favor or something more real--something that resonates more with a generation of people who are waiting longer and being more careful about their choice of a marriage partner. While "Frozen" is progressive in some ways and takes itself less seriously than perhaps any other Disney movie, it returns to tradition in other ways. It is inspired by a classic fairytale--Hans Christian Andersen's, "The Snow Queen." However, this is not your granddaddy's "Snow Queen." That story has demons, shards of glass that pierce a little boy's heart and eye, and a Snow Queen made entirely of ice who kidnaps children and keeps them locked away in her ice castle. Disney, as Disney does, removes a lot of the darker elements and takes great liberties with the story. Still, the tone of "Frozen" retains some of the darkness and seriousness of "The Snow Queen." Though she is not nearly as diabolical as Andersen's Queen, Elsa, the "Snow Princess," is a force to be reckoned with. Much of the story deals with her struggle--and inability--to control her powers. At times she loses all control and goes into a Jean Grey-as Phoenix-like state, whipping up an icy whirlwind, shooting ice-spikes that nearly impale unwelcome visitors to her palace (including her sister), or generating a snow monster with glowing eyes and claws of ice. Action abounds in the movie as Elsa's sister, Anna, and others, traverse the eternal winter that Elsa's fury has unleashed in order to reach her and get her to restore summer to the kingdom of Arendelle. The presence of queens, castles, and trolls harkens back to earlier Disney movies, and even earlier, classic fairy tales, originating in places like Germany and other lands of castles and forests.

See/Rent/Skip: Rent. "Frozen" is just as good on the big screen as it is on the small screen (or 72 inch small screen...). There's no real reason to see it in theatres unless you're throwing a birthday party for a ten year old, or looking for something to do with your kids on a Saturday afternoon. You could just as well cozy up on the couch and watch it as a family, since it can be enjoyed by everyone, old and young. It has action, great music, cuteness, a vaguely dark storyline reminiscent of some of the oldest fairytales, but best of all, that warm and fuzzy, hopeful feeling that Disney is known for providing, and continues to provide in "Frozen," a Disney movie for our times.