Outside of the teaser trailer and some posters, I new little about Frozen going into it. Olive and her best friend joined me at the press preview, and we all left delighted. The girls chattered about the movie the whole subway ride home, surely spoiling some of the spoils for our fellow riders. Even when you go in with no expectations, this movie isn’t what you expect. It sets you up with all of the Disney fairy tale conventions, and then turns them on their ear, one by one.
Newer trailers set Frozen up as a movie about a love triangle, but it’s really about the two sisters. (This movie passes the Bechdel test with flying colors.) As little girls, Anna and Elsa were as close as can be, and they would sneak away to play with Elsa’s hidden talent: the ability to make it snow. Elsa would make snowmen and snowhills for Anna to frolic in as they giggled together. But there’s a dangerous side to Elsa’s gift, and her parents implore her to keep it a secret. This, unfortunately, forms a frozen rift between the two sisters.
This is Disney, so the parents naturally disappear in a shipwreck early on. The sisters grow up in the same castle, but Elsa has locked herself away from her sister, breaking both girls’ hearts. When Elsa comes of age, people travel far and wide for her coronation. On coronation day, though, Elsa inadvertently reveals her ability and causes an eternal winter. The whole kingdom is frozen, and the frightened, mortified Elsa flees to the mountains. We the audience have seen the story from both sisters’ perspectives, and we feel for both of them.
Anna heads to the mountains to find Elsa and bring her home. She’s just met the dreamy Hans, who came from a neighboring kingdom for the coronation. They’ve hit it off, and he gallantly stays behind to run things in the kingdom while she’s gone. But Anna needs help getting through the snow. Enter Kristoff the ice man. With unexpected winter, it’s not a good time to be in the ice business, so Anna hires him to transport her in his sleigh. Cue adventure, and love triangle. Anna loves Hans but is clearly developing feelings for Kristoff. Again, though, this is the subplot that’s all in service to the story of the sisters. I’m not going to share any further plot points, because the movie unfolds in such a satisfying manner that you should watch if for yourself.
Ask the kids about their favorite part, though, and they cry out “Olaf!” Olaf is the scene-stealing snowman that has been brought to life with Elsa’s powers. He joins Anna and Kristoff in their quest to find Elsa, and is comic gold every time he’s on scene. I hesitate to even share this though as you’ll enjoy it more in context, but here’s a clip of his solo number that gives you a taste of how delightful he is.
Now, about the music. This movie is Disney on Broadway™ through and through. It even has Broadway vets Idina Menzel as Elsa, Josh Gad as Olaf, and Jonathan Groff as Kristoff. (Yes, you also know Menzel and Groff from Glee.) All of the songs are performed as though they’re on stage (which I’m sure is only a matter of time), but in the movie that means that they’re overly-long and over-the-top. Both of the kids complained about the music taking them out of the story, Olaf’s song aside, and I couldn’t agree more. Musical theater fans will enjoy it, though.
Is it worth seeing in 3D? Frozen itself is not, though the 3D makes the snow quite pretty. No, the reason to pay extra for 3D is for Get a Horse the Mickey Mouse short that comes before the movie. It brilliantly captures the history of animation in one animated short, and it is lost without the 3D component.
My only other complaint about Frozen is that it pulls back the curtain too much on the Disney machine. There were several moments where I, cynically, imagined that what I was watching a trailer for other spinoffs. The actual Disney on Broadway production seems like a no-brainer. Surely we’ll see Olaf starring in a holiday special. If you forget that Disney is all-powerful, note the Captain America t-shirt on one of the characters in Get a Horse. They own Marvel, remember? And they’ll keep finding ways of churning irresistible things out of their delicious meat-grinding media machine.
My cynicism aside, Frozen is a marvelous treat for your family. There’s scary snow monsters that might spook the littlest ones, but everyone five and up should love it, boys and girls both. And don’t forget your 3D glasses.
Frozen opens on November 27.