Skip to content


November 27, 2013

It’s been a few years since the last Disney princess movie, Tangled, took the series in two new directions. Obviously it was the first to use computer animation instead of the classical style last seen in The Princess and the Frog, but it was also the first that felt so much like Broadway show. And while there was never much question that computer animation was here to stay, it’s exciting to see that the new film, Frozen also returns to this Broadway style music, with songs composed by The Book of Mormon and Avenue Q co-creator Robert Lopez and his wife, Kristen Anderson-Lopez. It may not hold together quite so tightly as Tangled did, but it’s great fun, and it even manages to avoid all of the classic complaints leveled against princess movies.

This is the culmination of a long effort to adapt Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, which doesn’t lend itself as easily to the princess treatment as, say, The Little Mermaid. And, as such, it’s a rather loose adaptation, but it flows from the capable hands of Wreck-It Ralph‘s Jennifer Lee. The Nordic kingdom of Arendelle has two princesses: Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell). Elsa was born with powers over ice and snow, but after an accident that nearly kills Anna she hides away in the castle. Anna survives, but at the cost of her memory of her sister’s powers.

The king and queen die, and the whole of Arendelle shuts itself away until Elsa comes of age and takes the throne herself. But on the day of her coronation, when the kingdom cautiously opens itself to the outside world again, everything goes wrong. Anna meets Hans (Santino Fontana), a prince from the Southern Islands and immediately agrees to marry him, but Elsa refuses her permission. And as tempers flare, Elsa’s powers run amok, plunging the kingdom into winter as she flees to the mountains.

The visiting Duke of Weselton (Alan Tudyk) quickly declares Elsa a monster and calls for her head, but Anna is sure she can reach her sister. She asks Hans to take care of things and rushes off. In the mountains, she enlists the aid of the ice-cutter Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer, Sven, and Olaf (Josh Gad), an animated snowman accidentally created in the wake of Elsa’s flight.

The songs are fantastic, split about evenly between soaring orchestral numbers that call back to the best of late twentieth-century Disney and smaller, poppier pieces. Menzel’s bold, brassy voice is unmistakable, but Bell may be a surprise to those more familiar with Veronica Mars than her work on Broadway. And Gad has his own stage cred from The Book of Mormon; his Olaf provides a delightful slapstick counterpoint that avoids overwhelming the main scenes.

The style is gorgeous, with a cleaner line reminiscent of classic Disney hand-drawn animations. The dresses are lovely and simple, calling back more to Snow White and Sleeping Beauty than the “princessy” ball-gowns of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast, and yet they’re not without their own unique details that should keep costume designers busy all next year. And, appropriately to the subject, the filmmakers spent a lot of time studying the optical properties of ice and snow; while it doesn’t feel quite right in the largest scales, they’ve clearly advanced the state of the art here.

If I reach, I can find things to complain about. The story takes a bit long to spin up, and then feels comparatively rushed near the end; some sections of the plot feel perfunctory and convenient, but at 100 minutes the movie may already be stretching the attention spans of younger viewers.

But these are minor issues, and overall this film is nearly perfect. It’s clearly among the finest of the Disney princess stories, if not the finest itself, and definitely one not to be missed.

Worth It: yes.
Bechdel Test: pass.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: