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4th December 2013 06:10:00
Posted by Nick Chen

Frozen

Cinema Review

Get a Horse!, the short that precedes Frozen, sums up Disney’s attempt to combine old-fashioned warmness with newfound technology. Get a Horse! applies a gimmick of juxtaposing old Mickey Mouse with a world of 3D; characters fly off the screen, still under the Disney banner, so to an extent maintaining some authenticity. Frozen does the same by adding computer-generated beauty to Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen (even if loosely based, it retains a fairytale vibe). And animated snow is somehow more beautiful than real snow. The rest of the visuals are also sensational and take advantage of modern technology – it’s the modern storytelling that sets everything back.

Set in the fictional kingdom of Arendelle, Elsa (Idina Menzel) is a princess born with the magical power of turning objects to ice, which turns out to be as dangerous as it sounds. She is effectively hidden away in a castle with her younger sister Anna (Kristen Bell); as most Disney princesses find, life is lonely. Eventually, the sisters leave the palace for Elsa’s coronation, whereby opening the front doors becomes a homecoming. When Elsa’s icy powers are accidentally unleashed during an argument, she runs away, leaving a snowy path and a neverending winter for the locals.

Now, here’s where the story switches to Anna and a quest to find her sister. (Personally, I would have preferred a film about Elsa’s self-determined isolation, where music provides her only company. Maybe I should revisit Tangled.) Anna’s journey – which I should probably call an adventure – requires the aid of mountain expert Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), a mute reindeer, and an anthropomorphic snowman. Oh, the snowman. His name is Olaf, he’s voiced by Josh Gad, he’s already all over the film’s marketing, and I wanted him to melt as soon as words came out of his weirdly shifting mouth.

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Ice dominates Frozen, where barren whiteness is blurred in the frame’s corners. All hope is lost and strangely beautiful; every icicle and slippery slope is a solemn reminder of Elsa’s sadness taking place off-screen. But to dumb down the film is Olaf: deliberately ugly, unlike the rest of the animation, and full of cartoonish slapstick. To the writers’ credit, he dreams of eternal warmth, and is thus a supporter of his own personal tragedy.

Anna is a feisty and likeable lead, and makes far better viewing than a traditional prince marching through the snow. Kristen Bell’s vocal talents inevitably have a touch of Veronica Mars, and I see no reason why she couldn’t have been allowed more jokes – especially as it would make the snowman unnecessary. She’s also sidetracked by big musical numbers that don’t live up to expectation, particularly one with singing trolls. Some songs throughout adopt a half-spoken tone; jokes interrupt the rhythm, evoking a half-hearted self-awareness. The others I just found unmemorable.

There’s a smarter film somewhere in Frozen, one that can make full use of the glorious animation and melancholic snow. For viewers who aren’t swayed by the musical numbers or Olaf’s groan-worthy gags, the discernible lack of story is sadly noticeable. While the background is icily cool, the dialogue is mundane filler reminiscent of sludge.

Details and Specifications
Cinema Review

Certificate: PG

Country:
United States of America

Running Time:
108  mins approx
Director:
Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee

Main cast:
Kristen Bell
Idina Menzel
Josh Gad
Santino Fontana
Jonathan Groff
-- more --
5
About Nick Chen
I am a journalist, screenwriter and lesser-known Olsen brother. Often found around London in an internet cafe enjoying a cappuccino ISP-resso. I freelance for several places, but my personal film website is halfacanyon.com. I hate how people who don't "get" Twitter make fun of it as people describing their breakfast, because I eat people like them for breakfast. (Follow me at @halfacanyon.)


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