By Bret Dorman
One of the things I’ve never really understood is all the flack Disney gets for its fairy tale movies. Kids are always being told to go for their dreams and reach for the stars. Adults look back on the fondness of childhood and how innocent everything was. Even as people grow older they often cite going to the movies as a form of escapism, as in a fantasy of which you do not expect real life to match.
I’m not surprised Disney gets picked on in particular. It is a hugely successful business. And they make an easy target. Their cartoons are recognized worldwide. So when someone makes a semi-clever video or series of artworks relating Disney Princesses to real life, and how impractical/unrealistic they are, I understand the intent, but have trouble really pointing a finger at Disney and shaming them.
That all being said, Frozen is another entry into the Princess world of slim body images and how a girl should act. Although really I just see it as a decent story about two sisters and some snowy adventures.The Story: Elsa (Idina Menzel) has icy powers that she more or less can’t control. When she accidentally hurts her sister Anna (Kristen Bell), Elsa tries to hide her powers from everyone. This backfires when she’s about to be Queen and she runs away. Anna goes to look for her, but never having ventured outside the castle she reluctantly enlists the help of Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his reindeer Sven. Also, there’s a snowman (Josh Gad) who talks.
There are two things I hate in movies (well, there’s a lot but these two specifically). Firstly, I can’t stand when characters just spout out about being in love, especially if they just met, instead of actually showing the falling in love process. Does Frozen contain scenes of ridiculous love boasting? Yes. But! I’ll give it a pass. Not just because it plays with that a little (the movie sort of flips it upside down while simultaneously flipping it back right side up), but because it is a Disney Princess movie. I’ll give any kids movie a bit of leeway when it comes to “true love” because these stories work in generic archetypes. If I’m watching an adult drama I expect more. In the mean time, let the kiddies dream of meeting Mr./Mrs. Perfect and love at first sight! (So innocent, wait until they watch Annie Hall for the first time… more devastating than finding out Santa isn’t real…)The second thing I hate is when characters talk like they are hand puppets in some lame couples therapy session. Some of the “buzz words” or “key phrases” that always prods my ears and makes me twinge are “You just shut me out!” and “Why won’t you let me in?” People don’t talk like this. And if they do they are just repeating some lame movie or song, which makes the intimate moment seem more like pop culture regurgitation. And in this movie, the two sisters fire back (mostly Anna to Elsa) these two key phrases at least two dozen times. And that estimate is conservative.
Besides these sappy, generic moments sprinkled throughout, the relationship between the two sisters is quite complicated for a kids film. Instead of drawing on conflict from an evil neighboring witch or megalomaniacal family member, the two sisters are conflicted with each other. And more interestingly, each one has a solid point of view and both are balanced. There’s a moment (solidified by song) where Elsa casts away her responsibilities and fears, power dancing her way through a castle she’s making while dashing her jazz hands out in all directions. One moment in the song has her defiantly shouting “Be the good girl you always had to be/Conceal, don’t feel” which may be a little to on the nose for my tastes. But moments later she triumphantly belts out “The cold never bothered me anyway” which practically had me snapping my fingers, bobbing my head side to side, and murmuring “You go girl!” Elsa becomes a sympathetic villain who is also unjustly pursued due to her immense powers. I almost wish there was another scene or two following her, but the movie runs at a nice tight pace, so I can’t blame them for streamlining her into more of a background goal and unpredictable character.The true charm of the movie really comes through its main character. Anna is spunky, energetic, naive, innocent, and just wants to build a snowman with her sister. Even though she is a Princess and beautiful, she still has a hard time around gorgeous men and Princes. Early on she falls in love with a Prince who at first does and says everything right but then sings about how they are meant to be because they are both awkward. Tehehehe! Obviously this comes into play later since most the grown ups watching will know the writers will find someway to get Anna and Kristoff together, especially since they don’t get along AT ALL at first. There’s got to be some rom-com law of opposites attract that states the more a boy and girl disagree but are forced to be together, the harder they’ll fall in love later. Again, towards the end there are some major cheese factor gender related groan inducing plot devices at play that are (again) predictably turned on their heads last minute. Predictability though is not the enemy, although I suppose the “fake out” path could be cause for some conversation.
I’m not really sure where to stand on this movie when it comes to political correctness. Does Anna NEED a man? I mean, I guess yeah she is saved by dudes sometimes. But she also is strong and powerful (although the way she helps Kristoff at the beginning is to buy him things?). It’s nice to see little girls getting more positive role models but do they really need to be Princesses? I mean who am I to argue with Disney tradition? And finally, this movie does feature two sisters as its main focus point, but both sisters are ridiculously skinny and good looking. At one point during Elsa’s castle-making-power-dance she moves her hips side to side as she struts around in a way that no real human could ever move. I’m just assuming no matter what you want to get out of the movie you can twist it any way you want. And all I wanted was to watch an entertaining kids movie. So that’s what I got.
Lastly, Olaf the Snowman is about as funny as he is in the previews. He provides doofy unaware optimism and his puppy dog side kick reliability is endearing. There are limited interactions between him and the reindeer, which I believe was big in the advertising. And even though he is a standard character who doesn’t offer too much except for obvious marketability and easy laughs, Olaf’s song about summer is the definite unseen highlight of the movie. It completely fits his character and creates a sort of foreshadow-y sympathy for the character, who otherwise is just a couple more butt jokes from wearing out his welcome.
In Conclusion, I’m an adult who goes to kids movies for no reason other than I like movies of all shapes and sizes. The comedy snob in me could nitpick all over the place. The feminist sympathizer in me could feel a bit uneasy about some of the “subliminal” messages. The feminist sympathizer in me could also feel good about seeing some cool chicks on screen (dames love being called chicks, right?). This movie wasn’t meant for me and knowing that going in I had a perfectly fine time. If this wasn’t a kids movie, I really wold have liked to seen some of the themes explored a little more. But because it was for kids, I’ll settle for the butt jokes. Although technically butt jokes aren’t really escapism for me since I make them all throughout my adult day.
Final Grade: C+
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