Tuesday, December 10, 2013

"Look! The Sky's Awake!" - Thoughts on "Frozen"

Note: This review will contain some SPOILERS, so if you have not yet seen "Frozen," go and get that accomplished already.  In 3D, if you can.  Because it's worth it.  Like "Avatar" was worth it.  I'm getting way ahead of myself.

Movie #67: "Frozen"



Okay, first thing's first.  Yes, I was as wrong about Olaf the Jar Jar/Poochie-looking Snow Goon thing as I was about Ray the firefly in "The Princess and the Frog".  I still don't quite understand the marketing of this movie, but let's not focus too much on that now.  Just know that they did a fantastic job misrepresenting this particular character as well as the film as a whole.  Very like Ray, Olaf is the heart of this movie.  He has a lot more in common with the enchanted objects in "Beauty and the Beast" than with, say, the lemur-things in "Dinosaur" or that damn robot in "Treasure Planet".  His design is intentionally silly for reasons that will be clear maybe five minutes into the movie, and his personality (half innocent little kid, half accidentally-newly-created sapient being) is adorable.  He is the emotional center of the movie, the Morality Pet of the two sisters.  But I'm getting way, WAY ahead of myself.

It sounds like a broken record by now but "Frozen" is outstanding.  OUTSTANDING.  I took my cousin, my other cousin, and her preteen daughter for a Crazy Disney People Girls' Night Out/Christmas Present in a recently refurbished movie theater.  (They upgraded their projectors and sound systems, swapped out the old flip-down chairs for reclining leather seats, and put in huge new screens; the old theater from when I was a teenager is amazing now.)  We sprang for the 3D showing and did not regret it one bit.  Every single one of us was enthralled from the opening chorals to the end-credits stinger.  That right there is a sign of a great movie.

I hate to harp on the marketing some more but as usual, they did a stellar job of NOT representing what this movie is and/or how you will feel when you watch it.  (Just, ugh at the TV spot where one of the biggest, most emotional songs is interrupted by something silly because LOL we know you're too cool for songs in a throwback to Bronze-Age Disney musicals.  That'd be my vote for worst trailer for an animated film this season if not for the "Frisson all up and down my arms --> 'Oops, I stepped in yer "fear"!'" ad for "Walking With Dinosaurs 3D".)  That "how you will feel" bit is important.  Look at that still above.  I could have just posted it, said "THIS, this right here is why I love 'Frozen'", and saved myself a lot of typing.  It hit me square in the childhood. 

I have a couple of nitpicks, but I feel bad for even bringing them up because it feels like pointing out lose threads in the Unicorn Tapestries.  They could have done a more even balance of songs; the first half of the movie makes the second half look a little sparse, musically.  The (spoiler) death of the King and Queen could have used a little room to breathe, as could (HUGE spoiler) Hans' betrayal, which also really could have used a little more foreshadowing, though it did make the entire theater gasp, for what it's worth.  Then there are the trolls, who are already probably the most polarizing part of the movie from what I've read in other fans' reviews.  I loved their opening scene, especially how they hint at a larger mythology going on here, and I LOVE their design -- but they really started to give a bad Minion vibe somewhere in the middle of their second scene and song.

But never mind all that.  I'm going to not only call this the most visually stunning and musically terrific "instant classic" Disney movie since I saw "Beauty and the Beast" as a preteen all those years ago -- but also the most emotionally resonant.  I love the relationship between the two sisters.  And I was especially thrilled by the surprisingly psychologically dense subtext that helped define that relationship.  Here come the big spoilers: If you think about it, Elsa has basically lived her entire life haunted by the guilt of accidentally causing her little sister what's basically the magical equivalent of permanent brain damage.  (Remember, the troll healer literally has to alter Anna's memories to save her, and it doesn't look like they're ever fully restored -- I feel like a much stupider movie would have had her fully regain them for a super-dee-duper happy ending.)  She's terrified of harming Anna even more, and the specific reason why everything goes to hell in the climax is because her worst fears are actually happening.  That's some heavy stuff, and between it, the "You really ARE a bad guy" scene in "Wreck-It Ralph", and Mother Gothelle's emotional abuse, I'm okay with Disney movies getting crazy dark again.

So, incredible music (sweet mother of Walt, they're no longer afraid to do the three-songs-practically-in-a-row thing anymore!), staggeringly gorgeous visuals (oh my God that snow!  That ice!  The Rosemaling!  That scene where Anna dances with the paintings!!!) and endearing characters (I'll keep this one quick: there isn't a single dud character in the main cast).  Just, go see this.  Really, I ordered the soundtrack right when I got back so there's that.

And the short before the movie!  I almost wish that I had no idea at all what was going to happen because it turned out none of my cousins did and I felt a little left out.  I could hear their whispered reactions go from, and I quote, "Aww, I love Mickey Mouse!" to "Wow, I wonder how old this is?" to "😮" and finally "😍"   You know, I've often wondered what it would have been like to be in the theater for one of the first screenings of Chuck Jones' "Duck Amuck" and I think now I have an idea.

Before I close this out, I really need to give major props to the Rotoscopers for doing a better job promoting "Frozen" then Disney's own marketing department.  For more posts in this ongoing series, go here, or click the Chronological Disney Animated Canon tag below.

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Art of the Day!  You're still a unicorn to me, Tsintaosaurus.

11.23.13 - Tsintaosaurus

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