Review by Michael Jacobson
Voices: Kristen Bell, Idina
Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana
Directors: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Audio: DTS HD 7.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Walt Disney
Features: See Review
Length: 102 Minutes
Release Date: March 18, 2014
“Can I say something crazy?”
“I love crazy.”
There are many things to like about Frozen, Disney's most recent computer animated foray outside its partnership with Pixar. And almost as many areas where opportunities were missed.
Let's start with the good: this is easily the most beautiful computer animated film I've ever seen, and I didn't think I would ever say those words again after Brave. This is a movie that not only captures a world of snow and ice, but with every subtlety, like the way sunlight prisms through and off of ice.
And personally, I'm thrilled to see a Disney tale set in Scandinavia (my heritage is Norwegian), and filled with characters that represent that cold yet colorful part of the world (right down to the lutefisk joke...now that's a nice touch!)
But there are weaknesses...why does every animated film have to have a comic sidekick? This is a very human (if enchanted) story about how far one sister would go to save the other. Was the jabbering snowman, who looks more like something out of A Bug's Life, really anything more than a way to sell toys right before the holidays?
And the story itself, which had plenty of promise, never seems to quite gel into the message I THINK the film is trying to convey, which is that it's okay to be yourself. If being yourself is a danger to everyone around you, I think I'd rethink that.
There are two princesses: Elsa (Menzel) and Anna (Bell). As children, they were as close as could be, even enjoying Elsa's strange (and never explained) power to create ice and snow at will. But when Elsa's ability accidentally injures Anna, she decides for the girl's safety, she must shut herself away and shun all contact. We see Anna growing up through the years, trying to get Elsa to play with her, but Elsa no longer answers her door.
Elsa has no choice but to leave her room when it is time for her to take the throne, meaning not only exposing herself to Anna, but her entire kingdom as well. It does not go well. At times, Elsa can't seem to control her powers, and at times, when upset or afraid, actually lashes out with them. She flees her own land, leaving it a frozen wasteland, and leaving Anna determined to find her in order to save both Elsa and the kingdom.
There are subplots, too...Anna has not one, but two romantic flings: one with a neighbor prince who takes charge in her absence, and Kristoff (Groff), a simple man unlucky enough to be an ice salesman in the newly frosted kingdom, but who joins Anna on her journey. And yes, Olaf (Gad), the unwelcome (but occasionally funny) comic relief.
There is the making of a good story in here somewhere, even if Disney had to do a little sweetening here and there. This tale comes from Hans Christian Anderson, whose fairy tales were actually frequently quite dark in nature (if you don't believe me, find his version of “The Little Mermaid” and read it sometime). But there are aspects that are hard to overlook.
Elsa deserves our sympathy to a point, but as mentioned, sometimes she lashes out with her power, and that includes when she doesn't want Anna to try and bring her back...she actually creates a giant frightening snow monster to...what? Kill her? “Being yourself” is a positive message, but is this really the best way to deliver it?
The movie won a Best Song Oscar, but to be honest, I found none of the songs memorable. Idina Menzel has a beautiful voice, and Kristen Bell can sing nicely as well, but right now we are in a period where we don't walk away humming a tune like in the days of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken.
Frozen was a big hit, and there is much to like about it, but a few missteps keep it just shy of being a true masterpiece in the classic Disney vein.
As mentioned, this movie is nothing short of breathtakingly beautiful, and I would never want to see it any other way than in full high-definition glory. The colors are stunning, and the imaginative detail surpasses anything I've yet seen in animation. Every frame is a work of art, and many are so gorgeous that I would gladly blow them up and hang them on my wall. This is perfection.
One complaint, however...why no 3D?
Likewise, the 7.1 HD soundtrack is lush and lovely, especially in the arrangements of the music. There is plenty of cause for dynamic range here, and the disc delivers all with clarity and potency.
This disc includes one of THE worst extras I have ever seen. It's called “The Making of Frozen”...sounds straightforward, right? Wrong. It's a three minute song and dance with some weird guys that has NOTHING to do with how the film was made. If it was a joke, it wasn't that funny.
There is another short featurette on the long road of bringing Hans Christian Anderson's “The Snow Queen” to realization (plans have been around half a century at Disney), plus four deleted scenes, the teaser trailer, and some music videos. Rounding out is the Mickey Mouse short “Get a Horse”.
Frozen is a gorgeous and visually stunning animated film that just left me a little cold (pun intended) in the margins. Nevertheless, you WILL be grabbing this disc to show off your high definition system.