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The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Frozen’ rises above usual Disney tropes

    Walt+Disney+Animation+Studios
    Walt Disney Animation Studios

    When Disney releases a new animated musical, huge expectations are not far behind. What other studio has produced pieces that hold such a lofty position in culture and childhood, like “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Little Mermaid,” to name just a couple? Supplemented by a nifty Mickey Mouse short for an introduction, “Frozen” is a welcome addition to the Disney catalogue and, against the so-so competition thus far, might be the best animated film of the year.

    Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) are young princesses of Arendelle, a kingdom perfectly situated on a fjord. Elsa was born with the power to conjure up ice and snow, something of an icy Princess Midas. However, after a mishap with Elsa’s power that leaves Anna with a white streak in her hair, their parents banish Elsa to her room, and Anna’s memory of her sister’s power is erased.

    The two grow up not knowing each other, as Elsa has a self-imposed reclusive lifestyle. On the day of Elsa’s coronation as queen, though, the two loving sisters finally see each other again.

    Anna wants to have a normal relationship with her sister and doesn’t understand the reason for her seclusion, but Elsa, who now wears gloves to try to maintain control over her burgeoning powers, refuses her sister. At the coronation dance, the two get into an argument about a guy, the all-too-perfect Prince Hans (Santino Fontana), whom Anna wants to marry. Elsa loses both her patience and her grip on her powers, unleashes perpetual winter on Arendelle and flees into the mountains. Anna teams up with ice salesman (business isn’t booming) Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer Sven and snowman-come-to-life Olaf (Josh Gad) to bring her sister back.

    The plot, for its first two-thirds, appears to be too much your standard Disney flick. A girl is looking for love to add meaning to her mundane, fairy tale life, meets a guy who she’s obviously meant to be with (but of course she doesn’t recognize that) and a kiss from her true love will save the day. It’s a cookie-cutter plot with a lot of frosting, and it almost undermines the position of its two strong female protagonists. Perhaps, though, this was staged to make the final act all the more surprising, with its unexpected developments and a final sacrifice that redeems the film.

    On a minor note, Olaf, the anthropomorphic snowman, is one of the most memorable Disney characters in recent memory. Quite brilliantly, he is an oblivious snowman who “loves warm hugs” and wants to experience summer in all of its ocean-side sun bathing glory, oblivious about the effect the sun has on snow. This little guy innocently provides most of the humor and character in the movie.

    This is a classic animated Disney musical, with all of the whimsy and high-soaring vocals that you can stomach from the House of Mouse. “Do You Want to Build A Snowman?” is Anna’s innocent plea to her sister, who’s holed up in her room, to come out and play. The two little girls, over the course of the song, grow into distant, confused young women, a moving transformation. “Let It Go” is Elsa’s triumphant reaffirmation and acceptance of her magical powers, a bold solo on top of a mountain as she constructs a glacial palace around her. None of the songs are likely to be fan favorites that are belted out decades down the road, like the best “Mulan” or “The Lion King” tunes, but they work.

    “Frozen” is a solid film that does enough to elevate itself above its at times cookie-cutter plot. With the complex relationship between Elsa and Anna, a genre-defying third act, beautiful visuals and the best snowman since Burl Ives and Frosty himself, this film can hold its head up proudly in Disney’s illustrious canon.

    Grade: B

    Follow Alex Guyton @TDWildcatFilm

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