“Oh Disney. I certainly grew up in the house of mouse, at the perfect age to appreciate what’s commonly known as the second golden age. I was sad when it declined, and even more sad when it seemed to die all together. Most of the magic has since been transfered over to Pixar, but every once in a while they try again. Some attempts are more successful than others. Princess and the Frog was a wonderful throw back with old school animation, but it ended up being forgettable. Tangled had some great moments but seemed a bit thin. Now with Frozen, we’re just about there. Not quite at Disney’s former level of glory, but the closet we’ve seen in a good long while.
One of the main reason that Disney had been so successful is that their family movies are aimed at the whole family, not just the children. Their stories are interesting and compelling enough to keep the adults captivated, with characters that have more than one dimension and humor that you can rediscover as you grow older. In that area, Frozen started out really strong. It’s a reinterpertation of Hans Christian Anderson’s Snow Queen. Elsa and Anna are sister princesses. They’re very close until an accident with Elsa’s ice powers nearly kill Anna. She keeps her powers a secret and pulls away from her sister until the day she becomes queen. Another mishap with her powers sends the kingdom into a sudden winter. Elsa retreats to a haven in the mountains and Anna follows in an attempt to bring her back. That much of the story (which brings us about halfway) worked. From there, it went a bit downhill as it got kinda sappy and predictable. Actually, I’d say the turn happened right after the trolls’ song. That’s about where the magic ran out.
For me, the strongest point was the cast. Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, and Josh Gad. Admittedly, my musical theatre geekiness has a lot to do with that. I might as well have listed the cast as Elphaba, Mary Lane, Melchior Gabor, and Elder Cunningham. You gain two things from using Broadway vets in your voice cast: nuanced vocal expression, and killer singing. After being criminally underused in Enchanted (by which I mean she didn’t even get to sing) Menzel knocked it out of the park. Let it Go was a diva power song of Wicked proportions. I actually just downloaded it and have it on repeat on my ipod as I’m writing this. Bell added a bit of playfulness and grit to her princess, destroying the helpless stereotype of princesses past. Her voice may not have the same kind of power as her sister princess, but its beautiful and sweet. The harmonies between the two ladies was to die for.
Then there’s the boys. Jonathan Groff deserved more than his 50 second silly song that was half in his reindeer voice. But his speaking voice had great character. Silly when necessary and strong when that was called for. But no Disney movie is complete without its quirky sidekick, and Josh Gad’s Olaf could not have been more perfect. I was having a discussion with a friend where he claimed that this was just more of Gad’s schtick and that it’s getting kinda old. While I don’t disagree on a base level, I think it was exactly what this film needed. Gad is capable of exuding pure and absolute JOY. He can take a simple minded character and make them completely endearing. He did that in Book of Mormon and now he’s doing it here in Frozen. Olaf is 100% genuine, and I can’t think of any actor who would have been as capable of pulling that off. I saw a heartwarming comment from Gad talking about the first time his 2 year old daughter watched the trailer, and how she immediately recognized his voice. Watching the film, I just pictured him doing this for her the whole time, and it was beautiful.
So maybe Disney still hasn’t quite gotten their groove all the way back. But if this is any indication, it seems they’re on their way
Frozen – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n