Frozen may be the lone animated film this holiday season (even if Free Birds is hanging around, it doesn’t count), but that status doesn’t automatically make it a must-see family event. Built almost wholly for the very young, who are sure to eat up the high-quality visuals and cheap laughs without getting sidetracked by a gap-heavy story, its allure could very well prove more challenging for anyone who’s received a report card.
Nowhere near the next classic Disney princess story, directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee take Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” and cram it with simple, often annoying characters and forgettable songs. Clocking in at a blessedly brief 92 minutes, Frozen stumbles early with no speculation into the source of Princess Elsa’s childhood power, whose otherworldliness naturally forms the film’s central crisis. Turning a castle room into a winter wonderland for playtime with her sister Anna, side comments between the girls suggest this isn’t her first round of snowy sorcery, nor is it an overly abnormal gift. An accidental icy blast to the younger princess’ head necessitates the magic of strange deep-forest rock trolls, led by Pabbie (Ciarán Hinds), who wipe Anna’s memory of Elsa’s abilities and prompts the sisters to grow up separate from one another behind locked doors. For such an extreme decision, it would appear that some sort of explanation or backstory is in order, but the film rolls on leaving these issues unaddressed.
Not much improves years later when a terrified Elsa (Idina Menzel) is forced by birthright to Queen of Arendelle status while Anna (Kristen Bell) bounces around the castle, espousing her undercooked notions of love. Unable to fully control her power, with little known about big sis outside of this fear, she’s a tough sympathetic sell. The same goes for lil’ sis, a walking chatterbox whose mind may not have fully recovered from her childhood accident. And so, when Elsa accidentally freezes her kingdom, making it look like the end of Cat’s Cradle, and flees to an icy fortress of solitude in the forest, there’s little worthwhile riding on her new life or that of Anna, who soon marches after her (in short sleeves, no less). Thrusting its characters into complex predicaments without developing them beyond a trait or two, the film remains narratively ill-formed and isn’t helped in the musical department.
Written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, Frozen’s songs are overly conversational and not all that melodic. Flat choruses and weak rhymes are further cheapened by characters interrupting one another mid-lyric, discouraging listenability and often content comprehension. Though it’s difficult to capture the magic of Disney’s musical prime, which persisted even into the mid-to-late ‘90s, this new free-flowing style is unsuccessful and unlikely to inspire sing-a-longs. The lone potential exception is “In Summer,” in which primitive snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) pines for warm weather, oblivious to the notion of melting. His whimsical personality may be at odds with the mostly straight-faced story and probably belongs in a different film, but is a pleasant constant in an otherwise problematic work.
Rated PG for some action and mild rude humor.
Frozen is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.