A great animated movie is good fun for everyone.
Right now, there are a couple of examples out there where one cartoon is being panned and the other lauded.
ABOUT THE FILM
The movie being praised right now is this week’s “Frozen.” The turkey is “Free Birds.”
Disney’s “Frozen” arrived with much praise as well as kudos for the opening short. “Free Birds” has been dissed, even with a primo position right before a holiday, Thanksgiving, and a plot about that holiday.
With “Frozen,” Disney has done something very wise. The knock against decades of animated Disney films is that a man always rushes in to save the woeful female. Or the lead, pining girl/lady just wants a Prince Charming to lead her into a wonderful life.
Feminists railed against the Mouse House as pandering to little girls and perpetuating long-held sexist beliefs. The studio always claimed to illustrate strong female figures – Ariel of “The Little Mermaid,” Mulan, Pocahontas – but the other side of the fence was not swayed.
Now comes “Frozen,” and it’s different, which is revealed in the second of two twists. For those girl-power inclined, it’s a big step forward for Disney.
The latest Mouse House effort is clearly aimed above the usual 8-year-old girl audience – by several years. (And it took several years to get the movie made. It’s based on “The Snow Princess,” a story by Hans Christian Anderson.)
The Movie Man took a 6-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl, and both were bored madly for over 30 minutes until Olaf the wacky snowman showed up.
“Frozen” is Disney’s first tween girl animated movie, and it hits its target big time.
THE PLOT (SPOILER)
Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) are sisters, daughters of royalty. But Elsa has a magical secret. She has winter in her. She can freeze things, make it snow, etc. However, if she can’t control her emotions, she can’t control her powers.
When an Elsa event injures feisty Anna, their parents decide to separate the sisters in the giant castle so no more harm will be done.
After their parents are killed (it is Disney), Elsa hesitantly ascends to the throne. With people entering the castle for the first time in years, Anna immediately falls in love with Hans (Santino Fontana). When Elsa disapproves of the quickie marriage, an argument results where she accidently reveals her powers to the village. Elsa flees into the mountains after her green kingdom is cursed with a perpetual winter.
Headstrong Anna heads out to fetch her sister who has created a mighty ice palace high atop a mountain. Anna runs into an ice worker, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his trusty reindeer Sven. Later, they meet Olaf (Josh Gad), a resourceful, accident-prone snowman who is the splitting image of one built by Anna and Elsa in their earlier childhood days.
Elsa inadvertently strikes Anna’s heart with an icy blast, and she is taken by Kristoff to a group of trolls. The critters say the only hope for Anna is for her to find true love. Kristoff races her back to the Duke. However, twist No. 1 arrives.
Anna turns into an icy statue while saving Elsa who has returned to the kingdom. Then comes the true love part, something different than any other Disney movie before.
And that’s followed by more love and happy endings. (This is Disney.)
WHAT WORKS (BIG SPOILER)
“Frozen” looks spectacular. There are some mighty 3-D images, but even without it the entire movie is incredible. The icy images are astonishing, and there’s never a single time when the movie isn’t a visual wonder.
As usual, the best parts of Disney movies are not the human characters but the animals. Sven gets a few laughs, but the film gets juiced when Olaf the snowman arrives. Until then, the two children with the Movie Man were restless, but Olaf quickly changed that.
The movie seems pre-made musically for adaptation to Broadway. It’s front-loaded with songs and a few of them are snappy. Olaf’s curiosity about what summer must be like is funny and witty.
The other big tune highlights the power chords of Menzel in “Let It Go.”
And the whirlwind, one-day romance of Hans and Anna is encapsulated in “Love is an Open Door.”
About that first big twist teased earlier: Hans is evil.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK
And this is a biggie: Elsa is plenty underwritten. The reason for her magical powers is never addressed, and her story line is clearly secondary to Anna’s. Her side of the tale could’ve been substantially increased, and in such stark contrast to Anna, Elsa is far more interesting.
The first 30 minutes of “Frozen” are deadly dull. Without question, keeping young boys interested in “Frozen” is a chore.
The stinger (end scene after the credits which, of course, take forever) isn’t worth the wait.
The initial appearance of Olaf is so fun (and necessary) that the movie finally takes off. There’s about 10 minutes of really good fun there.
There’s a sorta scary snow monster that terrorizes the heroes. Otherwise, this is a mild PG.
“Frozen” has some typical songs and wacky animals and enough wit to name characters after Hans Christian Anderson. But it’s not a classic. It has enough laughs to entertain and will certainly score higher with young girls. But 12-year-old boys … not so much.