Re:View – ‘Frozen’
Admin does not make a point of attending films about princesses, but this one marks a bit of a watershed. When Pixar agreed to join Disney, who had lost the plot in its pursuit of family entertainment, it was generally felt that Pixar would be subsumed by the Mouse House. Instead, under the guidance of John Lasseter, the opposite seems to have happened if ‘Frozen’ is anything to go by.
Returning to the core storytelling that produced so many Disney classics, ‘Frozen’ dumps the irony and nudging zeitgeist jokes in favour of something more classic and timeless. It twists ‘The Snow Queen’, losing Hans and Gerda, and replacing them with two princess sisters in Erendelle, a country that combines elements of Norway, Iceland and Alaska. Here, one princess is blessed/cursed with the power of frost, icing over everything she touches. With her parents the King and Queen summarily dispatched at sea, the girls grow up separated by the dangerous power, one eventually infecting the other with her cold touch of death.
I was sorry to see Hans Christian Anderson’s key line ‘The sliver of ice was working its way slowly toward her heart’ ditched as possibly being too grim, but the rest works beautifully, with a perfect prince, an itinerant ice seller, trolls, a moose/reindeer hybrid and a chatty snowman joining one sister on a quest to save the other. Renderings of crackling ice and snow (in 3D) are simply astonishing, but the story’s the thing. While it lacks the level of danger present in past classics, and there’s no real villain beyond an avaricious merchant (English, of course), it reaches a level of melancholy loss that brought the cinema’s anklebiters out in floods of tears, the like of which hasn’t been seen since Dumbo reaches for his mother’s trunk between the bars of her cage.
The songs are serviceable, with just one zinger, and there are mercifully no excessive climaxes to them, with the traditional ‘I Want’ song reduced to a sliver. Adults will marvel at the technology and seamless storytelling, but boys will groan as the sisters gear up to sing. But then the theme here is sisterhood and empowerment, without laying the message on too thick.
Disney’s past output has usually gone in cycles. In the fifties, ‘101 Dalmations’ remains a delightful highlight, ‘Cinderella’ an anodyne low-point, and the nineties cycle lost traction after ‘Mulan’ . From ‘Frozen’, it looks as if a new cycle of hits has begun. Try to see the short with it, which takes audiences from ‘Steamboat Willie’-era Mickey into the future via some terrific gags.