Oh yeah, I forgot to post my uber-giant review here. Ah well:
I just saw this on Sunday, and as a quick review let's just say OH MY GOD IT IS MAGNIFICENT GO SEE IT!!!!
Granted, I decided I was going to like it as soon as Idina Menzel was cast as Elsa, so I may be biased, but let's get into it
. Taken from a liberally-adapted version of "The Snow Queen" (A Hans Christian Andersen story), "Frozen" got basically altered into something totally different, after Disney went a dozen different routes with it (an early 2002 version saw Glen Keane- animator of Belle and others- leave in a huff), changed the hand-drawn animation to CGI (since "Tangled" did about a billion times better than "The Princess and the Frog"-which WAS STILL A HIT MIND YOU- this is probably going to be the status quo for forever until someone decides to be artistic and change things), then changed the title to better reflect the gender-neutral titling of "Tangled", so boys wouldn't be turned off by the female-focused plot. Advertising was focused more on the whacky Snowman and the Emotive Reindeer than either of the Disney Princesses, too. You could whine and moan about Disney disrespecting women or something by going so boy-focused on the promotions... but these people make films that do hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office, so their methods CLEARLY WORK. I mean, this movie made more in ONE WEEKEND than "Ender's Game" has made in its entire run so far. Just saying.
So "Frozen" is now the story of two sisters- the goofy, sweet Princess Anna and the responsible, closed-off Princess Elsa. Elsa was born with the magical power to create ice and snow, but lacks proper control- after a childhood accident in which Anna was injured (leaving a lock of hair permanently white), Elsa was forced by her parents (under advice from some Rock Trolls that live in the mountains) to teach Elsa to "Conceal. Don't Feel" and hold her emotions back, lest they unleash her full powers. So the Princesses, once wonderful friends and playmates, are now forced apart, with Elsa usually hidden away in her room. Anna, whose memory was wiped as part of the Trolls' solution, doesn't understand why her sister now hides behind a closed door (Doors are a frequent metaphor in the film), and longs to play with her again ("Do You Want To Build a Snowman?"). Elsa, meanwhile, can still barely control her powers, as every time she lets an emotion out, she freezes something.
Now with the helpful exposition out of the way, we get a true rarity- a Disney Princess is now crowned QUEEN (after their parents are conveniently killed, and we get a quick shot of them grieving and then a "Three Years Later" tag), as Elsa is now ruler of the Danish-looking Kingdom of Arendelle. However, Anna and a handsome, clumsy, shy boy named Hans fall in love in a single day ("Love is an Open Door"- oh hey see the metaphor?) like Disney Princesses tend to do. Elsa, who was initially happy and getting to talk to her sister after so long, gets pissed at the idea of Anna deciding to marry him so soon, and unleashes the full fury of her storm in a rage. Running from the Kingdom and forming her own Castle of Ice, Elsa hides away, leaving Arendelle in an "Eternal Winter" thanks to her abilities. Princess Anna teams up with a quirky, weird Ice Salesman (tough to make a living NOW...) to find Elsa and convince her to drop the wintry goodness.
There's a lot of the Usual Disney Tropes and Cliches in this one, of course: Love At First Sight (though it's commented on and subverted, there's still some Quick Relationship Advancement going on), Bickering Boy & Girl Of Course Getting Closer, Everything Is Solved in A Day (seriously, Arendelle is frozen in "Eternal Winter" for like a few days- we never see the characters sleep or anything, but it seems to be dusk, then dawn, a lot), the I Want Songs (though it's more "I Have Finally Got It"), the True Love Conquers All thing (Can True Love eventually save the day? Spoiler Alert- it totally can!), the songs, the Comic Relief, The Hyper-Intelligent Animal, etc. Anyone who's seen a Disney film before can guess at a lot of the stuff you'll be seeing.
Of course, they also subvert things, and pull some unique tricks out. How many Disney characters even HAVE siblings, much less having it be the core of the film? The relationship between Anna and Elsa is EXQUISITELY done here- Anna's sad, desperate attempts for a playmate ("Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" is very much this film's version of "Castle on a Cloud" from Les Mis), Elsa's inability to be close to her beloved sister out of guilt and fear, Elsa's responsibility versus Anna's playfulness and excitement... there's nothing else in Disney like this- I can't even think of many ANYTHINGS like that- most stories have the heroes be only children to make it simpler! Hell, they even tease a True Love's Kiss thing and subvert THAT. And yet, all throughout, there's none of that cynical, snide "heh-heh recognize THIS trope?" stuff or Pop Culture humor that's become so big in CGI movies & cartoons these days.
There's not even a concrete VILLAIN here for the longest time- Elsa's basically an antagonist since she's causing all the problems, but there's fairly little overall villainy till the end of the film- no Villain Song or nothin'. THE BAD GUYS AREN'T EVEN HAMMY ACTORS WHAT THE HELL!?!? And ELSA- oh my GOD what a character. A lot of Disney characters are outsiders and quirky types (it helps to build audience sympathy- especially amongst young girls, where stories like this really resonate), but Elsa has this INTENSE sense of loneliness because it's brought on by guilt, fear and lack of control. The moment where she fully lets loose and unveils her emotions ("Let It Go") is one of the greatest moments ever, and if it doesn't get placed up there with "Simba Is Confronted by His Father's Spirit" and "Belle and The Beast Dance in the Ballroom" in terms of "Holy Freaking God Disney Kills It Like No One Else" animated sequences, then there's something wrong with the world.
Another crazy thing: You know that whacky Snowman character they hyped exclusively in the beginning? Who comes across like an annoying twerp and a mistake on the level of Jar-Jar Binks in the trailers? Who EVERYONE seemed to be dreading? Well he's ACTUALLY VERY FUNNY and totally doesn't ruin the movie at all! He even provides some much-needed comic relief during intense moments ("I don't have a skull (beat) Or bones."), and barely takes up any screen-time at all! Now I was gonna totally have a pre-conceived bias against the guy, but little Olaf is actually GOOD for the movie!
The voice acting is stronger than in many Disney films, thanks to focusing on Broadway-trained actors, and others in animation. Even Kristen Bell (Anna) got her start in some Broadway stuff and can actually sing, so that's good- there's very little Stunt-Casting involved (I mean, most people don't even know who Johnathan Groff and Idina Menzel ARE, and the Comic Relief Snowman is just an actor from "The Book of Mormon" who was on "The Daily Show" once or twice), too. Disney has had issues with talented actors pulling in lazy deliveries (even "Tangled" had this issue), and a lot of it's because voice acting is QUITE a lot different from regular acting- you can't act with your face like most actors do- ALL of your emotion has to come from your vocal cords. Now everyone can do that, which is why Animation Specialists (Maurice LaMarche barely disguises his "Brain"-like voice as the King) and Broadway Performers (who have to reach the back seats who can't see their faces) are ideal.
The animation is a vision to behold, as you'd expect from a Disney film. It's definitely better CGI than "Tangled", with elaborate ice scenery and more. The character designs (with one notable exception) aren't as good, and neither is the Kingdom of Arendelle compared to many other Disney Kingdoms (it looks more like a small town with a large hall at its centre than a Kingdom), but when they crank the animation up to the nines, you will be freakin' entertained, that's for sure. I still woulda preferred Traditional Animation (it helps with the Character Designs- both Princesses look a tad too skinny to be able to move), but it's hard to deny the CGI snow looks amazing.
The metaphors are pretty surprising, too- they don't beat you over the head with them, but there is a HUGE recurring thing with stuff being hidden/kept away/blocked off. The castle is closed off from the outside world when the Princesses are young (when Elsa's powers unleash themselves); Elsa hides from her sister behind a door; there's a big to-do about the gates opening at Elsa's coronation; Elsa wears a confining hairdo and tight gloves to disguise her powers, and there's a big bit in "Let It Go" where she tears off the last glove and unleashes her braids- it's all a big thing about how Elsa deliberately closes herself off, while Anna wants to be open (even going with "Love Is An Open Door" as the key Love Song). It's a pretty simple metaphor, but hell, those are usually the best kind.
The songs are a little dull, with one major exception. A couple are funny, and "Love Is An Open Door" is quite cute and charming (and even cynics might appreciate it a bit later on). But the big "For the First Time In Forever" one just seems like Generic Disney, and it keeps getting reprised. Given that they had a powerhouse team of songwriters, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, who'd worked on both "The Book of Mormon" ("Hasa Dega Eebowai"
) and "Avenue Q" ("The Internet Is For Porn!"
, producing some of the funniest songs that ever existed, it's a bit disappointing. Though it still makes me laugh that the people who wrote some of the most profane lyrics in Broadway history have now written songs for a movie from the Walt Disney Company.