Monday, April 14, 2014

Finally "Frozen"

A couple of weeks ago, I felt like the last person in the civilized world who had not seen "Frozen". I was alone, living in the Cave of Uncoolness. When people would sing "Let it Go" at the top of their lungs on Youtube or in line at the grocery store, I would cringe and muse over the meh-ness of it Though, Eli McCann's niece's performance was probably the cutest cover I have ever seen. Even when Idina Menzel sang it at the Oscars, I was left thinking, "...and...?" I mean, it's a good song, but I wasn't sure what all the fuss was about.

I hadn't heard any other songs from the show, nor did I really understand the plot.

But now I have and I do. Mostly. I finally watched it. Twice.
Like all great Disney musical cartoons, "Frozen" features a couple of songs that are mostly forgettable, such as the opening ice-chopping number, "Heart" or the rock-troll courtship song, "Fixer Upper". They also always have some catchier mind-control songs like "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" and "Love is an Open Door". And always, always the more popular sing-along solos-- in this case "For the First Time in Forever" and "Let it Go". If you haven't heard the latter, you must still be in the Cave. I would come get you, but since I'm no longer uncool, I doubt I could find it again. Sorry.

So I watched the movie. And I chuckled at the antics of the inexplicably alive snowman and the klutzy-charming Kristoff (especially when he sings and talks for his reindeer buddy, Sven. Hilarious!) and at Anna's adorable awkwardness. It's cute. It's a cute movie. But the best movie ever? Worth watching multiple times a day? Nah.

For one thing, the plot is ALL OVER THE PLACE. I mean, seriously. There are a king and queen, right? With two daughters. One has magic, but we have NO idea why or where it came from. The only clue we get is when the Grandpa Rock-Troll asks if she was born or cursed with it and King-Dad says born with it. 

But why is it snow and ice? I read a lot of fantasy fiction, and I expect magic systems to have a purpose beyond providing conflict for the main characters. Some base reasoning or explanation for why she is the only person in the universe that can make snow and ice shoot out of her hands would have been nice. And her powers aren't limited to that. She can also make clothes and ice skates and both goofy and terrifying snowmen come alive. She can grant life, people. But... why? Maybe I should look to the source material and see if there is an explanation from Hans Christian Anderson's "The Snow Queen".

Then there are the rock-trolls. I really didn't get that. And why was Kristoff raised by them, exactly? *Does everyone in the Disney universe have to be an orphan?! They roll around, then they pile atop one another and sing that obnoxious song that made me want to pull my hair out. But, also inexplicably, the Grandpa has magic powers that can make pictures in the sky and remove the ice princess' sister's head trauma and mess with her memory. Like that's a good idea. What could possibly go wrong? Sheeeeesh. Then we don't see them again until Hans takes Anna there for a second dose of healing, but now Grandpa Rock-Troll can't help. Nope, sorry, I guess he can mess with the brain but can do nothing for the heart and the girl turning into a princess-cicle. Sigh.

I felt a little tossed around by the story. One minute the girls are BFFs, the next minute, the older one, Elsa is completely ignoring her little sister, Anna, by staying locked in her room and never speaking to her. Right. Because that's a great solution to the problem of dangerous powers. Her parents are just like, "Don't feel anything. That will work. Oh, and hide away, because one day you'll be queen, but we wouldn't want you to actually master your powers or learn people skills before then. Just stay in this room. Alone. For 10 years. No biggie."

Anna and Elsa grow up in the course of one song, sung perfectly by the magnificent Kristen Bell.

Then the parents die. Naturally.

*Apparently, the answer is YES.

So there's a coronation, followed by a party and a perfect-hair prince and a couple of shady merchant's guards and Anna is adorable but still manages to trigger Elsa's crazy, because Elsa has a serious lack of communication skills, so Elsa (in a huff, as my dad would say) rushes up a mountain in, like, 15 minutes, leaving behind a sudden, magic-induced winter-in-summer situation. The fjord freezes over and everyone is cold and miserable. 

The song, though, the "Let it Go" song, is incredible in context. I get that now. I see now why everyone loves that song. Idina Menzel's vocals with the beauty of the animated ice castle creation is truly stunning. Breathtaking.

Though she left only minutes after her sister, it takes Anna (and Kristoff and Sven) about 8 hours to catch up. Of course, they had to deal with a funny-accented shopkeeper and a pack of ravenous wolves along the way. (Even though it's not really winter, they act just like winter-starved wolves would. I guess the caribou ran out early that year?) 

And they picked up the goofy sidekick snowman, Olaf, as well, who steals the show with this number:

And when they finally get there, Elsa chases them off, injuring Anna when she has a magic-fueled tantrum, (of course, because we can't just listen can we!?).

Then there's the double-crossing prince. In absolutely every scene featuring him up until that moment that he reveals his true nature, he is adorable, funny, quirky, sweet and helpful. He's gentle with the people, kind to everyone and seems completely genuine. So, unless you're totally jaded and don't trust anyone, his sudden shift to a totally evil-greedy dude was a bit jarring and seemed like a completely different character. I thought we maybe should have had a little sense of "this guy isn't perfect" before that. This is a petty complaint, I know, but it just didn't feel authentic.

The movie moves forward and the conclusion builds and the act of true love is a beautiful surprise, and Elsa's change of heart is instant and complete and it ends with some more incredible animation and warm hearts. Happy sigh.

This movie feels a bit like the writers shoved all of their best ideas into a snowglobe and shook it up. There are some great things here, and some good things, and some random inexplicable things. (Including the opening credits background music, which sounds like a mash-up of Lilo and Stitch and The Lion King styles. WEIRD.)

I'm not sure I loved it as much as the rest of you did, but I did like it. And I am thinking I might like to own the soundtrack, so I too can sing along and pretend I'm a Broadway-caliber Disney princess. 


LeeAnn said...

Just wanted to say I agree with you on so many points. I only saw it 2 weeks ago,(I actually owned the soundtrack before seeing the movie) so I was behind as well. I thought it was good, but not great. So many people had told me it was better than Tangled, but I'd easily pick Tangled over Frozen. I wondered if just hearing all the hoopla had ruined it a little for me, but maybe not. :)

Diane Cottrell said...

It is funny because the first time I saw this movie, I had just seen Free Birds and in comparison it was of course so much better. I really enjoyed it. However, the more I watch it with my girls, I realize that all the things you brought up are true. So it is a crazy story, but I still like it. Oh yeah, I thought I would let you know that Hans is the prince and Kristoff is the one raised by the trolls.

Steph said...

My kids just laughed at me (scornfully!) because I messed up those two names-- Kristoff and Hans. Thanks, though. I think I fixed it. Sigh... my poor old brain. ;)

Danny Hicks said...

My original comment (that wouldn't post) was about the names....

I really enjoyed the film, I thought it was unique and had a great message.

As for plot holes-welcome to a Disney film. That pretty much always happens when you have to pare the story down to 90 minutes or less.

I really didn't like "Tangled" one bit and I was worried that would be the trend moving forward but I thought this film was sweet and fun.

Danny Hicks said...

BTW did you happen to notice Alan Tudyk as the voice of the Duke of Weselton? And the two Arrested Development jokes? Fun times.

Steph said...

I had to go to IMDB to know what you were referring to, so no, I didn't know that was Tudyk. Cool! I totally caught the "sandwich" remark, but didn't see the chicken moves until the second viewing. So funny. :) And I agree. Overall, it is a sweet film.