Sunday, 4 May 2014


Our eldest has got to that age, you know the one, where we can be assailed by Disney in all it's glory and I can become vaguely current with my pop-culture references should the films be the right ones. And, so it came to pass, that about a year after everyone else in the world saw it we have a copy of Frozen in the house and the children can watch it. If they watch it, it follows that we, as the parents, get to watch it too. And, if I watch something, I tend to review it.

So that's what this is, it's a film review. I know, I know, I said that I wasn't finding it easy to post things that weren't beer reviews and that hasn't really changed but, hey, my blog my rules.

Would you like to know more?
Oh, there will be spoilers.

What can you expect from this film? Well, I have to say that I was rather excited that I could get to watch it. Some of my students (who shall remain nameless) have been talking this film up quite a fair amount, there have been quotes, songs and references all over the place that were ubiquitous enough that I actually learned how to spot them even though I had never seen the source material. And this wasn't just limited to one of the classes that I taught, oh no, so there was a wide appeal. I had also seen references all over the webcomics that I read and in a number of forums that I subscribe to. All in all, this looked like being one of those films that becomes a cult classic and fits firmly in the Universal appeal category like Labyrinth and Flight of the Navigator from my own youth.

The plot is far removed from the short story that it is based upon, transforming the Snow Queen into the sister of the protagonist and adding in two potential princes, neither of which is the damsel. In the original, of course, it is the young man who needs to be rescued and who is at the heart of the tale. In this, it is a younger sister who has to be saved by trolls the first time and then by true love the second time. In a move that sent fundamentalist Christians in the US frothing with fury the Snow Queen embraces her powers in a song that apparently sounds like a gay person coming out (I don't see that myself) and has the younger sister not actually get into a definite romantic entanglement with anybody. Ergo, hidden gay agenda that will have our children turning gay. Uh huh. Right.

Oh, and there's two sidekick comic relief characters: a reindeer that doesn't talk and a snowman that does. His name is Olaf. He likes warm hugs.

The songs are very much to the taste of Anna, who loves a good musical more than I, and she was instantly able to work out what other songs they sounded like (she downloaded Let It Go within an hour of watching the film and rapidly connected it with Burn). The snowman song montage at the beginning was not really what I was expecting given some of the hype and analysis that I had heard but I gave it the benefit of the doubt for being early in the film. And there are some genuine comedy moments in this that I did end up laughing to: the trader in the woods with his summer blow-out was good for me, being the kind of unkind person that finds jokes based on accents and stereotypes vaguely amusing. I know, I am a terrible person. The animation is sumptuous, with no wasted space and very clever use of human faces to allow for all kinds of very human expression in a way that animations have been finding hard for as long as I have been watching them.

By now, however, it should be obvious. After multiple viewings, my daughter is transfixed and it is, after all, aimed at such as her, I am not enamoured of this. Why? Well, if this were the only film I'd seen in the last few weeks then I would be singing its praises and talking up the feminist aspects of the plot about how the two princesses never need rescuing etcetera and so forth. But I'm not. See, I recently saw Tangled for the first time and, I hate to say it, it does everything Frozen does and it does it better. Apart from being a musical. There are songs in Tangled but it is not a musical.

Rapunzel faces a better antagonist in Mother Gothel (watch her smack down and belittle in a way that leaves you disgusted and vaguely impressed that she gets away with it) who works as a much better and certainly more sinister foil than... uh... just who is the villain in Frozen? There's the gold-digging heartless bastard of Hans, the slimy by bludgeon trader fellow (who gets zero development), the snow monster (who, uh, doesn't really count) and Elsa. Who, exactly, is the antagonist? I get that everyone is shades of grey but, seriously, none of them have any depth or development. Elsa develops by embracing her powers but her eventual rehabilitation seems to suggest that the real antagonists were the misguided parents who die at the beginning. No, seriously, their parenting is shit. Also, did the trolls not remember who Anna was when she came back? Are we seriously suggesting that Kristoff fails to remember the girl with the white hair that meant he was taken in by the rolls in the first place? Oh, and that happens with a one line quip.

Flynn Rider is a decent character. He and Rapunzel are equals in their adventure. Complete equals. They save each other in different ways and the they both have strengths and flaws. I know it stretches belief quite a bit when they meet and fall in love over the space of a day (something that is firmly set by the film on a number of occasions) and I found that aspect to be troubling when I saw it. However, the direction of their romance and growth, the pace of their development and the way it is shown is all very good. I actually think that Eugene Fitzherbert is very much like Jaime Lannister. In Frozen there isn't that same dynamic. Not even really in the sisterly love thing. There's never an explanation why Elsa leaves and shuts out Anna, nor is there real rapproachment for all that was done when they were children. After everything Anna goes through I figure she deserves to know the truth. Equally, the ending is... weak. There were plenty of points where the lessons could have been learned by Elsa and the fact that she doesn't until the end seems to be based entirely on the fact that it's the end of the film. Also, the pacing is off. There's a chase scene with wolves that seems to turn up because there's been twenty minutes without action. And, in that chase, we learn nothing that we hadn't already seen and been beaten over the head with earlier in the plot.

Oh, and Olaf. Not buying it. He's well acted and you can believe that he is that naive etcetera. But... No, actually, I can't. How would he know about Summer when he was created just a few hours before we meet him? Did Elsa just create life?

Anyway, yes, I liked the film, I really did. But I prefer Tangled. You may now create your mob scene. I'm off to watch some Cinema Sins videos that have nothing to do with this review.

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