REVIEW: Frozen

8 01 2014

Disney’s latest home-grown animation effort, “Frozen,” seems like it’s going to follow in the path of their traditional princess narrative.  In fact, the film boasts two marriageable princesses that sing show tunes flawlessly.  Yet as the movie progressed, I couldn’t escape just how dark the whole thing was.

Sure, other Disney princess stories have their share of bleak moments, but they’re usually right before everything gets better.  From the get go in “Frozen,” Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel), one of the princesses, is banished to her room until she can control her magical power to create ice.  Because, you know, it would have just been too easy for some Disney-Pixar intermingling to allow Frozone from “The Incredibles” to come train her).

Her younger sister, Anna (voice of Kristen Bell), is left lonely as a result.  Had Anna’s musical number of desolation and emptiness pleading for her sister to come out and play, “Do You Want to Build a Snowman,” been a little less cloying, it might have had me in tears.  But the song, like nearly every other tune in “Frozen,” feels a bit over the top.  They aren’t really in line with the catchy Disney tunes of their ’80s and ’90s animation renaissance; they are stock Broadway numbers that recall the cliched sounds of “Wicked.”


Olaf

But the film’s music was not written by a quintessential maestro of the Great White Way like Stephen Schwartz. The numbers were penned by Robert Lopez, the talent behind irreverent musical successes “Avenue Q” and “The Book of Mormon,” along with his wife Kristi.  Lopez understands the ridiculousness of the Disney princess stop and sing whatever’s on my mind number because he brilliantly parodied it in “Sal Tlay Ka Siti” from “The Book of Mormon.”  The main tune from “Frozen,” Idina Menzel’s power number “Let It Go,” feels so typical that I almost started to wonder if it was Lopez’s way of being subversive with the material.

The film takes a “Leap Year“-esque trajectory in its second act as a recently betrothed Anna goes on a journey to save the self-exiled Elsa … and falls in love with a different man that takes her on an unpredictable journey.  Thankfully, this is the time where “Frozen” introduces Josh Gad’s uproarious Olaf, a snowman who wants nothing more than to experience summer.  Gad absolutely runs away with the movie and gets the film’s best song, “In Summer,” which Lopez wrote perfectly for the silliness of his “The Book of Mormon” star.

From there, “Frozen” plods along towards its ending with a whole lot more fun thanks to Olaf.  The film does offer a refreshing final lesson that does not concern romantic love, a welcome change of pace.  Still, “Frozen” lacks the fairy-tale magic of “Tangled” as well as the irresistible charm of “Wreck-It Ralph.”  Maybe the inevitable stage show will iron out the kinks.  B-2stars

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