Alright, stop, collaborate, and listen: Disney’s back with a brand invention – Take heed, it was written by a lyrical poet, Arendelle is on the scene in case you didn’t know it.
That’s right, it’s ice, ice, baby.
I could have written a better soundtrack than him!
Feeling guilty for not posting in a long, long while, I went to see Frozen on Black Friday so I could make up for it to you. Because I love you. I’ve been conflicted about this movie from the beginning, for altering the original storyline so much, for not choosing the ballgown of frosty wonderfulness for Elsa, and for holding out so long on a real trailer in English.
And I am still conflicted. Recent hits Tangled and Princess and the Frog showed that Disney was stretching back its musical roots to reclaim the magic and the audience. The tradition seems to be continuing with the casting of Idina Menzel, who played cruel-to-be-kind so well in Wicked. There’s no going back when Robert Lopez, writer of Avenue Q and the Book of Mormon, composes the soundtrack. We’ve got us a musical!
A real musical. Character development, transitions, plot twist, denoument – it’s all in song. The first chorus of men hauling ice recalls the good old days of Hans Christian Anderson’s other lovely story-turned-sappy, The Little Mermaid. The second ditty is less enchanting, but still heart-stirring. But the third extols sandwiches over substance, even though a duet does not true love make. For the next hour-and-a-half, the movie repeatedly breaks off into tunes and reprises in lieu of actual plot. After I rolled my eyes the third time, during Olaf’s ?comic? number, I realized that Frozen:the Movie is actually a 108-minute trailer for Robert Lopez’s new broadway hit, Frozen: the Musical.
And yet, I still want to like it. It’s visually stunning, even without the marshmallow dress from early concept designs. It hits every point that I hoped for, subverting prince and princess stereotypes, celebrating sisterly love, and keeping Olaf-the-unnecessary from being too annoying. Kristoff gets to really shine in the end, as I hoped, and the trolls are a sentimental throw-back to the after-school cartoons I watched as a kid in the 80’s (by the way, there are trolls).
Thankfully, the movie is grounded on a center of two sisters who can triumph through any storm together. Disney is still struggling with this crazy, newfangled idea that a movie about a girl can be appealing to boys and girls, so I hope they take a lesson from Brave and keep trying. There are threads of fierce brilliance in the movie, like Elsa’s repression and fear that turn her powers against her. The sisters get an opening scene of delightful, romping childhood before Elsa starts to hate her magic, and the glorious bursts of winter that the Ice Queen creates make up for the talking snowman. The Nordic spirit is kept in some of the designs and characters, if viewers can turn their ears away from Anna’s teen hyperboles (“For the first time, in, like, forever, I’m going to a totally great party.”) I don’t think it’s too girlie of me to admit that I want an Elsa tee.
Unfortunately, I think that Frozen joins the ranks of other films like Fox and Hound and Tinkerbell which don’t quite know what to do with themselves. Although John Lassetter is listed as the executive producer, I suspect his hands were full with Planes and other action films, and it’s missing the structure and focus that he brought to Pixar. It feels that this script floundered for too long and the directors just didn’t have a strong vision for the film, evident in interviews they did with Insider and IamRouge, until it was too late to backpedal.
Enough of the Disney magic is preserved to turn this movie into a fun flick for kids, but I don’t think it will have as much appeal for regular adults (dipsters excepted).