Sunday, December 1, 2013

Frozen review

In the 1990's, Disney ruled the world of animation. The studio put themselves back on the map with 1989's The Little Mermaid and continued to make hits such as Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Hercules, Mulan, and most famously, 1994's The Lion King, throughout the decade. They were the kings of animation. However, the 2000's were ruled by Pixar. They brought Toy Story to the world in 1995, and then continued their rise to the top of the animated world. Pixar was infallible throughout the entire decade. Until 2011, when the studio released Cars 2. That film went on to be their first bona fide critical flop, and the streak continued with Brave and Monsters University. Those films received positive notices, but nowhere near the raves that Pixar's earlier films did. While Pixar suffered their first critical misses, Disney Animation was climbing back to the top. The studio released some minor hits like Meet the Robinsons and The Princess and the Frog, but really broke out with 2010's Tangled. They went on to continue their hot streak with 2012's fantastic Wreck-It Ralph. The question now is: can they beat Pixar and reclaim their spot at the top? After seeing their latest effort, Frozen, I can tell you with absolute certainty that they can, and in some ways, already have. Frozen is a musical, magical delight that should be around for years to come.

Frozen tells the story of two sisters Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel). After an accident involving Elsa's magic powers hurts Anna, their parents decide to remove the memories of Elsa's powers from Anna and lock up Elsa. The gates of the castle are shut and no one comes in. That is until Elsa must become Queen. Anna's excited, but Elsa is nervous about controlling her powers. Of course, Elsa cannot control her powers and the kingdom is frozen. Elsa locks herself in an ice palace and the land freezes. Anna must team up with a rugged man named Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and a talking snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad) to save her sister and bring back summer to the kingdom.

Frozen is loosely based on the Hans Christian Anderson story, The Snow Queen. I've never read the story, so I don't know how truly it stays to the story, but I can imagine that changes were made by the filmmakers. However, unless you're a true Anderson purist, I doubt that you will care. Frozen is a beautiful film and an absolute pleasure to watch. The pacing, humor, and animation are all pitch-perfect. While Wreck-It Ralph was fantastic, it felt like Disney imitating Pixar. Nothing wrong with that, but that's what it felt like. Frozen feels like true Disney. There's music, magic and a beautiful design to the animation.

Frozen's official runtime is 1 hour, 48 minutes. You wouldn't believe how fast it goes. It may start slightly slow, but it quickly becomes classic Disney. The film has all the magical elements that you would expect from a Disney princess tale, and it's a lot of fun. Frozen also works as a fantastic musical. I don't know if animated movies can be nominated in the comedy/musical category at the golden globes, but Frozen should be. Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell are fantastic singers, and the big show-stopping music sequences really work here.

The voice cast is pretty fantastic. Menzel and Bell are great in their roles, and the animators have fully developed their characters. Jonathan Groff is good as Kristoff as well. The standout of the voice cast is Josh Gad however. Gad plays the snowman Olaf, and he brings some fantastic comic relief to a story that has some rather serious elements.

The animation is also beautiful. The very first scene of the movie features nothing of consequence to the plot, but the animation is stunning. I could have sworn that some of the men cutting the ice were real. It was that good. However, the animation in Disney and Pixar movies is always good. But what sets Frozen apart is the design of the animation. The snow and the ice is so beautiful on screen and it is truly stunning. Props to the animators here.

The writers have also given all the characters fully fleshed out back stories. No loose ends here, you understand exactly who each character is and why they are here. The only possible hole was how Elsa got her powers. Other than that, each character was fully developed and that was great to see. The writers and directors clearly took time to flesh out all the characters and that's a great thing to see.

However, despite all the technical brilliance of Frozen, and despite the fantastic story, what makes Frozen a great film is its sense of magic and fun. This feels like the Disney that we all grew up with. This feels like a film that is comparable to Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and The Lion King. Heck, I might even say that it's better than The Lion King aside from the songs. Frozen is such a beautiful story and a fantastically animated film, that I feel like it could usher in a new era of great Disney films. While Frozen has a great sense of magic and feels like a classic Disney animated film, it also rewrites the rules of Disney movies at times. This movie could change you interpretation of true love. Seriously.

That last paragraph might be slightly hyperbolic. Frozen didn't save Disney animation, because Disney animation had already been saved. Frozen just solidifies the fact that Disney animation is back on top and here to stay. And with no Pixar film next year, it seems that Disney will stay there for a while. This has the potential to be a full-on hit across all demographics. I'm a young male and I truly loved this film. That's saying something. In the end, Frozen brings back the magic to Disney animation with great music, memorable characters, and a great story. And while it might not top some of the Disney classics, it certainly deserves to be mentioned in the same category.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A                                            (9.4/10)

Note: The film starts with a brand new Mickey Mouse short called "Get a Horse!". It's absolutely fantastic and I won't say much more than that. Don't let anyone tell you too much about it.

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