Nov 29, 2013

REVIEW: FROZEN (dir. Lee/Buck)

From my Guardian review: — 
'It’s that time of year again, when our guardians turn to the moral education of the nation’s young, raising vexed questions about the ideological agenda that drives their roles models, the benefits of their educational texts, and the acute balance that must be struck between pedagogical substance and the public’s eternal desire to see talking chipmunks. In other words: a new Disney movie. A really good one, too, whose humming industry and multi-pixillated craft come lit by a spark of something close to genuine enchantment. Loosely based on The Snow Queen, Frozen extracts from Hans Christian Anderson’s 1845 tale  the Nordic setting, some trolls and the basic idea of sub-zero sorcery but gives the powers of wintery transmogrification not to an evil queen, but to the elder of two sisters — blonde, brooding princess Elsa (Idina Mendel), who is born with the ability of turning anything she touches to ice. Her parents, the king and queen or Ardendelle, warn her against ever revealing her power, for fear it will be misunderstood. “Conceal, don’t feel,” she is taught to recite, thus placing her in a long line of shame-filled spellbinders from Edward Scissorhands to Rogue in Marvel’s X-Men, and putting the icing on the cake of any doctoral thesis with the title ‘Out of the Closet and into the Forest: Hidden Powers And Sublimated Self in the Films of Walt Disney.’ 
Here there is younger sister Anna (Kristen Bell), a redhead who likes chocolate, boys, falling on her tush, and expresses herself via such well-known Norwegian colloquialisms and “you know” and “freaked out”, by which the film’s directors, Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, wish to designate her as Our Heroine, although for a while you're not sure — it would have been a brave move indeed to put the audience behind the witchier of the two girls. The Disney princess is such a tired trope that even the much-vaunted revisionism feels de trop, these days — find me a heroine who isn’t spunky, feisty, etc  — but where the film scores points for originality is the tenderness and acuity with which the relationship between the two sisters is observed. If only Grace Kelly and Tippi Hedren had been available for the voices…   One of the great things about Frozen, in fact, is how well thought through the central theme is, on every level: Frozen is one on-message ice movie. The graphic possibilities of ice and snow are gorgeously realized in some of the most straightforwardly beautiful animation since those dalmation pups trotted through the snowdrifts in 101 Dalmations: make sure you catch the chase at sunset, with cool, mauve horizontal shadows cutting across the glittering tundra. Then there’s the possibilities for fans of the well-crafted action sequence:  a fast, slippery, surface, perfect for high-speed tobogganing and downhill races if — for example — you are a humble woodsman trying to save your one true love from marriage to a dastardly prince, and the snow-lift happens to be jammed. We’re all headed for a big thaw, of course, not to mention a melting of all hearts within a 20- mile radius, but Lee and Buck know how to spring their big moments from within small jack-in-the-box surprises. Suffice to say that for once, sisterhood feels like an abiding interest of the filmmakers and not a tacked-on after-thought. Mapping the contours, twists, intimacies and estrangements of siblinghood — a surprisingly underexplored subject for Disney — Frozen hews to real, recognizable plumb-lines and casts a lingering spell. ' 

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