Frozen Leaves Us Cold

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Frozen_4Frozen is def­i­nitely Dis­ney– per­haps Dis­ney Junior bet­ter describes this ‘tween movie. There are bits and pieces of what we know and expect from Dis­ney here, but when it is all put together, a lit­tle Dis­ney does not a great film make. This film is obvi­ously aimed squarely at girls 12 and under, with very lit­tle for any­one out­side that tar­get audi­ence. The music, and much of the film, is con­fused, unfo­cused and bland. The art­work, while beau­ti­ful, sets no new Dis­ney high-points for ani­ma­tion, and the act­ing does not stand out at all. Frozen has all the ele­ments we expect in a Dis­ney film, but lim­ited in scope; they do not attempt any­thing new in this movie. While it is def­i­nitely no Chicken Lit­tle, it also does not come close to the clas­sics like The Lit­tle Mer­maid or The Lion King; it is more one of the more for­get­table films in the Dis­ney oeu­vre, a young girls ver­sion of The Res­cuers.

Where these two mediocre films are most sim­i­lar is the lack of a good, solid vil­lain. Let’s face it, Madame Medusa was just not that scary. We find the same prob­lem in Frozen. There is no sin­gle char­ac­ter who takes on the evil man­tle, who makes us squeal and hide our eyes. The few semi-bad guys that do exist in the film slip in and out of the focus of the story, with no one ris­ing to the nas­ti­ness of a Malef­i­cent or an Evil Step­mother. The lack of a good, fright­en­ing vil­lain tells us exactly what Disney’s goal here is– to not risk scar­ing their prime– and very young– tar­get audience.

The music is equally lack­lus­ter. It is at times quasi-Broadway and oth­ers mod­ern young girl pop. At all times it is over-produced, over-compressed and overly loud. The music seemed more rem­i­nis­cent of a Han­nah Mon­tana film than a Dis­ney ani­mated fea­ture… which again points to a film aimed right down the throats of pre-teen girls. The “Let’s Build A Snow­man” piece at the begin­ning of the film had great poten­tial, but the song never seemed to evolve… it was just a song to pass time while the girls grew up. Other songs seemed to be sprin­kled in because another 10 min­utes of screen time had passed and it was time for some more music. Some songs seemed too short, oth­ers just shoved in. The Trolls pro­duc­tion num­ber — prob­a­bly the biggest pro­duc­tion num­ber of the film– never got out of sec­ond gear, and never got close to the fun and grandeur of “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” or “Be Our Guest.”

Mod­ern music is very often “com­pressed”- the louder and softer sequences pressed together to make the mix louder. This process flat­tens the over­all sound wave into a much nar­rower band– no highs or lows, just every­thing at the same, high vol­ume. Why? Because stud­ies have shown that peo­ple like loud, and louder music sells. But this process also removes the dynam­ics of the orig­i­nal per­for­mance, and is not nearly as excit­ing as a full sonic sound­scape. The same process seems to have been applied to the story of Frozen. The lack of a strong, very evil vil­lain means we do not get the “lows” of the story. The over­all ups and downs of the story are there­fore smoother and less dynamic. And less excit­ing. The highs are not quite as high when the lows are only in the mid­dle… you can’t appre­ci­ate the work to dig out of the hole if the hole is only a foot deep. The lack of a dynamic story makes the story less sat­is­fy­ing, and the vic­to­ries at the end less impres­sive for the lack work to get there. What makes Sleep­ing Beauty such a great film is not the Fairies but Malef­i­cent; Lit­tle Mer­maid is not remem­bered for King Tri­ton nearly as much as Ursula.

This film was writ­ten by Jen­nifer Lee, who also wrote 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph. After a trou­bled begin­ning, Jen­nifer Lee was brought in and turned that film into a win­ner. Becom­ing a wun­derkind of sorts at Dis­ney, Jen­nifer Lee was allowed into the direc­tors chair for this film. But where Wreck-It Ralph had a wide appeal to audi­ences, Frozen is focused tightly on her audi­ence. Frozen is well writ­ten, but with­out the breadth of appeal or the depth of the for­mer film. The plot is pretty obvi­ous from the get go, and the sur­prise twists late in the film are plainly self-evident twenty min­utes into the film. Frozen lacks the appar­ent spon­tane­ity that gave Wreck-It Ralph its life.

Arendelle2.jpg The art­work does really shine in this film. Dis­ney knows the psy­chol­ogy of how to direct the emo­tions of audi­ences with color, and you can see that in abun­dance here. A lot of scenes stage against a deep blue sky and orange set­ting sun, oth­ers fea­ture the rich greens and pur­ples of the sis­ters cloaks against the white-blue back­grounds. The town of Aren­delle is the per­fect fan­tasy king­dom, a Disney-fied medieval vil­lage in the deep fjords of the north. Tex­tures are equally deep and well-formed; the snow sparkles, the cloth­ing coarse, and the hair highly ren­dered. And the ice– prob­a­bly some­thing extremely hard to color and ani­mate– is incred­i­bly rendered.

Tech­ni­cally it seems like Dis­ney may have missed a step; some scenes seem poorly com­pos­ited. There were three or four scenes that stuck out at awk­ward or unnat­ural. The snow mon­ster was just tacked on top of the trees he was crash­ing through… and the fire from the burn­ing sled looked pasted on and forgotten.

The act­ing seemed fine, but again noth­ing remark­able. There were no memo­r­ial char­ac­ters, like Jeremy Irons’ Scar or Danny DeVi­tos’ Philoctetes. By the same token, there was also no Eddie Mur­phy and Mushu, either. I had a bad feel­ing about the snow­man side-kick based on the first Frozen trailer. But Josh Gad was actu­ally restrained as Olaf, and both he and Sven were pleas­ant side-kicks. Either of the sis­ters could have been played by each other, and the Prince and Kristoff could have switched actors and no one would have been the wiser.

For any other stu­dio, this would be an excel­lent film. But against it’s fifty-two brother films, Frozen is def­i­nitely not the worst, but it falls far short of the best. It is a great film for the 12 and under crowd; for them, this is a win­ner. The rest of us will be happy with a sin­gle view­ing, and mov­ing on to some­thing a bit most satisfying.

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10 thoughts on “Frozen Leaves Us Cold

  1. Okay… I respect­fully disagree.

    The music, while not Top 40, serves the movie, and moves the story for­ward. The duet between the two sis­ters is great musi­cal the­ater. The trolls’ group sing was fun!

    There is a great dynamic between the two sis­ters… so much so that many con­sider this one of the best “princess” movies from Dis­ney. There really isn’t a prince in this movie, there isn’t really a vil­lain, the drama is the rela­tion­ship between the sis­ters. The two main male char­ac­ters… they’re minor char­ac­ters. It passes the Bechdel test! (It might be the first Dis­ney ani­mated fea­ture to do so…)

    http://bechdeltest.com/view/4885/frozen

    No high­lights for Dis­ney ani­ma­tion? How about about the amaz­ing cre­ation of the ice cas­tle?! How about that one frame which took five days for the com­put­ers to render?

  2. Dis­agree. The plot moves for­ward evenly to me.lots of peo­ple besides girls like this film, includ­ing me, since Dis­ney rush the story a bit to make it more excit­ing. The music, although not the lit­tle mer­maid, is bet­ter than tan­gleds music. Dis­ney doesn’t have to break new molds for ani­ma­tion in order to make a good film. The voice tal­ents fit the char­ac­ters per­fectly and the vocals are beau­ti­fully thought out. While this is no lit­tle mer­maid, it is bet­ter than any other renais­sance films that come out after the lion king, and deserve to be one of the best.

  3. this is def­i­nitely not Dis­ney junior. did u see all those intense dra­mas between the sis­ters? my heart was pound­ing really hard in those. if its that excit­ing, the kids would be a bit fright­ened. and the wolves and marsh­mal­low frighten kids too. Dis­ney junior does not scare kids.

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