With a tired theme such as the cold, Disney doesn’t give itself a lot of leeway to make Frozen at all memorable and stretching that thin layer with musical numbers isn’t fooling anyone. Still, this unfocused piece of animation does manage to get a few scenes on point and has enough endearment in it to win over easily pleased crowds. That’s probably enough to soothe the saccharine masses, but a landmark it does not make.
Mainly, the dynamic of the story revolves around a royal family in some distant, Nordic land. Here, two sisters grow up together, with one being able to wield magic powers that form ice and snow in a wide area around her. After a gruesome accident, however, things radically change in the relationship of the entire family and eventually, the “cursed” child has to take on responsibilities. Her public state doesn’t agree with this bewitched status she owns, which forces even more inner relational strife, but also puts a large peril on the country itself. To overcome it all, the sister must learn to master this power or succumb to fear of it and doom everyone.
In turn, the younger sister goes through this arc with a coming of age story. She wants to witness the wonders of life, experience social thriving and find an appropriate love interest, while retaining her youthful spirit. It’s also this fervor that allows her to maintain an adventurous spirit when she needs to step up to solve the country’s crisis.
Between the two, the story mostly follows the active sibling, as agency has the most to go on. Each will get their spotlights with a thorough peppering of their troubles and goals, presented mostly through song. Though this can be quite shallow at times, with the frequent reiteration of the same crisis, it does at least not become tedious through the reliance on the young one meeting new plot points.
Auxiliary characters, at first, seem to set up a clichéd premise of prince and pauper; courageous heroes standing virtuously against crusty, old bureaucrats. Their stories in the first acts only serve to justify the sisters’ debacle, though they do have a certain personality of their own. In particular, the charming prince in the castle fills up a missing authoritarian role nicely. He makes solid decisions and reacts with his own thoughts upon any danger.
All of it flourishes on a paper-thin note that any such character would be allowed to act in the way they do, without scruples arising. When the older sibling is exposed, she can instantly uproot an entire upbringing and the prince is allowed to act as a superior without any hierarchy conflict. That latter part is even encouraged later on. Only through short spikes in between singing do actions acutely redirect the plot into some sort of sense, through fast forwarding scenes, like a reminder that magic can be dangerous or the peril to the country once more being pinpointed. While charming in its own way, it is best to turn off any advanced thinking through the movie or be sadly disappointed.
Most of the aggravation comes from that singing part. More specifically, it isn’t exactly the singing itself, but rather the completely unnecessary frequency in which its thrown to audiences. Every character gets at least one number, but some come close to enacting almost any dialogue through song. At one point, the baby sis even chants “okay, bye.” These aren’t the most musical words ever uttered. They are sung nonetheless. Looking at the main cast, made up of several Glee members, it’s apparent the studios at hand wanted to maximize on this potential by having their birds chirp as often as possible. It starts to become nauseating quite quickly for those wanting a consistent piece. It’s cute at first, but as it rarely goes anywhere beyond the first few lines, it’s not needed to come back to it that often.
Only in the finale, the main singing theme is dropped, as it can’t really rise to the climax of the ongoing scene. This makes the whole look sloppy and unfocused, though with prior illogical actions, it isn’t the only thing that merely happens for the sake of it. Anything goes in this film. At least, flashy glitter effects and the beautiful meandering of ice and water will keep the mind occupied with pleasant imagery.
More so, the savior of Frozen is the comedic relief of Olaf, the living snowman and its aspirations to feel the warm glow of summer. Another element used to break tension, Olaf’s appearances are always an appreciated value, whether it’s to share a funnily naïve thought or provide endearing commentary. Olaf is a snuggle bunny and likely a character that children can learn to love and adults still can appreciate.
Another, perhaps a more vital redeeming quality to the movie, is that it does hold some expert writing that is subtly buried within dreck. In particular, a few impressive twists lead the viewer on right up to the second of their reveal, even if one of them is once more covered up with magic almost instantly. Yes, it’s flawed, but it’s cleverly misdirected and that, in movies that are usually phoned in like this, is a welcome evolution in Disney’s recent features. It heightens the worth of the sisters, without relying on their male counterparts, like in traditional fairy tales. This adventure is very much that of the siblings first and only then of the others. More of that is welcome.
By the time the credits roll, it’s hard to decide where Frozen wanted to go with its story of overcoming adversity and equally hard to judge if it achieved to present it. A duality in story isn’t as much the issue, as it is the spontaneous appearance of any scenery at whim. A little too serious for kids, way too sappy for adults; this plot is only supported by a few stronger characters and precise beats in the story line that stay on point, like pillars bearing a full platform. It’s best not to try to crack these in order to enjoy this movie.