Sorry, I could not resist that ice pun.
*Warning: The following review contains spoilers*
Walt Disney Animation Studios' latest is good, and since a certain holiday is around the corner, I can say… I'm thankful for that! I'm thankful for Walt Disney Animation Studios in general because of how good they are now that the shackles have been off since the big change in 2006. Frozen continues to show that animated films are good or great when you let the artists and creatives handle the ship, not suits, not focus groups, not consumer products people…
Frozen is classic Disney fairy tale goodness in pretty much every sense, but it doesn't fully go the Renaissance route. It doesn't reheat elements, there is no major love story where the leads share a ballad together… Oh wait, Anna and suitor Hans fall in love just moments after they have met, but the film is merely riffing on the short-term romances that tended to define some Disney classics (note: Some of the Renaissance ones where they develop a great relationship in a matter of 2-3 days, nothing wrong with those, though). I mean, she declares she wants to marry the man in a single night's worth of hanging out. Elsa writes it off, and by extension, so does the film. Kristoff hammers it in a little more… That was definitely a nice touch!
But at the same time, it does try on some Disney Renaissance-era favorites, mainly… Broadway songs! Penned by Robert and Kristen-Marie Lopez (Avenue Q, The Book of Mormon), the songs are surprisingly kind of a mixed bag. First of all, "First Time in Forever" and "Let It Go" are awesome. Definitely instant Disney classic songs right there, "Frozen Heart" also kicks things off to a nice start, but "Let's Build a Snowman" is simply good, "Love is an Open Door" is also just alright. "In Summer", I honestly did not care for. "Fixer Upper"? The one song that I actually disliked…
"Fixer Upper", to me, recalls those unnecessary goofball songs from the 90s films, mainly "A Guy Like You" and "Trashin' the Camp". The song just butts itself into the story, a scene where Kristoff needs to explain to his weird troll family that Anna is in dire need of help… But no, a silly song! Complete with lyrics about tinkling in the woods! Talk about a tonal imbalance, in fact this film had a quite a few. Something I had a problem with. Luckily, most of that jarring stuff is in the film's middle part. It is at times cringeworthy, but definitely not detrimental to the film as a whole.
Frozen's main strengths lie within the story and the characters, the story is very well-crafted but its our two leads that really make it shine. Anna and Elsa's relationship is very strong, it ends up carrying the film and producing all of the heartfelt moments. Every moment where they are onscreen together is just fantastic, Elsa is a very complex character and someone who is very scared. It's a nice change of pace, as always. I give the current Disney team props for trying new things with each story, Frozen is definitely no Tangled.
The story throws a core romance out the window, just when you think that there is going to be one, with build-up to boot! I was a little let down at one point, when it's implied that Anna's curse that Elsa accidentally gives her can only be cured by a true love's kiss. I thought to myself, "Oh no… That's kind of typical!" But no, she gets back to Arendelle only to find out that Hans is a two-faced jerk who would just let her die and would also kill Elsa so he can rule Arendelle. That's right there on the level of Wreck-It Ralph's great third act reveal. The audience reaction was also very audible. It all makes for an incredibly great third act that makes up for what I did not like in the second act.
The second act isn't bad by any means, it's just that it has a bigger dose of that overly-modern slang dialogue that I'm just not a fan of. I didn't care for it in Tangled, nor did I care for it in the 90s films. Olaf's number, "In Summer", while not terrible, doesn't really add much. There's also too many modern touches and details, this is a fairy tale setting! Also, comedy is inserted where it shouldn't be and thus it does feel cheap at times. The comic relief is handled much better in the first act and the third act. That being said, the second act does give us a few good scenes with Anna and Kristoff, a fun scene in a summer shack shop and best of all… Anna seeing Elsa for the first time since her exit from Arendelle.
Most importantly though, Frozen packs an emotional punch and has a very rock-solid story. I just wish that the screenplay's dialogue was a little better, and that the comedy and drama were balanced a lot better in the second act. When the comedy works, it really works. Most of the songs suit the film, while some are a little disposable and then there's that one I don't care for, but it's mostly a good soundtrack with a good score by Christophe Beck. The piece "Vuelie", which opens the film, immediately plunges you into the setting… They even played it over the Disney and Walt Disney Animation Studios logos instead of the typical soundtracks for those! Please do that with more films, Disney, please?
Do I even need to praise the animation? From the art direction to Elsa's powers to the character animation, it all shines. From snowy mountains to Elsa's elaborate new home to kingdoms with a Norwegian flair, it's all nice to look at, as usual for a Disney animated film. Some shots are just strikingly beautiful. Color is used to the film's advantage as well, with some striking use saved for the more dramatic moments. Also, the film's snowier color palette during the third act kicks all those teal-and-orange "gritty" live action films in their collective faces; that's how you do scenes that are a little bit on the darker side!
It ends well, with an excellent resolution to everything that had gone down in the film. Its heart is right there on the surface, and overall… It's another Disney animated classic. It has some bigger flaws, but as a whole? It's very enjoyable.
The hyperbole surrounding it, however… Well, I can't say I'm happy with that. That's another story for another post for another day, but the time is not right.
Now… To say nothing of Get A Horse!
My oh my… This is how a modern Mickey Mouse cartoon should be done! This is more than a great return for the character - he hadn't graced the silver screen in a roughly 6-minute short since 1995's Runaway Brain - it's just a blast and it does something different for a change. It begins like a Golden Age-era Mickey short, as it was an unearthed scrapped Mickey short from 1929, but then our characters go in and out of the movie theater screen. The film throws one fun inventive thing on top of the other, with the characters turning into computer animated versions of themselves when they come out of the screen!
But the best thing is, it's really funny. This is the real Mickey Mouse, not the politically correct preschool show version that's aggressively shoved down your throat. This is the old Mickey, with the energy and personality that made him so instantly likable. The cartoon was full of raucous slapstick and lots of inventiveness… It's a whole lot of fun and it's definitely worth the price of admission!