It feels kind of weird watching and reviewing the Frozen DVD so far outside of the chill of winter, but that does little to take away from the ongoing genius and magic of Disney animation. However, while there are a lot of positives to the film, there are also a couple of sticking points that will see it struggle to rank as one of the great Disney classics, which is a shame as it was so close to the kind of perfection that made Cinderella, Aladdin and Beauty & The Beast so timeless.
Released on DVD, Blu-ray and digital download on the 31st March 2014, it re-imagines Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale, The Snow Queen, with a fair bit of creative license thrown in for good measure. It’s a significant redevelopment of the original plot that thankfully skips out the devils and their dastardly mirrors and replaces them with some very cute mystical trolls.
The story is that of two young princesses, Anna and Elsa, that begin their life in the happy kingdom of Arendelle in a huge palace, under the loving gaze of their king and Queen mum and dad. However, things get a bit hairy when Elsa develops a strange power to command snow and ice that she struggles to keep under control, endangering the life of her sister, and so she decides to shut herself away to save the people she loves from harm.
When Elsa grows up and is crowned queen, the troubles start up again, and the new queen flees the kingdom, leaving her slightly estranged sister Anna with the task of finding and saving her with the help of ice-cutting outdoorsman Kristoff, his reindeer and a magically personified snowman called Olaf.
So far, so Disney, but the main problem with the storyline is that there’s way too much ambiguity about the bad guy. (SPOILERS) It’s not shy on having an antagonist, as such, so it’s not something that can be explained away by references to a new post-modern cinematic style from the creators; it’s just that because it takes such a long time about bringing him to light you’re sort of denied the opportunity of worrying about what he’s going to do next or imploring Anna and Elsa to stay out of his clutches.
If Scar, Jafar or the wicked stepmother and her facially challenged daughters hadn’t shown their true colours until the fight scene/trip, the films would have been much less rounded than they actually were and that’s ultimately the case with Frozen. It’s the only real chink in the story’s otherwise solid delivery, which makes it all the more annoying.
It’s a problem that’s only added to by the halfway house bigotry of the Duke of Weselton, who’s just a short, bald and bespectacled fellow with a dislike for anything out of the ordinary, which is a long way away from being one of Disney’s more imposing baddies.
There’s also an element of the unlikely about the baddie reveal, as the motives for the crime don’t really make a lot of sense. When a young prince finds a beautiful princess that wants to marry him, the greed card seems a bit empty as a motivating factor for malevolence. He would have been better off just marrying the Princess and keeping up the pretense. If they’d revealed his intentions earlier and built up his antagonistic appeal it might have worked a whole lot better (SPOILER END).
The mix of a great cast and strong characters (on the good side of the spectrum) compensate a whole lot for the issue with the movie’s baddie. Idena Menzel (Wicked) portrays the part of the penned-in princess with powers brilliantly, while Kristen Bell is faultless as the doe-eyed and willful younger sister Anna. Both are finely weighted and well delivered, making for a good pair of central characters to focus the film around.
They’re added to by Jonathan Goff who is great as Anna’s friendly rescue party companion, Kristoff, along with Josh Gadd, who’s hilarious as the shuffling mentalness that is Olaf the magical snowman. You can’t help but love Kristoff’s reindeer too, but then who can resist a reindeer. In all fairness, even Santino Fontana does his best within the limitations of the dubious character of Prince Hans.
The music in Frozen is another significant positive for the movie, with some of the best songs we’ve seen in a Disney movie in a while. Let It Go is well worthy of the Best Original Song Academy Award, but in all fairness the film of filled with great music and vocals from Menzel and Bell.
The most impressive element of the film is the animation, which has probably reached an all time high. The details are stunning, especially in the construction of facial features and movements of the characters, and the beautiful snow and ice scenes. There’s also a whole lot of the old fashioned cuteness of Disney in the characterisation of Olaf and Kristoff’s reindeer. Added to that is a good amount of larger-than-life action in Elsa’s giant snow monster.
All in all, we can’t argue with the fact that this is a great animated feature – it’s the highest grossing animated movie of all time and picked up the Best Animated Feature at the 2014 Academy Awards. If you’re a fan of Disney, animated movies or snow scenes in general this is definitely a DVD to watch, but you’ll probably also feel a bit miffed that they didn’t quite get the baddie right.
If we’re honest, if you’re yet to see the film, we’d recommend holding off watching the DVD until well into November, and if you’ve already seen it, it’s also probably better to pick it up in the run up to Christmas later in 2014. It’s always much more fun to watch this kind of movie in under a blanket on a snow day.
Frozen DVD review: 4/5