Disney gets a lot of criticism these days for their older output these days. The modern live action stuff generally gets overlooked, especially when it comes to Marvel, but the older, animated films are considered to be rather detrimental to children, primarily girls. That’s not to say that the films such as The Little Mermaid and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves aren’t fun and enjoyable but every time someone talks about those films these days they always come with an asterisk, an aside suggesting that girls shouldn’t hope to emulate the women they see on screen.
All Disney animated films get this to some degree but it is the princess films that get the main brunt of the flak. In fact, the non-princess Disney films have largely begun to askew this dated mentality and gender bias. Pixar have always avoided it, probably because they were a separate company until 2006 but Disney’s own films, such as Wreck-It Ralph have painted females in stronger, more positive perspectives. Jane Lynch’s performance as Sergeant Tamora Jean Calhoun got a lot of praise for being a woman who was brave and capable on her own in ways that had nothing to do with a man. Her back story involved a wedding gone wrong and she does fall in love during the course of the film and yet neither of those plot points cause or remove her own personal strength.
So it came as big deal when Frozen, Disney’s latest princess film, was released and there was actually a real effort by Disney to make the princess modern and challenge the notion all Disney princess films encourage little girls to find a husband and fall in love and that should be their entire life’s ambition. Previous recent additions, such as The Princess and The Frog haven’t fared so well in reviews but Frozen is actually a marked difference if only for one big reason. And I don’t actually want to tell you the reason for fear of ruining the film for any potential audience members reading this. If you are thinking about seeing this film, you should. Especially if you have children.
The reason will remain unmentioned but it does make certainly make this a more modern princess film. But it isn’t just plot points that make this feel like a more modern animation, even the way the characters act is more modern. The story follows Princess Anna and her sister Elsa who possesses the power of winter. This leads to great fun for the girls as they build a snowman inside and slide around on ice. However, her powers end up harming Anna and though she is ultimately saved, Elsa becomes very afraid of her powers. As she grows up, she continues to shut everyone out, especially Anna who has had her memories of the magic removed.
The playful banter of the sisters and Anna’s quirky, upbeat personality allows the princesses to appear distinct from their naive and meek counterparts from the older films. Anna especially feels as though her character could have been written from a sitcom like Modern Family and her character reminded me of Vanellope Von Schweetz from Wreck-It Ralph, though thankfully Kristen Bell isn’t anywhere near as annoying as Sarah Silverman. But she has her own strength too, taking command as soon as her sister runs off into the mountains and following her. On her adventure, she cajoles an ice merchant into helping her, fights off wolves and puts herself in harm’s way numerous times. But what I really liked wasn’t that she was just brave but that those times didn’t always come easy to her. She breathes a sigh of relief when she has successfully acquired the aid of the ice merchant because, although she was taking a stand, she was worried about failing. It is good to see that side of courage too.
On the flipside, Elsa is so much more reserved, that is until she’s by herself and she is able to use her powers freely. There is obviously some kind of message about being repressed and being what you want to be but it all gets wrapped up a little too quickly for me to believe that there is any deeper meaning to it. Elsa needs to be conflicted to drive the story and it leads to probably the best song in the entire film but outside of that, I felt like Elsa didn’t have much to do except to be reserved and scared for most of the film. There are a few moments where we see a more relaxed character, such as at the start or for a brief moment with her sister before her powers are revealed but on the whole, Elsa spends most of the film straddling the line between good and evil to keep the audience guessing.
Outside of the main princesses (actually one princess and a queen), the other characters don’t serve much purpose other than humour. Olaf the Snowman isn’t annoying as presumed but does exist to make non sequiturs and point out the obvious. Jonathan Groff and Santino Fontana serve well as Kristoff and Hans but both are at their best when they are playing off the main characters. Kristoff, in fairness, has his moments but I genuinely believe that he wouldn’t have been half as interesting were it not for his pet reindeer, Sven. Sven in fact probably got more laughs from me than the majority of the other characters. Comparatively, Hans has a complete turnaround in the third act that isn’t hard to see coming but it’s one that completely changes his character. Imagine if Pumbaa turned around suddenly and begun acting like Scar and you’re on the right track.
I was also a little disappointed by the songs. The music and the singing are usually a big part of Disney films but outside of Elsa’s big number, it felt like a lot of the music wasn’t quite as impactful as desired. I miss the days of The Lion King and Aladdin where the music felt inspired and unfortunately I just didn’t get that from this film. Even if Disney is on the right track of creating stronger, modern women who can be appropriate role models, there is still plenty to work on. Overall though, Frozen was a fairly enjoyable experience and one of the better princess films of the modern era.
As always, you can find my novel, I PLAGIARIZED THIS BOOK FROM MYSELF, on Amazon. And please, if you’ve already picked up a copy, remember to continue to spread the word. Alternatively, if you think I’m completely wrong about Frozen please let me know in the comment section below or fire me a tweet. Otherwise, until next week, thanks for reading.