The film is flawed. The important thing is that its flaws don't overwhelm it - the film still holds together. It's more flawed than Tangled, though it's also more ambitious in some ways. Certainly it's more ambitious musically. Tangled had about four key songs. Frozen has eight - you could argue ten. Frozen is very much trying to be a full-on musical, something that Tangled only approached tentatively. There are, I'd say, too many songs in Frozen, though the best of the bunch are much more memorable and key to the film than Tangled. "Let It Go" is the killer track here, but songs like For The First Time In Forever, Do You Want to Build a Snowman, Fixer Upper and Love Is An Open Door are also memorable and important to the story.
The film's female leads, Elsa and Anna, have giant alien eyes and look as overly cute and cutesy as the animators could muster without turning into Tweety Bird or a Kewpie doll. Then again, you could say the same about Rapunzel. Their look does feel a bit generic, and lacks the familiar Glen Keane-ish touch that Rapunzel had, but they do look good. Considering the horrifying attempts at humans in early and even recent CGI features, I can't really fault the work done on these likeable and expressive sisters. We're definitely walking a line here, though. What is important is that their personalities come through - the excitable and very physical Anna, with her self esteem issues, and the withdrawn, secretive and anxious Elsa, who famously goes from stiff-backed to sensual in the course of "Let It Go." There is very good acting here on the part of the animators.
The sisters are by far the most interesting characters in the film. There's really no contest on that. And Elsa has an inner anxiety and torment that doesn't get enough screen time. She's a very interesting character, and underused. Much like many recent blockbuster films I could name, the film hints at a more adult and character-based approach to its story, and I wish they'd taken that path. Instead we get a goofy-looking comedy snowman, who I just couldn't get on board with. His part could have been played by a more realistic, less strange-looking character.
This is, of course, Olaf the Snowman, a merchandise-friendly character who launches immediately into his song "In Summer." This takes place 45 minutes into a film that hasn't really put a foot wrong to this point. They really lost me here. I felt we were now in a territory familiar from lesser kid's films like Raggedy Ann & Andy, where the plot of the film has fallen apart in the middle section, filling time with supporting characters who come and go, as if we've got all the time in the world.
A child would have absolutely no problem with any of this, though, and it's fair to say that Olaf would wake a child up at this point.
It used to be something of a rule in screenwriting that you only have one kind of magic in a film. That is, if it's a time travel movie, don't also have vampires or superheroes - it's simply too much. There are trolls here, and living snowmen. The trolls almost work, in that they're presented as a sort of native tribe, who act like a Russian immigrant family, but they're still a bit odd. The snowmen are more so. Elsa creates Olaf, by accident, and a giant snow monster who creates an instant threat, and this just didn't work for me as presented. It's also somewhat lazy writing, in that it removes Elsa of a lot of responsibility. I'd happily have seen much more of Elsa herself filling the antagonist role. The film seems terrified to make Elsa unlikeable, even for a moment, and so in her darker moments we don't get to spend a lot of time with her.
The same is true for Anna as well. She's a light and lighthearted character, but her relationship with Elsa is the key one in the film and the darker aspects of that go largely unexplored. At 54 minutes in the two have a confrontation which ends with Elsa delivering a fatal blow to Anna's heart, but the scene is curiously toothless. It turns into a musical segment, with a reprise of the cheerful "For The First Time In Forver," which is quite pretty but robs the scene of its conflict. Put simply, the two just don't get angry at one another, and are very reluctant to say anything outright or have any sort of argument at all. A poster on Tumblr presented their idea for an alternate version of the scene where Anna actually yells at Elsa.
A quick Google search doesn't turn it up, but does turn up several fanfictions with almost identical dialogue.
https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10056820/1 ... alone-Elsa
Here's how it might have played out:
By comparison the scene in the film is very watered down. We get Anna and Elsa looking awkward and nervous while singing, and Anna makes a sort of pun where it seems she's going to swear, but says "snow" instead. There's no intense conflict.ANNA:
Don't you dare just walk away again! Elsa! Please don't! Just listen!
You couldn't have trusted me? All these years!
No! You have no idea how lonely it was, Elsa! I spent years bawling my eyes out in my room, alone. You rejected me! I tried to love you! I tried to get back inside your heart! But you wouldn't let me in!
I buried our parents, alone!
And you wouldn't let me in. Not even after that.
It's a kid's film, so the good guys here are just a little too good. When Elsa can't be good, her screen time is limited instead. And that's a shame, because that's far more interesting than good versus evil. Kristoff has a gruff exterior, for a little bit at the beginning, but this is barely touched upon afterward, even when it would help explain his actions - like how he doesn't stay in Arendelle after delivering Anna to the gates. He could have been gruffer.
The bad guys are also a little too bad. The Duke of Weselton - voiced by Alan Tudyk of Firefly, Dollhouse and King Candy fame - gets punished pretty badly at the end, even though it's not entirely clear that he would have fallen out of favor that badly with the kingdom. He did send men to kill Elsa, but as far as we see onscreen, no one is aware of that, even Elsa.
And then there's the
Stop reading now if you somehow don't actually know this yet.
And then there's the heel turn by another main character, who suddenly turns off the charm and goes into full-on James Bond villain mode. It's a little abrupt, and could have been handled more elegantly. The way the scene is played doesn't really build on what we've seen of the character so far. It doesn't repeat character traits we've seen him have previously, but with a sinister bent. He simply plays the scene as evil, with a sneer. And yet his plan isn't well thought-out - he leaves Anna for dead, and announces her death, when she clearly isn't yet - leaving his plan open to fall apart. I suppose anything more wouldn't be a kid's movie, but he has no such qualms about dealing with Elsa.
In truth, he's backed into a corner, and so are the writers to an extent. If he doesn't love Anna, he could have kissed her, with no effect on her health, and I can see that being equally awkward. Having him sneer and explain his plan like a Bond villain is, in many ways, a simple and elegant solution. To do his heel turn in a less abrupt fashion would take more screen time, I suppose. But there could be a lot of ways to do this in a less abrupt way, and get more mileage out of the character. I wouldn't say he turns into an entirely different character - there are plenty of hints about his intentions early on, and both before and after his heel turn he retains the basic character of a charming and very ambitious man who does what he feels he has to do to achieve power, in a skilled and dangerously efficient way. He's a real go-getter, that one. In other hands he might have been portrayed as a sort of Wolf of Wall Street.
I just wish in that moment with Anna, when he revealed his dark plans, it played like he was saying it in the same voice, and for the same reasons, that he originally wooed her. It's easier to do a full-on turn to become a villain. To do it almost imperceptibly, like a passing shadow, and over a course of several scenes, that's more impressive.
Still, it's a twist that certainly worked in theaters.
And, for the umpteenth time, the kids won't mind.
It is a very modern touch to have a Disney princess/queen with crippling social anxiety, and who has to come out of the closet in a lot of ways. But not as a lesbian - that's not gonna happen in a Disney cartoon.
That being said, they did have a gay shopkeeper. A possibly gay shopkeeper.
The scene is ambiguous, and people on the internet have interpreted it both ways. What we do know is that the shopkeeper's "family" is a prominent male character, a less prominent female character, and three young kids.
One of those "could be gay" moments that's pretty typical of this film actually.
Elsa is a character who a lot of people can identify with, for a lot of different reasons. She is a very 2014 sort of character. They tap into a lot of things that could have been explored a little more.
The opening and closing of the film feature native chanting - taken from "indigenous Saami and Norwegian culture" apparently. They're trying to make this sound like The Lion King when it's a movie about white people. It feels a little bit unearned, like it's a copy/pasted shortcut to getting a certain feel out of the film. Also, if you imagine this native chanting alongside that goofy-looking snowman, this whole thing is quite a hodgepodge.
As are the trolls, who are the closest thing we get to an ethnic civilization here. They feel like noisy Eastern European immigrants. They could have been portrayed as natives, but hey, they're trolls, and it works for what it is.
But the core of the film, throughout, is the two sisters. I wish they'd capitalized on that more. A lot more screentime could have been spent on Elsa and Anna's conflict, and its resolution. That's not a huge detriment to the film, though, as what is there works very well, and is clearly the heart of the movie from beginning to end. It's emotionally moving and handled with subtlety, grace and charm.
It feels like certain decisions were made to keep kids (executives) happy and not offend anyone, rather than expand on what really works well in the film. We get just enough of Anna and Elsa, but should have had more.
And who knew Kristen Bell could sing?
There are moments where I felt, this is too generic, and it doesn't go far enough, or have enough conflict. The sharp edges have been scraped off to avoid offending anyone or have the characters be even a little bit unlikeable for even a moment. It's all quite doe-eyed and lovey-dovey. But then, after all, it is a Disney movie.
And it's a good one. It's one of the good ones.