Review: Frozen (2013)

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Ah yes. Winter. The most annoying season of the year. If there was a California-like weather system in Canada, I would live there. I hate winter. I hate the snow, the cold. Stepping on your brakes and entering a majestic glide down a busy street at rush hour. Scraping eye level slits into your windshield's ice armour at eight in the morning and then driving all the way to work in the freezing cold, your heater only just starting to kick in as  you pull into the parking lot. 
Once you grow out of tunnelling forts in six foot banks in your backyard and recreating the battle of the bulge, snowball edition, with your buddies during recess at school, winter holds little more than an increase in blood pressure and potential fender benders every time you leave the house. 

That's why I love the movies. Especially ones set in winter. You can watch other people freeze while you remain toasty and snug in your local theatre or in the ass groove of your couch. Hot chocolate in one paw, fistful of popcorn in the other. Laughing at that poor bastard on the screen who just slipped on the ice exiting his front door. 

Frozen gave me those warm fuzzies today. The movie's about a Princess with a magical power to conjure up all sorts of ice and snow from her fingertips that she has trouble controlling. She accidentally hurts her little sister when they're both young and as a result distances herself to protect her, hiding the secret from everyone. 
But as the first act tips into the second, her 'gift' is found out and she is chased, witch-like, from her own town and into the hills, her grief causing an eternal winter to befall the area. 

As you can imagine, there's a lot of snow and ice in the film and most of it represents pain, hindrance and consternation (that sounds a lot like the eternal winters they get in northern Alberta). 
But this biting arctic backdrop is also representative of one of the movie's most impressive aspects:
I remember reading in a movie magazine last year that Disney was working on a new movie set primarily in winter conditions. And that technology was being developed that would enable the studio to reproduce snow and ice with a level of realism not previously possible with computer technology. I never forgot that and going in today I still hadn't forgotten. And let me tell you, as someone who knows a lot about snow and ice (and very little about computer graphics technology) the snow and ice effects in Frozen are pretty impressive. Probably even more so in 3D (my kids hate wearing the glasses so we usually opt for 2D versions of movies when we can). It all looks very cool (you can decide for yourself whether you want to take that last comment with a side of pun). 

Technical magnificence aside, Frozen has been getting a lot of attention for having all the right Mouse House ingredients in all the right measurements and coming out a very tasty Disney muffin indeed. And it has. Almost all the things you love and have loved about Disney movies are here: the Princesses, the cutesy story with the feel good ending, the danger, the catchy songs. And it boasts one of the funniest, most likeable sidekicks in years. 
In fact the only thing that was odd about the film was its complete lack of a villain. Disney movies are famous for their villains. In fact, the villains in Disney movies have often become more popular than the heroes (>)
Frozen has intense scenes and some more minor characters are up to no good, but no iconic baddie? Not so cool

The films backstory is also a little light but kids won't care about that. And a personal grumble I had that I doubt will be shared by kids or many of their parents was the number of songs in the movie. There is a hell of a lot of singing in this thing. It calms down in the third act, but for two thirds of the movie it seems like every five minutes someone's got a song busting out of them. And these aren't Menkin or Sherman Brother instant masterpieces either. I halfway felt like I had just been to a Taylor Swift concert by the time the movie ended. But if you liked the music in Tangled, you'll like the music in Frozen. 

Verdict: Frozen is a great family film, at a time when great family films are becoming kind of scarce. There's a lot to love and very little to complain about. I'll take my kids to a movie they're excited about even if I think I'm going to hate it, but those times when I get something out of it as well are pretty special and good indicators that the filmmakers know that they're doing. And if those filmmakers have big black mouse ears on their paycheques, you can rest assured they know what they're doing. 

Rating: ****



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