Disney’s most recent “princess” films (namely, The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, and Brave) broke with tradition by empowering their female leads over their love interests. Frozen embraces this legacy and takes it a step farther. Inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen story “The Snow Queen,” Frozen‘s focus is not a struggle between good and evil or a “love conquers all” romance. Instead, the film presents two sisters.
Forget the misleading trailer: for the most part, this movie has no obvious antagonist. Princess Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) and Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel) are simply different. Anna, the younger sister and main protagonist, grew up feeling stifled by her family’s isolation. She is willful, optimistic, and energetic, just as her sister likely would have been, if not for her powers. Elsa’s life from a young age has revolved around hiding her ability to control ice and snow. The viewer, unlike Anna, understands from the start that Elsa’s coldness stems from pain rather than cruelty.
Like other recent Disney princesses, Anna insists on helping herself instead of relying on a dashing male hero. Her potential matches, Prince Hans and ice vendor Kristoff, embody the old/new Disney dichotomy. Hans is the smooth and chivalrous royal we saw in Cinderella and Snow White. Kristoff is more like Tangled‘s Flynn Rider, a “fixer-upper” who pretends not to be just as noble as his traditional hero counterparts. Neither Hans nor Kristoff are meant to save the day, though. They remain supporting characters throughout.
That’s not to say that zeroing in on Anna is never problematic. We only really see Elsa working through things alone once – and while the scene is magnificent, such a complex character deserved more time. Elsa’s struggles are intense, but I don’t think I fully appreciated that until my second viewing. (On a related note, I saw the movie a second time specifically to see Elsa’s big scene in 3D.)
Overall, Frozen is remarkable. I strongly believe it merited a Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture – Comedy/Musical, in addition to its recognition as an animated feature. Though perhaps musically weaker than some of its Disney peers, Frozen weaves a cohesive and engaging story that appeals to all ages (as evidenced by its huge box office success). It’s moving, funny, and refreshing – a must-see, in theaters.
MPAA Rating: (PG), for some action and mild rude humor
Run time: 1 hr. 48 min.