by Bob Garver
Dec. 2, 2013. It is so frustrating how close “Frozen” comes to being a good movie. Disney hasn’t done a big flashy animated musical for a while, but the last one was 2010’s “Tangled” which to date remains my only five-star review. Needless to say, my expectations going into “Frozen” were lofty. The good news is that the film’s voice performances are terrific, the animation is dazzling, the songs are mostly decent and the humor has its moments. The bad news is the script is so lousy that it degrades the whole film.
The film stars a pair of princess sisters, Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel). Elsa has the power to create snow and ice out of thin air. A lifetime that promises infinite fun snow days is disrupted when she learns the hard way that he power is extremely difficult to control; she unintentionally creates deadly conditions whenever she gets scared or angry. She spends her whole life as a recluse in a castle, never letting the world (including a memory-wiped Anna, who also has to live locked up in a castle for some reason) know about her condition. That is, until the day Elsa has no choice but to open the castle and throw a big party for her coronation.
On the day of the coronation, the optimistic Anna is thrilled to meet the handsome prince (Santino Fontana) and decides that night that she wants to marry him. Elsa objects to her sister’s hasty decision and gets so upset when Anna argues with her that she loses her poise, reveals her power, and blankets the kingdom in winter. She then goes off to live in seclusion (ice-olation, as she puts it) in the mountains with the kingdom essentially, as you guessed, frozen. Anna goes off on a mission to talk some sense into her sister, getting help from an unhappy ice salesman (Jonathan Groff) and an enthusiastic snowman (Josh Gad).
When the film works, it works really well. Bell is great as the upbeat Anna, and I love her chemistry with Fontana as they fall instantly in love. Menzel is less showy as Elsa, that is except for her big musical number, which is the film’s crowning achievement. Please tell me she gets to perform her song “Let it Go” at the Oscars.
Speaking of music, I enjoyed most of the songs, especially the ones sung by the women, though I wish Groff and Fontana had gotten at least one big number apiece. Menzel, of course, could have gotten ten more for all I care. I can’t say I was a fan of the film’s spoken jokes, but the slapstick and funny bits incorporated into the songs were just fine. Those of you dreading the comic relief snowman should know that he isn’t as annoying as the ads make him out to be (Josh Gad always seems to rise above his apparent obnoxiousness), though I could have done without the deservedly unadvertised comic relief trolls.
But any time “Frozen” seems like a winner, along comes the script to knock it off its pedestal. Let’s start with the fact that Elsa’s powers are poorly defined, the writers are clearly using them conveniently as they go along without keeping track of their own rules and loopholes. The two villains are pathetic, one’s evil intentions are introduced in what I swear is the clumsiest way I’ve ever seen, the other pulls off an admittedly great heel turn before it becomes apparent that they’re playing their cards all wrong. And the film’s conclusion is particularly unsatisfying since the same problems are clearly going to come up again unless one with the snow powers can just wear gloves forever, not that that’s unheard of for a Disney character. These and a ton of other plot holes keep “Frozen” stuck in a state of permanent mediocrity. Actually, stuck isn’t the best choice of word. I trust you know the right one.
Two stars out of five.