The Movie Frozen: Disney’s Next Masterpiece
Elsa, the future queen of Arendelle, has a motto: “conceal, don’t feel.” She has a deadly secret that she fears will hurt those she loves, so she has learned to keep others at a safe distance for their own protection — even if that means shutting her own sister out of her life for their entire childhood.
Secrets can’t be kept forever though. Time passes, the girls grow into young women, and it is time for Elsa to take the throne. However, on her coronation day, she unwittingly unleashes a power that casts all of Arendelle into an eternal winter. Full of fear and shame, she flees the kingdom and cuts herself off from her people.
Anna, however, will have none of it. Even though Elsa has kept Anna at a distance her entire life, Anna refuses to give up on her sister, and she is determined to get to the bottom of what has happened. With the help of the woodsman Kristoff and his endearing reindeer Sven, Anna ventures out into a dangerous winter wilderness to find her vanished sister and try to undo the power that has frozen the kingdom. Along the way, she meets a talking snowman named Olaf who helps Anna, Kristoff, and Sven brave the many dangers that await them.
Entertainment Value and Film Craft
Simply put, Frozen is Disney’s next masterpiece. It will take its place among the legendary Disney titles such as Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast or Snow White. I give three reasons for this:
1. Frozen is a loose retelling of Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. Andersen is the same Victorian author who wrote the tale used for Disney’s The Little Mermaid. This link to classic literature gives Frozen a timeless feel that captures the magic of Disney’s most enduring masterpieces such as Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty and other Disney classics that relied on classic literature for their foundations.
You might be thinking, “Well, plenty of movies have used classic fairy tales.” Very true, but the filmmakers treated this one with great care. They were very clever with it, and you can tell everything was planned with painstaking detail. No one phoned it in, so to speak, and the result is wonderfully entertaining.
2. Disney has taken its animation to another level. It has created a breathtaking masterpiece of art — most notable in the way it animated the snow and ice, which looked more like live action shot on HD IMAX than an animated film. I highly recommend seeing this movie in 3-D for this reason.
Reportedly, the filmmakers went to Wyoming, Quebec, and Norway and spent considerable time studying snow, glaciers, ice — anything visible in a winter landscape — and took great pains to replicate these visuals into the animation. It’s simply stunning.
3. It’s essentially a musical, very much in the tradition of earlier Disney classics. The first two acts of the film are structured not unlike a Broadway musical where dialogue and other non-musical scenes are less frequent and are used to set up each proceeding musical number. However, if you’re not a fan of musicals, don’t let that scare you away. See reasons 1 and 2 above. The story and the animation alone are worth your time, and the musical numbers are drawn back in the third act to make room for story development.
But if you’re a fan of musicals, then this movie is a must-see. The tunes are gorgeous and memorable. I predict that this film will be made into a full-blown Broadway show. It’s no wonder that Idina Menzel — the Broadway star who played Elphaba in Wicked — was cast as Elsa. Her singing is phenomenal in this film just as it was on Broadway.
Besides these three reasons, the movie also has one of the most adorable comic relief characters that I’ve seen in recent years. I’m, of course, referring to Olaf the snowman. He steals the movie in multiple scenes and adds the requisite comedy that Disney has become famous for — even with its more dramatic tales like this one.
Kristen Bell (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, When in Rome) does a superb and notably comical job as the earnest, goofy Anna. Jonathan Groff plays Kristoff and Joshua Gad plays Olaf — two lesser known actors who will likely see more attention from Hollywood after there appearances in this instant classic.
The screenwriter/director Jennifer Lee (Wreck-it Ralph) and director Chris Buck (Tarzan) did splendid teamwork co-directing the movie, and I predict these two will collaborate again for Disney. They’re clearly a winning formula.
Content Requiring Parental Guidance
Sexual Content: None.
Violent Content: Mild animated cartoon violence: some punching and scuffling between characters, ice and snow are seen magically appearing and knocking characters around, wolves chase and snap at characters, and a giant abominable snowman tosses characters around.
And, most shockingly, someone throws a snowball.
Alcohol/Drug Content: None.
Frightening/Intense Content: The scenes where ice rapidly expands and thrusts frozen spikes at characters might be a little intense for younger viewers. The giant abominable snowman, animated to look very believable and menacing — certainly not whimsical or comical — is essentially a Balrog from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, except on ice. Even the blue glowing fire in its hollowed out eyes and its large spikes of ice for fangs have a similar look to Peter Jackson’s Balrog. Of course, it is still animated, so although most people won’t be too frightened, younger children would definitely be scared of this creature. The movie is, after all, rated PG because of these intense scenes, so you might want to get a babysitter for the younger kids.
Other: Some might take offense to the appearance of magic in this film, but for reasons explained in the next section, I do not think it is a concern.
C.S. Lewis once wrote an essay entitled, “Sometimes fairy tales say best what needs to be said.” In this essay, he defended the use of fairy tales to portray truth, and he painted a picture in which the fairy tale — in its traditional mode — does not awaken the reader to desire the fairy world or the magic itself, but to desire the real truths hidden in those imaginary settings and, perhaps even more so, to awaken a spiritual hunger that points the reader to God’s truth. In such stories, all of the magic, the fantastical creatures, and the faraway lands are thin veils that push the reader towards timeless truths set firmly in reality.
There are, of course, false fairy tales, as I would l call them, that do not follow this traditional pattern; and they are intentionally crafted to make the reader want the fairy tale itself without any pursuit of a deeper treasure of truth hidden carefully between the lines.
Frozen is not one of these false fairy tales. It is a story along the lines of what C.S. Lewis was defending. The magic and fantastical creatures are mere trappings — tools used to chip away at something that the story of Frozen takes far more seriously: the truth that “perfect love casts out all fear.” In fact, that verse from 1 John 4:18 could have been used as the catchphrase on the movie posters. It’s a perfect summary of the story, and that sparkling gem of truth made this film one of the most spiritually edifying stories I’ve seen on screen in quite awhile. Whether or not the original tale by Hans Christian Andersen or this very loosely based screen version was specifically intended to convey this Biblical truth is debatable; but the film expresses it nonetheless.
In addition to the powerful Biblical truth that glitters like new snow beneath the story, Disney went into some uncharted territory. Instead of having a love story dominate the storyline as it would in older Disney films, Frozen is about sisterhood. Just as Disney’s Brave made a mother-daughter relationship the centerpiece — a first for Disney — this film looks at sibling relationships, and it creates a compelling picture of what a healthy, loving sibling relationship should look like.
Other than the giant abominable snowman possibly frightening very young children, there’s no reason to skip Frozen. Adults and kids will laugh, cry, and cheer right along with it, and, buried beneath its shimmering new snow and gleaming ice, you will find poignant Biblical truth that could spark some very edifying post-movie conversation with your family and friends.
And, frankly, this is a timely film. It is a reminder to beware the coldness that pervades our culture in this time of history. Much of Western society is filled with distress about troubling developments in the Middle East, deeply discouraging news stories domestically, and the ongoing economic, employment, and health plan crises. With these things happening, it is easy to succumb to a cold, unfeeling, overly-guarded heart — “conceal, don’t feel” as Elsa said — and fulfill what Jesus said would occur in the Last Days: “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,” (Matthew 24:12, NIV).
Instead of surrendering our hearts to the bitter winter of our world, Frozen reminds us to be courageous and choose to love others instead, even if that means making ourselves vulnerable and sacrificing our interests for the sake of others.
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