Of late, Disney has altered its approach to “the princess,” courting Pixar’s elusive audience grails: adults and boys. In 2010, it overcorrected, retitling its Rapunzel story Tangled to sound less girly and letting the story’s male lead narrate. With Frozen, Disney aims for the sweet spot.
As one would expect, the animated scenery is duly stunning: Luminous, prismatic ice is painstakingly rendered in every dimension, for marvelous harvests and palaces. The animators are hoping, apparently, that if moviegoers are dazzled by the ice, they won’t notice the bland CGI sameness of the characters. And that hit-or-miss feeling extends to the music. “Eatnemen Vuelie,” by Sámi composer Frode Fjellheim, makes a haunting opener, and Christophe Beck’s score can be evocative. Other songs don’t fare so well. Heavily peppered throughout the film, some ditties are sweet, but others feel like workmanlike shadows of past Disney numbers. The same can be said of the dialogue, which often lacks Disney’s signature sparkle, except for the engaging, scene-stealing snowman Olaf. (Booger jokes for the lads? Got ‘em.)
Since it doesn’t so much adapt The Snow Queen as wave at it from a far-off sled, its existing mythology is moot. Thematically, though, Frozen is solid. Sisters Anna and Elsa are front and center, which singlehandedly makes the film a worthy addition to the canon. The film’s also careful to make the Snow Queen the result of distrust rather than inherent villainy; her self-inflicted isolation offers her a unique place among Disney antagonists. Alongside the sisters, the men prop up subplots and big twists rather than dazzle with personality, but it’s time Disney had a princess flick that didn’t need a boy for its happy ending.
Amid exciting moments and gorgeous landscapes, Frozen is, at times, an uncertain whole. But hey, did you see that ice?