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Frozen

January 1, 2017

Frozen (2013)
Director: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Actors: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff

344 (344×150)

Synopsis: Princess Elsa (Idina Menzel) inherits the throne of Arendelle when her parents die, all this despite possessing the inconvenient ability of turning things to ice with her merest touch. On her coronation day, she alienates her citizens – including her sister, Anna (Kristen Bell) – by accidentally using those powers once more. Elsa is excommunicated to an isolated mountaintop nearby, so Anna takes it upon herself to convince her sister to return to Arendelle.

Review: Having finally acquainted myself with the staggering phenomenon that is Frozen, I am puzzled as to not only the film’s massive popularity but also its high critical esteem (although I appreciate I may not be the best judge, and I’m certainly not the film’s target audience!)

Frozen is an exemplar of all that’s wrong with contemporary animation: subsumed in fetishising an industrial feel with all those clean edges that modern technology gorges on; stuck in the parlour game of having to anthropomorphise inanimate objects; and mired in the bizarre practice of using large “expressive” eyeballs for its characters (emblem for the essential unsubtlety of much of what passes as modern animation, as well as creating the strange effect of characters looking cross-eyed when they’re supposed to be thinking – there’s a lesson in there somewhere….)

Dramatically the film has its obscurities too. The opening coda about Elsa “shutting people out” because of her cryokinetic powers isn’t introduced coherently enough (even by fairytale standards), and the early songs have no dramatic context and sound prototypically “Broadway”.

Some of the colouring is unquestionably beautiful (Elsa’s green-purple gown for example – like an exotic Wimbledon ballgirl!), but the colour epiphany at the end of the film feels unearned – a long way away from the similar coup de grace of that other, infinitely superior, childhood classic and Christmas staple – The Wizard of Oz (1939). Frozen is, to put it simply, all technique and iconography in desperate search for a story and its own viable mythology. (January 2017)

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