This movie review was originally published at USA TODAY COLLEGE on Dec. 2, 2013. Photo found here.
The Thanksgiving box office has been dominated by female protagonists this year- “Catching Fire” took in a record $110 million, and “Frozen” came in second place with $93 million. That’s great for any film’s opening weekend, let alone an animated film aimed at kids. And yes, “Frozen” is a Disney musical, but it’s still enjoyable for adults, too.
Loosely adapted from Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Snow Queen,” “Frozen” is, at its core, a story about sisters. The nice twist is that the sister relationship never takes a backseat to the standard Disney princess romance.
The sisters in question are princesses Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) and Elsa (“Rent’s” Idina Menzel). Elsa was born with the ability to turn things into ice and snow, and this ability grows more powerful as she ages. It is also prone to come out in times of great emotional stress. This is a Disney princess who has more in common with Carrie than Cinderella. Her ice power is all fun and games until she accidentally wounds little sister Anna in the head when they are playing together one night.
Anna’s only cure is to have her mind wiped clean from all the bad memories of Elsa’s power, or else the ice that became lodged in her head will spread to her whole body and kill her. However, certain happy memories of the magic are left intact. The king and queen lock Elsa away in her room for the rest of her childhood in order to keep the kingdom safe from her icy powers, and the castle is shut off from all outsiders. Anna and Elsa are separated for the rest of their childhood, and Anna can’t remember why it ever happened.
Upon that shaky premise, Frozen’s story is built. Does it require you to suspend a significant amount of disbelief? Yeah, but if you just go with it, it’s not that bad. Once the king and queen die, Elsa must open up the castle’s gates for her coronation as queen.
When she refuses to approve Anna’s marriage to the royal Hans (who Anna just met), Elsa becomes agitated and fails to control her power. She subsequently causes the entire kingdom to go into an icy winter, and she runs away to live alone on a mountain. Anna then embarks on a mission to find Elsa and put an end to the winter.
On her way to meet Elsa, she meets Kristoff, an ice harvester who knows how to navigate the frozen terrain. This plotline is very similar to the one in “Tangled,” so anyone who’s seen that or any Disney movie knows where this is going. But the story is unconventional in the way that it gets to that point.
Once Anna finds Elsa, she gets wounded with ice again, this time in the heart. And only an act of true love can cure her this time. It’s not the act of true love that you would think, however.
Part of the appeal of this movie is the way it pokes fun at the Disney princess archetype. The screenplay, written by Jennifer Lee, is very self-aware, and never paints Anna or Elsa as damsels in distress. These sisters are heroines in every sense of the word; the men are only there as supporting characters.
The songs are very good, clearly aided by the fact that all four main voice actors had Broadway experience. See “For the First Time in Forever” and its reprise, sung by Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel.
The only problem with this movie is the plot hole that the story rests on: that Anna can remember the good magic her sister could perform, but not the bad kind. Aside from one comic relief character, this isn’t addressed at any other point in the film. It’s a shame that theme wasn’t explored more.
Verdict: Box Office. It may look like a kid’s movie, but there’s great messages here about accepting yourself for who you are and allowing others to do the same. And the songs are pretty catchy, too. You’ll leave the theater smiling.
Jake Harris is a senior journalism major at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. Follow him on Twitter.