CHICAGO – Standing up at the Lyric Opera house in Chicago is unusual before a show. But in this case, it was the night after a tragedy, and the operetta “The Merry Widow” – set in Paris, France, in 1905 – was about to unfold. The orchestra struck up La Marseillaise, a reminder that we’ll always have Paris.
Film Review: Disney’s ‘Frozen’ Enchants Viewers This Holiday Season
Disney’s marvelous “Frozen” fits snugly in the lineage of princess stories that the studio has been crafting for decades while also looks forward to empower girls in ways that its predecessors never considered. It is a remarkably fun movie, especially in 3D, alive in ways that so many of its peers in this lackluster year for animation simply are not. With great voice work, fantastic music, and a script that feels like its themes emerge naturally from its story and characters instead just being forced upon them, “Frozen” is Disney’s best animated feature since “The Lion King.”
Elsa and Anna are princesses, literally. Their parents are royalty and they are left to their own devices to play as little girls do. Elsa has a secret. She has magical powers – abilities to freeze her environment or cover it in a blanket of snow. While playing with Anna, she misfires and freezes her sister. Their parents take Anna to a magical group of trolls who save her life but the family damage is done. Anna’s memory of the event is wiped clean but Elsa is locked up in the castle, separated from the one who loves her most and forced to hide her secret instead of learning to control it.
|Read Brian Tallerico’s full review of “Frozen” in our reviews section.|
Years later, Elsa and Anna’s parents have died and the young women are now opening the doors to their estate to their subjects for the first time. Anna is ecstatic while Elsa is fearful of her secret being discovered. It’s the story of the girl who couldn’t wait to meet the world and the one scared of what the world would think of her. The thematic symmetry between the two leads is marvelous, setting up the arc of where this riff on Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Snow Queen” will go from here. Anna meets a handsome prince, who sweeps her off her feet while Elsa’s secret is revealed, plummeting the land into eternal winter and forcing her into exile.
It’s not a spoiler to say that “Frozen” is a piece about dealing with what makes you different, an important lesson for all children, girls and boys. There’s an amazing musical number in the middle, sung by Broadway legend Idina Menzel as Elsa, that is chill-inducing (pun only slightly intended) to the point that the audience I saw the film with applauded at its conclusion. It is an important moment for Disney in that this song, “Let It Go,” which is almost guaranteed to win the Oscar for Best Original Song, really proves to be forward-thinking for young girls without sacrificing storytelling in favor of moral message. Girls are judged harshly from a very young age, taught to be too cognizant of their appearance and often made to believe that they’re lesser than the boys in their class. Through theme, song, and storytelling power, “Frozen” teaches us that it is when we hide our individuality that we do the most damage to ourselves and those we love.
Photo credit: Disney