Well, I normally don't do this, but I went to see Disney's "Frozen" the other day, and it was nothing like what I was expecting...which turned out to be both a good and bad thing. In particular, the musical numbers and the way they handled the villain in this movie really stood out, so those are the areas I'll focus on for now. If you haven't seen it yet, you should know that this review WILL contain spoilers, but I'll try to warn you before any big reveals.
Okay, so...to start things off, let's go over the things I DIDN'T enjoy--namely, the music. Now, before you go flipping out on me, let me explain. It's not that the music was BAD...it just didn't quite fit what I was expecting from a Disney movie. To give you a little background, the songs in this film were written primarily by broadway songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, the husband-wife team who previously worked on music for "The Book of Mormon" and "Avenue Q"...and it definitely shows. There are lots of scenes where the singing doesn't quite rhyme and isn't really necessary. This might be acceptable on stage, but it doesn't quite work on screen for film designed for little children who are expecting a nice, sing-song, rhyming tune like "Part of Your World" or "Beauty and the Beast," and it ultimatley just sounds awkward. There are also a lot of overlapping duets (think, "The Confrontation" in "Les Mis" or the final lair scene in "Phantom") and the music just has an overall stage-musical feel that doesn't quite belong in Disney. Yes, Disney movies can and have been successfully adapted for the stage, but I'm not aure the reverse is true.
Now, those of you who know me know that I'm a huge fan of both "Phantom" and "Les Mis." I also enjoy a few other stage musicals, including "Wicked," which featured leading lady Idina Menzel (voice of Queen Elsa in "Frozen") as Elphaba, the Not-So-Wicked Witch of the West, so naturally, I was excited when I learned that Menzel was going to finally be a Disney princess. (Okay, technically her character married Prince Edward in "Encanted," but that doesn't really count in my book.) Unfortunately, Ms. Menzel didn't quite live up to my standards...but it's not really her fault. The music for this film is decent, but it really doesn't let the actors show their talent. Most of the voice actors in "Frozen" have sung professionally and/or on broadway before, but you'd never know it because they don't get the hance to shine. Menzel's one big song, "Let it Go," which Demi Lovato has also released as a single, was not quite what I'd hoped for. While Lovato's version is powerful and strong, the version used in the film is much weaker. I was expecting "Defying Gravity," and that's not what I got. It's not that Menzel's not capable of it--she most certainly is--but the version used in the film doesn't really allow her to show off that skill. And she's not the only one who gets jipped--neither Hans nor Kristoff gets very much singing time, which is a real shame considering how amazing their voices are. Further, there's no villain song, and no real love song for the main couple. Yes, Hans and Anna get the cutesy and catchy duet, "Love is an Open Door," but for reasons I'll explain later, it's not quite the same as the typical Disney love song. Overall, I thought the music could have been better. It wasn't awful, and the singing certainly wasn't bad...but the songs weren't as memorable or moving as those of other recent Disney films like "Tangled" or "Princess and the Frog," and they definitely don't deserve a spot among the classics.
Alright, now for the stuff I DID enjoy...which unfortunately involves a lot of *SPOILERS*. Now, once again, those of you who are my friends are probably aware that I have a thing for villains. I find them intriguing. I like to know what makes them tick, and if I find them sympathetic enough, I like to redeem them through my fanfics. In my opinion, the best villains are those who you can't decide if you want to hug them or punch them in the face. And the villain in "Frozen" fits the bill...though not because he's sympathetic but because of just how good he is at fooling EVERYONE, including the audience, into believing that he's "Mr. Nice-Guy." So, who's the villain? Well, the Duke of Weselton sort of counts as a villain, but he's not the main problem and actually serves more as comic relief than an actual threat to anyone. Now, get ready, because I wasn't. The villain--the REAL villain--is Hans. As in, PRINCE Hans of the Southern Isles. You know, the guy who sings a love duet with Anna and seems all sweet on the commercials. Yeah, THAT Hans. And the thing is...NO ONE sees it coming--not Anna, not Elsa, not even the Duke. And definitely not the audience. In most Disney films, we inherently know who the bad guy is from the beginning either because of how they're drawn (let's face it, good guys look like Barbie and Ken; bad guys are generally creepy) or because we see them behind the scenes plotting with their evil henchmen. But Hans breaks all the molds. He's handsome, charming, seemingly innocent, and quite possibly the only Disney prince who also happens to be a villain. (And probably also the only villain to get a love song but no "Mwah-Ha-Ha This is My Evil Plot" song. On a side note, I find it weird that good-guy Kristoff never gets his own love song with Anna. Maybe Disney thought two love songs would be too much.) Anyway, back to Hans--he has no real sidekicks (another Disney villain first), and even the other minor villains have no idea he's not just as innocent as he looks. In fact, by the time he actually does attempt to kill the heirs of Arendale, we've all grown so attached to him that we feel just as shocked and betrayed as Anna. It also hits really close to home because of the nature of his betrayal. I mean, realistically, the chances of us being abducted by pirates or cursed by an evil fairy/witch/sorcerer is pretty unlikely...but being betrayed by a loved one is something we can all probably relate to, or at least imagine, and it really tugs at the heartstrings...and makes you hate Hans for being such a jerk. Except you can't because you want to love him for his earlier scenes in the movie.... Ugh.
I have to give props to Disney for turning everything I thought I knew to expect from villains upside down, but man.... They're killing me here with this "Evil Hans" thing. Still, it does remind you that evil isn't always ugly, and it's nice to know that Disney can still take us by surprise. *END SPOILER*
All in all, the good elements of "Frozen" outweigh the bad, and while the music may not be as good as it could have been, it's definitely worth the watch.