Frozen - Blu-ray Review

'The complex relationship between the royal sisters is one of the film’s strongest assets'.

When it comes to Disney Princess stories, the animation studio is now seemingly establishing a new and satisfying groove. Bidding farewell to 2D animation for their royal females with The Princess And The Frog in 2009, the studio released Tangled a year later, confirming the reestablishment of Disney’s ability to put a fresh spin on fairy tales whilst also pleasingly marrying elements of the studio’s traditional style with impressive CGI animation. Frozen follows up Tangled’s successes, clearly replicating several of the elements from the earlier film whilst also managing to try a few new ideas.

Visually, Frozen is undoubtedly the most impressive computer-animated effort from Disney to date. This is a film regularly a joy to behold, and whilst it never quite matches sister studio Pixar’s very best efforts, it almost doesn’t need to. The animation has a distinctly Disney flavour that feels closer to the likes of mid-20th Century classics such as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty than more recent releases from other CGI animation studios, and it’s all the better for it. Mention must also be made of the songs featured throughout, undoubtedly some of Disney’s finest musical numbers of recent years - rich, infectious and aching to make their way onto a broadway stage.

The handling of the princess characters themselves is also pleasingly fresh. Whilst Tangled’s Rapunzel arguably retained a lot of the old-fashioned values found in many of the princesses from Disney’s back catalogue, both Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) feel much more contemporary and rounded. The complex relationship between the royal sisters is one of the film’s strongest assets, and the way in which both characters develop throughout the film is consistently excellent.

Outside of the central two, however, the cast falters the further from the centre you go. In a reversal of the usual problem found in fairy tale narratives, it is the male characters who suffer a lack of development here. Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) provides a pleasing foil to Anna, but feels a bit too simple to be truly memorable. Prince Hans (Santino Fontana) suffers a similar lack of depth after a strong introduction, eventually feeling more like a plot device than anything else. Olaf the snowman (Josh Gad) is here purely as comic relief, but lacks the more subtle and intelligent humour you’d expect to find in an equivalent character from a Pixar film.

In terms of narrative, Frozen feels like a notable step backwards for Disney. The story is all over the place, never managing to establish a clear thread to which its characters, songs and settings can be anchored. The Duke of Weselton (Alan Tudyk), for example, is introduced near the start of the story as a key antagonist, only to fluctuate wildly in his role throughout the film, at times feeling prominent and at others peripheral and ending the film entirely unclear as to the part he is actually meant to have played.

This lack of definition permeates the film, meaning that Frozen never comes across as having a convincing core underneath the feast its outer adornments provide for both eye and ear. To label the film as style over substance would without question be unfair, especially with the excellent duo of Elsa and Anna at the centre. But Disney has certainly knocked the relationship between entertainment and storytelling too far off balance to regard Frozen as being on the same level as the studio’s true animated classics.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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