Frozen is easily my favorite Disney animated movie of the last few years (Brave, Wreck-It Ralph, Planes, etc.) It’s also one of the best movies of any kind that I’ve seen this year. Loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, the film stars Kristen Bell (well, at least her voice) as the princess Anna, who must seek to reverse her sister Elsa’s (Idina Menzel) powers that cause their kingdom to freeze. Along the way, Anna will find herself in a love triangle with Prince Hans (Santino Fontana) and the mountain man Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), befriended by a talking snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad), and singing her way through the roughest week of her life. It’s Disney magic at its finest.
Elsa and Anna are orphaned early (c’mon, it’s a Disney movie!), but the day that Elsa is crowned queen, the powers that have been hidden for so long become evident to everyone. And the power of fear takes over, causing the townsfolk to label Elsa a monster and causing her to run to the mountains to be alone. All of this is built on a foundation of shame and grief from the sisters’ past, and it drives a wedge farther and farther between them, and everyone else.
Thankfully, Gad’s Olaf, who can re-arrange himself any way he chooses to, and Kristoff’s reindeer Sven provide plenty of hijinks that keep the kids laughing and lighten the tension. Gad knows how to use his voice to make you laugh, and the animation that appears to be a cross between Brave and Sofia the First (yes, I’ve watched that!) has enough nuances that the adults are laughing along, too. This is a genuinely clever movie… and it extends to the nuanced way that our hearts are moved by the end, too.
Through a series of events, Anna’s heart gets “frozen,” and only an “act of true love” can save her life. We’re completely and absolutely set up to believe that the end result must be like that of Sleeping Beauty or Snow White but… you’ll have to wait and see. It’s one of several ‘hooks’ that are built into the narrative flow, even keeping the adults in an audience going “whoa!” But the dialogue and discussion of true love? That makes this a deeper narrative than what has been turned out by the Mickey Mouse machine lately.
Twice, the troll king (yes, there’s one of those here, and a giant abominable snowman, too!) tells seeking human folks that “it’s much easier to heal a frozen head than a frozen heart.” He says something like, “you can change your mind easier than you can learn to love,” and I’m reminded about how true that is! So often, we can change our opinions easier than we can change our attitudes, and this little, rock-like king ‘preaches’ in the midst of a swirling, emotional epic.
Olaf and Anna are huddling around the fire, as the snowman tells Anna that “some people are worth melting for.” They discuss what an act of “true love” might really be, and a portion of my brain flipped, mid-movie, to John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” It’s ultimately the definition that the film settles on, and the connection was made stronger as I walked to the parking lot, and my six-year-old said that the movie’s lesson was one “we’ve heard in church.” The magic, the wonder, the animation were all momentarily secondary to the truth that we could see true love in the midst of a children’s film.
Frozen’s music, animation, dialogue, and plot are all necessary ingredients in a film that delighted a multigenerational audience, and found me beginning a countdown until the film arrives on Blu-ray. It’s a magical experience that reminds us the meaning of true love, not just the romantic kind, and asks us if we have the faith, the love, and the forgiveness to live each moment with that kind of love as our guide.