I remember, in the long-long-ago, when animated films carried weight, conflict and consequence. I recall the deep characterization, thematic elements and excellent story structure. I recollect a time when a family film was created with patience, creativity and passion; it wasn't something that felt so hollow and manufactured as it does today. Every month, at least one dime-a-dozen kiddie flick smashes the cineplex with typical computer graphics, typical "love is the key" morality tales and typical ensemble celebrity voice-casting in which one character is typically an ill-advised jive-talker. As if checking off boxes for "what can sell", studios have seemingly lost all faith in proper, imagination-fueled stories for the little ones and have instead resorted to the most lackadaisical means of gaining country-loads of money. Even now, not even Pixar can be counted on to develop a meaningful film as they haven't crafted one since THE INCREDIBLES (let's be serious, if UP didn't have such a sad introduction, would anyone have held it in such high regard?). FROZEN is Disney's newest family film that recycles the same ol' CG, the same ol' celebrity voice-casting, the same ol' terrible pop music of today and the same ol' terrible storytelling into one sad replication of TANGLED.
While I expect a severe lack of anything meaningful in films of this ilk nowadays, I was especially caught off guard by FROZEN's inciting incident; it's prologue of a foundation for everything to come. The story herein is so unfathomably stupid, so incomprehensibly hole-ridden, so uncompromisingly idiotic, so incredibly infuriating, that it single-handedly dumbs down any child within projector-playing-radius. I've said it before and I'll say it again, simply because a movie is deemed "family" does not mean its material must be reduced to pure, patronizing idiocracy.
The pathetic excuse for a story is as follows: two princesses, Elsa and Anna, are playing within the vast interiors of their castle one day when one of them (Elsa) inexplicably blasts ice from the palm of her hand (that's right, she has super powers for some reason) and knocks out her sister, Anna. To cure the child, the king and queen take the unconscious daughter to a family of trolls who heal her by, GET THIS, erasing the memory of her sister's ice power. Yeah.
She's knocked out, so you erase her--you know what, I'm not even going to bother. I'm not the person who was payed hundreds of thousands of dollars to write this, what the f*ck do I know?
From here, the stupidity continues as the ice-fueled Elsa-fearful over what others might think--locks herself away for years while her now conscious sister Anna sings outside her room--urging her to come out and play. Yeah. FOR. YEARS. As adults, Elsa finally embarks beyond the stone walls of her room to participate in a summer solstice involving the lowering of her kingdom's bridge. After a poor excuse for an inciting incident occurs, Elsa's cryokinetic powers are placed on full display and the citizens ostracize her and party guests from another kingdom attack and chase her out of the city's limits (that's right, people who have NO RULE in her kingdom demand she be captured and imprisoned). Ultimately, Else loses control (for a brief moment) causing the entire land to be consumed by an infinite icy winter. Now, her sister Anna and the resident "bad boy" set off to find her and restore summer.
While this could make for a potentially "meh" endeavor (it was INSPIRED by Hans Christian Andersen's "Ice Queen"), FROZEN's narrative is so poorly realized and so stapled together by cliché after cliché that it comes off as abrasively condescending. The film treats its audience as idiots (which many of them are) and plays to that strength. Coincidental events transpire as convenient writing rears its head at least once every scene. Director Chris Buck and writer Jennifer Lee don't want you to think about their tale, they don't want you to pay attention to anything that occurs beyond the shiny visuals, obnoxious characters and eye-rolling songs. These weren't devised as elements to help strengthen the story; they were created as distractions. Distractions to cloak the fact that those involved have shamelessly patch-worked a project together for nary a care for content. I believe that the only actual passion any of these filmmakers had for this endeavor lay within the box's they checked on a sheet of paper entitled, "The Bare-Minimum For Stupid Audiences So That We Could Acquire Boatloads of Cash".
Below is an excerpt from a doc*ment I discovered with the filmmakers' answers poorly written next to the questions.
1. Q: Does your film contain "catchy" new-age pop songs that bleed the ears of anyone over that of a teenager? A: YES
2. Q: Does your film contain a sassy female(s)? A: YES
3. Q: Does your film contain a heroic, yet awkward everyman? A: YES
4. Q: Does your film contain a side-character devised as a cute, babbling foil? A: YES
5. Q: Does your film contain plot holes? A: YES, there actually wasn't a script, just a giant hole with words written on it.
6. Q: Follow-Up Question: If so, how many? A: Um, lost count after page two.
7. Q: Does your film have CGI visuals? A: YES
8. Q: If so, does it look like every other CGI family film? A: There are other CG films?
9. Q: Trick Question: Is love the key to everything? A: YES
10. Q: Does your film contain drop-of-the-hat morals which are conveniently placed so as to tell your audience that it "teaches kids good things"? A: YES
11. Q: Does your film teach kids good things? A: NO
12. Q: Did anyone proof-read your script. A: What's a proof-read?
13. If you answered "YES" to questions 1-9 and "NO" to 11& 12, congratulations, your film sells--as the studios professionally say--an "ass load".
As the film bumbles along to its safe, perfect ending, a final eye rolling-moment of "love is the key" occurs (why didn't this spontaneous epiphany happen earlier?) which confirmed my hypothesis about the filmmakers' intent with this picture. It's a please-everyone-shame-no-one, checklist of popular maxims. FROZEN isn't a film designed to engage a child's mind or encourage ingenuity; it's a mechanical, soulless exercise in indulging the lowest common denominator for the sake of monetary gain.
I could say that FROZEN has good graphics, some decent voice-acting and about five seconds of humor that works. But you already knew that. ALL of the CG films released in the last decade all retain the same basic aspects. However, times have changed and viewers aren't surprised by any of those things anymore--it's all material they expect as a minimum requirement. Yet, studios continue to skate by on such indolent criteria because it sells. Now, execution matters just as much as content. Don Bluth understood this. Jim Henson understood this. Present-day family films do not. The bare-minimum; that's the place to be, man.
Crotchety Bryan has kicked into overdrive, but I preach so that others like me might listen. People who say that there's nothing wrong with these films, bear in mind, the reason we have so many horribly written copycats of the slapdash TWILIGHT is because young "writers" were influenced by such terrible works and wanted a quick-buck as well. Now, the market--be it both film and book--is flooded with appallingly developed stories of vampires, werewolves, angels and demons--all written with next to no thought beyond "this will sell". You encourage stupidity, stupidity will flourish. For all of the families and children watching something like FROZEN, they'll be encouraged to also write and develop terrible content with no thought. There's a severe lack of actual talent in the new realm of writing, and part of me believes its thanks in part to the ideal set out by films like FROZEN.
FROZEN isn't a good film, it's embarrassing. It's an embarrassing reminder that THIS is what kids get today; THIS is what parents take their children to. It's a shallow affair created for burgeoning bank accounts. It's a film that--like practically all CG films of the last decade--will be instantly forgotten. It wasn't made to be remembered; it wasn't made to stick with the viewer; it wasn't made to be anything more than a chill of the moment payday. Cold indeed.