Disney has been on a good run with its recent princesses--and not only the princesses themselves, but their backstories as well. Tiana is a businesswoman, Rapunzel was modeled after spunky actresses Natalie Portman and Amy Poehler, and Merida, content to explore and ride horse, doesn't even have a love interest. Frozen brings us two more princesses--sisters--who are themselves feisty and independent, but I found their story not quite as magical as their relationship.
Elsa and Anna, the two Princesses of Arendelle, grow up as best friends until Elsa's magical ice-creating powers threaten to hurt Anna and their parents make a decision to keep Elsa (and her powers) hidden--from Anna and from the world outside. Anna doesn't remember any of this, only the fact that Elsa used to play with her, but now stays in her room. When their parents die at sea, the sisters are even more alone. Anna looks forward to Elsa's coronation, a day when the castle gates will be open and she will finally meet someone--"maybe The One," she thinks. Elsa, on the other hand, dreads this day and having to hide her powers in front of so many people.
Unsurprisingly, Anna provokes Elsa's powers with her hasty engagement to Prince Hans. Elsa freaks out and runs away to the mountains, building her own ice palace and leaving behind eternal winter in Arendelle. Anna follows her, both to bring her back, and to save Arendelle from the cold. She enlists the help of Kristoff, an ice salesman, and his reindeer, Sven, to take her up the mountain. On their way, they meet Olaf, the snowman from Elsa and Anna's childhood brought to life by Elsa's powers.
Bringing Elsa back proves difficult, and creates even more problems for the sisters. There's a snow monster, magical trolls, an unexpected twist, several near tragedies, and several acts of true love to bring this tale to its happy ending.
I loved the sisters--as a sister, it's nice to see a Disney movie that features such strong sisterly love (and anger and annoyance and jokes). Their interactions were a joy to watch. I just wish the parents weren't so one-dimensional. They left the movie too early for a viewer to have any feelings for them, and their deaths seemed contrived, like they only died so that Elsa would have a coronation. I'm sure there's a more natural way for the coronation to happen--and actually the coronation was only needed as a way to get the castle gates open. Couldn't any grand party (maybe the parents' anniversary, or a national holiday) serve that purpose?
My other issue is that the biggest problem of the movie could have been solved with a little communication. I guess this is a teaching moment--sometimes parents make mistakes--but c'mon guys; how could locking up one of your daughters and keeping them both hidden from the world help anybody? They're well-meaning, but misguided. A whole lot of trouble could have been avoided by a simple explanation: "Hey, Anna, your sister's gonna wear these gloves because she shoots ice from her hands and that can get dangerous. She still loves you very much, just don't mess with her gloves, okay?" I get that we need Elsa to shoot ice eventually, but there have to be more story-driven ways to do that. I want the challenges in my stories to be tough ones, not just matters of miscommunication.
The twist was a nice touch--it got both Jesus and I--and the final climax of the movie kept us guessing. I nearly cried. Olaf the Snowman was a charming character for his throwaway jokes, awkward timing, and for this, my favorite line: "Some people are worth melting for."
If I take anything away from this movie, it's that. Some people are worth the trouble of climbing a mountain to find them, some people deserve our true love, and some people need us to melt for them so they know how much they mean to us.