Reviews

The Songs, Snow, and Alter Egos of 'Frozen'

As alter egos go, you couldn't have two more opposite types than the adorable Sven and the relentlessly fierce ice monster.


Frozen

Director: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Cast: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk, Ciaran Hinds, Chris Williams
Rated: PG
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Year: 2013
US date: 2013-11-27 (General release)
UK date: 2013-12-06 (General release)
Website
Trailer

Sven is a reindeer. Introduced at the start of Frozen, he's pretty much the perfect anti-Disney star: he doesn't sing or dance, though he does mug some. He doesn't even speak. Rather, he has his lines read for him, or imagined for him, by his best friend, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), a strapping Nordic sort of young man who sells ice for a living and has been raised by a community of trolls who disguise themselves as rocks. In other words, there are good reasons for Kristoff to need a best friend, even if he does need to project at least a little of that that best-friendness.

Sven and Kristoff live a routine life, locating, chopping, and collecting ice blocks to sell in Arendelle, a land of fjords and long, warm summers. This changes when Arendelle is lunged into an endless winter -- frozen, as the movie's title indicates. At this point, Sven and Kristoff are plunged into their own version of winter, unable to make a living.

That endless winter comes courtesy of Elsa (Idina Menzel), queen of Arendelle. She doesn't mean to destroy her kingdom's economy, exactly, but she has her reasons. These form the bulk of the first third of Frozen, which lays out the following: as young children, Elsa and her younger sister Anna (Kristen Bell) share a secret, namely, that Elsa has the power to make snow and ice. Just why or how she came by this power is unclear, though both their parents are aware of it, and only caution Elsa to be careful. She is indeed careful, until she isn't, and one night she zaps Anna with a cold blast to the head that threatens her very life.

Anna's survival comes courtesy of some trolls her dad knows (those same trolls who raise Kristoff; apparently they have little else to do but help out hapless humans), and it is costly: Anna must forget that her sister has a secret power and so join the rest of the population who has no idea of it; to this end, their parents separate the girls, locking Elsa away in a room with a very large wooden door through which the sisters sing longingly, each wanting to see the other and both miserable.

When the girls lose their parents in a terrible accident, they remain separated until the night when Elsa "comes of age" and is destined to be crowned queen. The ceremony doesn't go quite as it's supposed to, and soon enough, the teenagers are separated again, this time because Elsa flees town, embarrassed and hurt when an accidental display of her icy gift makes everyone afraid of her. That, and, she leaves the entire kingdom engulfed in that endless winter.

Everyone, that is, except Anna, who leaves the kingdom in the charge of the visiting Prince Hans (Santino Fontana), and determines to find Elsa despite the cold, the darkness, and the loss of her horse (who runs off when she falls off). She needs help and gets some, from a sidekick of a snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad) and Kristoff. An exceptionally handsome and big-hearted ice salesman, Kristoff is travelling with his best friend, a reindeer named Sven. With his sales down owing to the endless winter, Kristoff sees a particular benefit in aiding the princess, though he also immediately worries for he, and makes her safety his top priority, making clear to everyone but Anna and himself that he's in love with her.

As this frankly charming romance develops, mostly by a series of near-crises and escapades, Anna and Kristoff both find in themselves and each other a kind of loyalty and generosity they hadn't imagined before, being teenagers. That Anna is dedicated to saving her sister is a starting point, that all three come to see the value of love in all its forms -- familial, romantic, and best-friendy -- makes this fairy tale at least a little unconventional, if not precisely fractured.

At least part of this unconventionality emerges in the movie's several coming out stories. Elsa's primary directive from her well-meaning father -- that she must “Conceal it, don’t feel it" -- lays out this theme early on. As much as she is literally closeted throughout the first part of Frozen, her initial self-expressions, alone in the icy woods in an ice palace she devises out of air, are fabulous in most every way: her hair comes loose, her gown turns sensational, and her singing voice, previously quietly harmonious, booms. She's a girl as a drag queen, a point underlined in a peculiar way by her creation of a gigantic ice monster with icy talons and fangs to scare off her sister. As an embodiment of Elsa's rage and outrage, the monster is loud and menacing, in need of rather severe repression and eventual dispatch.

As alter egos go, you couldn't have two more opposite types than the adorable Sven and the relentlessly fierce ice monster. But they serve similar purposes for the two individuals Anna comes to embrace, to protect, and to celebrate.

7


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Film

Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.

Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Music

Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.

Music

Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.

Music

Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.

Music

The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.

Music

Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.

Film

The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.

Music

'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.

Music

Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.

Books

Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.

Music

South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.

Music

Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.

Music

'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.