Okay, I will tell you right now that this review will contain spoilers. It’s not that I’m a grinch who wants to ruin movies for you, but it’s just that the best things about this film are the twists on traditional Disney films! I just can’t NOT talk about them!
If you want to wait to read this until you’ve seen it, please do. It’s SO worth watching and being surprised. But if you are sitting on the fence wondering if it’s something you should see or not – read on and see why I think it’s one of the best Disney films of all time.
First, a synopsis.
Elsa and Anna are two sisters who are exceptionally close. Elsa, it seems, has a magical power which allows her to create ice, snow and general cold weather wherever she wants. Unfortunately, due to her young age and a lack of training, Elsa isn’t always able to control it, and in the first moments of the film, she accidentally blasts Anna with a dose of cold straight in her head. This nearly kills Anna, and though some magical trolls cure her, they warn the girls’ parents that if it had been a blast to the heart, she would not so easily have been saved.
From this point on, King Dad and Queen Mom tell Elsa that she is to hide her powers forever. Anna’s memory has been erased by the trolls, so she has no idea what’s going on. The castle doors are closed, and Anna is blocked from her sister’s life for the rest of their childhood.
Eventually, the King and Queen die when a ship they are traveling aboard sinks, and still Elsa refuses to interact with her sister, haunted as she is by the thought of hurting her. Though Anna is desperate to be close, Elsa suffers silently, alone in her room, unable to control her powers and terrified of what will happen if anyone ever discovers them.
Of course, there comes the day when Elsa has to take on the responsibility for the kingdom, ascending the throne as Queen of Arendelle. The castle doors are thrown open, and while Elsa prepares mentally for keeping her powers hidden for one day, Anna excitedly dances and sings about wanting to live and love and be happy.
Enter Hans, a Prince from a foreign land. He is cute and funny and as klutzy as Anna, herself. He loves the same things she does, and he seems to be perfect in every way. So while Elsa (just barely) makes it through her coronation ceremony without outing herself, Anna and Hans decide to get married! And of course, everyone watching the film just smiles and nods like, “of course they are getting married, they are perfect together, and it’s so romantic, even though they’ve only known each other a few hours.”
But when Anna announces her engagement and asks for her sister’s blessing, Elsa just shakes her head, like “WTF?” and says no way her little sister is marrying some goon she’s only just met. Anna can’t believe how selfish the new Queen is being, and she pushes her just a little too far, causing Elsa to accidentally bring down nuclear winter across all of the land. Yep, she becomes the very definition of “Ice Queen.”
Of course, all the villagers are like, “KILL THE WITCH!” and chase Elsa out of town. So Anna leaves Hans in charge while she runs off to find her big sister and convince her to undo her magic and restore summer. But this is the first time in her whole life that Elsa has been free to be herself, so she shrugs off her clothes and builds a ginormous ICE CASTLE, singing how “The cold never bothered me anyway.”
Ill-prepared for the freezing conditions, Anna stops at a small lodge to buy some boots and a warm dress, where she meets the slightly-insane Kristoff. He’s the quintessential Nordic stud, and – wouldn’t you know it – his business of ICE SALES has been completely ruined by the new weather. He notes that it seems to be stemming from a nearby mountain, and since he has a reindeer and a sled, Anna asks him to take her to it.
As they journey, they find out more about one another, and when Anna tells him about how she’s met the dreamy Prince Hans and is engaged to be married, he echos Elsa’s reaction with his own “WTF?” He can’t fathom how this chick could be crazy enough to marry some guy she’s only just met.
As with Elsa’s reaction to the news, the audience is left thinking, “Well… okay. Yes, I guess it’s a little weird that she’s engaged. But it’s DISNEY. C’mon!”
Finally, they reach the mountain, and Anna leaves a worried Kristoff behind to talk to Elsa alone. When he expresses worry, Anna blithely answers, “She won’t hurt me.” So obviously we are ready for Elsa to lay the smack down on little sis.
Though Elsa isn’t nasty by nature, she hasn’t yet figured out that her emotions are the key to her powers. Anger, sadness, worry, fear – they bring about some major FREEZING DESTRUCTION. And while she loves her sister and her kingdom, she knows that unless and until she can control herself, she can’t go back home. She tells Anna to leave, but once again little sister pushes Elsa to the brink. Out shoots a jet of cold just like when they were kids. Only this time, it’s not Anna’s head that is a problem – it’s her heart! But hey, she seems okay, so Elsa decides to go one further and creates a GIGANTIC snow monster, which chases Anna, Kristoff and Olaf (a snowman they met earlier and who is obsessed with wanting to be warm) out of the ice castle and off the mountain.
Meanwhile, back in Arendelle, a worried Prince Hans starts to fear for his betrothed, so he grabs some men and sets out to find her. Unbeknownst to him, one of the other power-hungry men in town sends his own guys along with instructions to KILL Elsa should they find her. When Hans and co storm her ice fortress, she battles them with icy glee, but she is eventually talked down and a giant icy chandelier falls on her, allowing Hans to capture her and take her back to Arendelle.
During all this kerfuffle, poor Anna is very clearly in trouble, getting weaker by the moment and needing a helping hand. Kristoff takes her to his “friends” who turn out to be the same trolls that saved her when she was a kid. The troll King tells them that he just can’t help her. Only an act of true love will do the trick! Anna and the audience all nod along and say, “Ah yes. True love’s kiss. Of COURSE!”
And Kristoff just sits there pouting, very obviously in love with Anna but knowing that she is Hans’ girl. Sigh. So Kristoff takes Anna home, leaving her at the gate and stiffly telling her he hopes it all works out with her future hubby. He leaves her to get her true love’s kiss from her dashing prince.
Meanwhile, Hans speaks to Elsa, telling her that he has rescued her from the mountain and he really wishes she’d please bring summer back. All would be forgiven then. But she admits she has no idea how to do it.
Hans comes out to find a freezing and nearly dead Anna, and he gently picks her up and takes her to a room with a roaring fire since she’s so darn cold.
At this point, the audience is torn. Hans and Anna clearly belong together, but what about Kristoff? Obviously he loves her, and she should open her eyes and love him, too! How will the film handle this?
Anna tells Hans that she can only be saved by true love’s kiss. The audience leans in expectantly. Hans leans in, lips pursed, a moment away from the perfect kiss. And then…
“Oh, Anna. If only there was someone out there who loved you.”
Prince Hans explains that he was 13th in line for the throne in his own kingdom. He came her to marry Elsa, but no one could get close to her. So he planned to marry Anna and then stage an accidental death for her sister. He’d be king! But now, he could get rid of them both and rule on high! He douses the fire and leaves her there. He goes to the nobility of Arendelle and says that his beloved Anna has died. He says that his only blessing is that he married her just before she did so. And now he will do his duty and go kill Elsa before she destroys the world with her evil!
Meanwhile, Anna is not totally gone yet. Olaf, her heat-obsessed snowman gets her back to the freshly made fire and reminds her that there IS someone out there who loves her after all. He urges her to see Kristoff as her true love, and she rushes toward him so that she can finally have her true love’s kiss.
But as she rushes forward, she sees that Hans is just about to kill Elsa with his sword! Instead of saving herself by going to Kristoff, Anna uses her last bit of strength to stand in front of her sister and protect her. As she freezes from the inside out, Hans’ sword breaks into pieces and he falls.
Kristoff and Elsa are helpless as they stare at the ice statue that Anna has become. And the audience glows inside because we finally see what’s happened.
The “act of true love” the troll King told them about wasn’t “true love’s kiss.” It wasn’t even the love that happens between two romantic partners. Familial love is the key to this one – a sister’s love in this case. The love that makes a person willing to sacrifice everything – even her life – for the person most dear to them. Anna was willing to sacrifice her own life to save her sister. Even though Elsa had shunned her, hurt her and refused her everything, Anna loved her more than herself.
And that was what saved her.
As she melted back to humanity, Elsa realized that love could save her, too! If her negative emotions triggered terrible destruction, perhaps love and positivity would bring an end to winter.
Hint: it does.
So all is well in the end. Anna and Kristoff eventually get their chaste first kiss, but it’s not the traditional Disney happy ending. It’s a happy beginning, which is a far better thing.
Frozen really does turn on its head every Disney trope that has been done before. While they’ve had more strong females lately (Rapunzel, Merida, and Vanellope to name a few!), this one has taken it a step farther. While Brave was also about familial love, it didn’t have a romantic interest at ALL, which meant that it didn’t have to choose one or the other. Frozen kept the romance but didn’t allow the film to give it too much power.
Little girls like me grew up watching Disney princesses pine for true love, obsess about the beauty of their princes, and overcome their personal issues to win the men of their dreams. But little girls now will have better role models. They will value things like bravery and brains above vanity and the ability to lift heavy things. They will empower each other to do well rather than waiting for a man to fix things for them. They will be proud of who they are and willing to wait for the right man rather than settle for the first one who comes calling.
And for that reason alone, Frozen has become an instant classic.
But if you want a few more reasons, here you go:
- Idina Menzel plays Elsa. And she is (as usual!) AMAZING.
- Kristen Bell plays Anna! Who’d have thunk it? She, too, is fab.
- Kristoff is a little insane. He spends the whole film pretending his reindeer can talk.
- Olaf. He is the most adorable snowman ever, and has a million quotable lines.
- The giant scary snow monster? Yah, he’s called Marshmallow.
- Anna and Hans bond over a shared love of sandwiches.
- When Kristoff asks Anna how much she really knows about Hans, she says she knows enough. He quizzes her, and one of his questions is what shoe size he wears. Anna retorts, “Shoe size doesn’t matter.” *snigger*
Seriously, the movie is awesome. Great songs, great cast, great story. And it’s based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen.” So it is perfect.
I’d love to know what your thoughts are if you’ve seen it. Do you agree with what I’ve said or do you have a differing opinion?