By G. Michael Dobbs
This week I watched a truly mystifying Academy Award-winning film and another movie, which I’d call a harmless, fun waste of time.
This animated film from the Disney studios is more than a box office champion, more than the winner of the Academy Award for best Animated Feature Film and the Best Original Song (“Let it Go”), it has become a certified phenomena. In January, the film was released in a sing-along version.
Watch for this film to be adapted into a Broadway play in a couple of years.
Animation is my first love in film. I’ve religiously watched cartoons since I was a kid and for me there is no medium in motion pictures that offers artists as much freedom of expression. I’ve watched countless animated features and shorts and have interviewed dozens of people working in the field from animators to directors and producers to voice artists.
I went into watching this film, just released on DVD, with an open mind and curiosity about why it is so acclaimed.
I’m still wondering, but as one of my friends on Facebook noted I’m not a 6-year-old girl.
The story is inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s tale of “The Snow Queen” and revolves around two royal sisters, one of who, the heir to the throne, has a power to create ice and cold. She can’t control it well so she spends her almost entire childhood in her room isolated from her younger sister who doesn’t know anything about the power.
Come coronation day when she is to take the throne, the older daughter, Elsa, freaks out, freezes the kingdom and escapes to the high mountains where she embraces her powers and prepares to remain alone.
Her sister, Anna, seeks her out to dissuade her from her new life and come back and “un-freeze” the kingdom. Acts of love and treachery ensue as well as moments of supposed comedy.
Somehow this has been sold as a story about people embracing themselves and their differences and female empowerment. I didn’t see that. The story is woefully incomplete and the characters are one-dimensional. Would a little kid see these problems? Probably not, but adults should recognize them and recognize the film was sub-standard.
The animation is adequate, but the characters are not memorable and the comic relief of Olaf, the living snowman, is pretty weak.
This is, of course, a critic-proof film. Parents will buy it for their kids because it’s successful and Disney – therefore it’s safe. The problem is one expects the potential for some really great storytelling when the film is from the name brand for family animation. “Frozen” is outstandingly mediocre.
The Knights of Badassdom
This is an amiable little comedic horror film that succeeds due to its solid cast, a moderate approach to gore effects and a script that is clever at times. It’s not a comedy classic, but it’s certainly worth a rental from Red Box.
Ryan Kwanten is a full-time mechanic and part-time heavy metal singer whose girlfriend has dumped him. His roommates, played by Steve Zahn and Peter Dinklage, are larpers – live action role players – who dress like characters from Dungeons & Dragons and play a game in the real world instead of on a board.
They drug their pal and bring him to a larp so he can forget his ex. He starts his recovery when he meets Summer Glau, who is a somewhat reluctant participant there to watch out for her cousin.
The group finds their foam rubber swords have little effect on the demon that is accidently released upon them and the fantasy gets bloody and real.
Actor turned director Joe Lynch does an admirable job with his low budget film and made one decision that endeared me to him: he didn’t use any computer animation. Cheap CGI ruins many a low to moderate fantasy film these days and when the monster at the end of the film appears, Lynch did it old school with a great body suit.
This film is a fine way to blow through 90 minutes of your life that might otherwise be devoted to thinking about something significant.