Friday, December 06, 2013

Frozen Thaws Me Out

My ringette-playin' daughter and I found ourselves with seven hours' time to kill between tournament games last weekend, so we hoofed it to a movieplex to see what we could see. Pickings were slim, as you are probably aware, made all the moreso by some necessary preconditions: my daughter had to stay in a competitive frame of mind, so no downers; also, nothing so intense as to distract from the day at hand; funny is good, especially if it accompanies uplift.

The only movie to meet these criteria, of course, was Disney's Fozen.

I didn't hold out much hope for the experience — we'd seen Brave and were underwhelmed. But I glanced at the 16-year-old beside me and realized that my days of seeing anything like this with her, prior to her introducing children of her own to the world, were just about at a close. So I squared my shoulders, swiped the plastic and marched into the theatre.

I liked it — we liked it. But, against all odds, I liked it.

John Lasseter's name came up early, which did nothing to inspire confidence. Considering what a paint-by-numbers outfit Pixar has become, it struck me as unlikely that Lasseter had anything left up his Hawaiian shirt-sleeves to reinvigorate Disney.

The introductory Mickey Mouse short set me straight, pretty quickly. It hits all the surreal notes that the Steamboat Willy-era rodent did, with exactly the right wacky digital flourishes to bring it all into the here-and-now. It's fun, and it's funny — for fun's sake — with none of the moral freight that's come with the recent Pixar shorts.

Plenty of time for moral freight in the feature, of course. It's Disney, so Lessons Must Be Learned, hopefully with a lot of goofy (sic) sugar to help the medicine go down.

Frozen delivers as expected, catching me off-guard at many of its most common signature flourishes. Music, for instance — the movie is lousy with it, clearly setting itself up for the stages of Broadway and your local elementary school. Every time the strings swept in to signify another belt-busting number, my heart sank a little, only to get roused up to the base of my throat, making swallowing difficult. So cheesy. So spot-on.

It helps that I'm the father of daughters, of course. Watching two sisters struggle with expressing the fierceness of their love for each other, without raising undue expectations, well . . . you've got me choking up just typing that cheap summary statement.

But I think the real brilliance in this film is the way Disney/Lasseter acknowledge both the stupidity and even perniciousness of the usual Disney Animation Tropes, before finally committing to their undeniable appeal. “True Love At First Sight” — what a crock! What a caper! What fun!

Throw in an enchanted snowman who likes warm hugs and can't wait to see his first summer, and you've got a movie I don't in the least begrudge seeing more than once.

From Disney. And Lasseter. Whodathunkit?

(Oh, and we won the game.)

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