Review – Is It Getting A Little Chilly In Here? (“Frozen”)

The House of Mouse rips off yet another classic fairy to give us another animated feature film, but this time it’s not quite as good as the last one (2010’s “Tangled“).

Based really, really, loosely on Hans Christian Andersen’s bizarre story, “The Snow Queen“, we have the tale of two little princesses in Arendelle, a fictional 18th Century Nordic town. The eldest, Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel from Broadway’s “Wicked“) we quickly learn, was born with the power of producing ice & snow at will (like an X-Men). Her little sister, Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) idolizes her, but gets severely injured during one of their snowy play times inside the castle.

The King and Queen (who get killed later on–hey, it’s a Disney film, remember? No parents are allowed to live!) decide to save their daughter by taking her to Pabbie, the Troll King (Ciaran Hinds) to cure her. Problem is, in order to save her, all memory of her sister’s special powers will have to wiped from her memory and Elsa can never see her or play with her again. This done, we see the years pass as the sisters are estranged from each other, the parents are dead, and Elsa’s icy powers grow along with her emotions and age.

On Coronation Day, Elsa become Queen and Anna accidentally meets a handsome prince named Hans and wouldn’t ya know it? They fall truly, madly, deeply in love with each other and want to get married… after just meeting… and singing! This surprises the hell out of newly Queen’d Elsa who forbids their marriage, thus sparking off a terrible confrontation between sisters which leads to (drum roll, please) Elsa’s unleashing her violent and totally unwanted ice and snow-flurried power on the town. Oopsie! The entire town and land is then plunged into a winter wonderland… forever!

When the townspeople call her a witch, Elsa panics and high-tails it for the sanctuary of the mountains where she builds herself an Ice Palace (all in song, mind you). Feeling guilty, Anna sets out to reconcile with Elsa and meets up with hunky ice salesman, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his goofy pet reindeer, Sven, who thinks he’s an overgrown dog for some reason. Together they climb the treacherous snowy mountain and come across a silly talking snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad from Broadway’s “Book of Mormon”) who loves the idea of summer, but apparently doesn’t quite grasp the concept of heat and melting.  Cute, huh?

Anyway, once they find the palace, things go pretty badly: Elsa and Anna argue again and Anna gets zapped in the heart with an ice spell, causing her to slowly freeze to death unless “love’s true kiss” stops the curse. Oh, like you didn’t see that one coming!

Now Kristoff has to get Anna back to Hans to kiss him or else it’s curtains for Anna. But it’s taking a long time to get back, what with giant snow creatures chasing them, trolls singing goofy songs, and Anna getting sicker with every step.

While Kristoff and Anna are doing this, Hans and his men have circled back and stormed the Ice Palace looking for his beloved fiance. In a daring rescue, Hans is able to capture the Snow Queen, bring her back to town, and safely lock her up in prison. But there’s sinister forces at work when Elsa is told that Anna is dead and that is was all her fault. Elsa’s emotions go all wacky and cause her icy powers to explode into an ice storm of epic proportions. But is Anna really dead? Will Hans kiss her in time? And what’s up with Kristoff and Sven anyway?

The dramatic ending has the ol’ Disney touch with love conquering all and the bad guys getting their due comeuppance. Although, it was odd to see that no ‘bad guy’ dies dramatically in the end, which is so typical in Disney films like Sleeping Beauty, Little Mermaid, or Lion King. The villains are just imprisoned! That’s it!

Not as much fun or entertaining as “Tangled“, the story is slow and plodding and hindered by a lack of energy. In “Tangled“, the characters were lovable and believable and you rooted for them, but here they have almost no personality and no chemistry. The goofy reindeer and talking snowman are far more interesting, and that’s not a good sign. The songs are nice and had a good vibe to them, like the cute “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” and the especially good “Let It Go” by Menzel, who really can belt out a song with feeling. Overall, it just doesn’t have the Pixar/John Lasseter ‘feel-good’ touch.

Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee of Walt Disney Animation, who also wrote the story (along with Shane Morris), they knew this movie was a hard sell to begin with since “The Snow Queen” was deemed “too difficult to adapt” by Disney years ago (as far back as 1990), and underwent several story treatments. It was even scrapped back in 2002. Just read the original Hans Christian Andersen story and you’ll know why. It’s macabre as much as it is weird.

The REAL highlight of this movie is the pre-film, a Disney animated short film called “Get A Horse” that is a cinematic masterpiece blending of old-school 1930’s and 2013 CGI. Take a classic 1930 Mickey Mouse black and white cartoon (with Walt Disney’s voice, no less, as the voice of Mickey Mouse!) and very slowly bring it into the 21st Century. It’s just beautiful and daffy and funny and wondrous to see. I actually welled up watching it; I was so happy to see what they did, but don’t tell anyone, okay?

Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962)   

Sibling rivalry’s a bitch.

Now just because Elsa could produce ice and snow at will, her sister Anna could at least handle it with some sense of dignity.  Back in 1962, two powerhouse actresses went at each other like evil sisters in one of the most electrifying performances ever seen on the silver screen. Betty Davis and Joan Crawford, at the top of their acting games, starred in a movie about two sisters that have little love for each other. And no ice or snow anywhere in sight.

If you’ve ever asked yourself whatever happens to a child star that gets stuck playing a child star far into their adult lives and then has a psychotic break in doing so, then this is the movie for you! Meet Baby Jane Hudson (Davis), an aged and really demented ex-child star that lives in the home of her sister, Blanche Hudson (Crawford). Now Blanche was also a movie star, but a glamorous one whose career eclipsed her sisters, but was tragically cut short due to a mysterious car accident that left her in a wheelchair.

These two live together: Jane, an alcoholic mess and still living in the delusional past (she still wears her old childhood onscreen wardrobe). And Blanche, under the torturous care (and rage) of her jealous sister that includes verbal and physical abuse, dinners that include baked rat and Blanche’s pet parakeets, going through her mail, telling her lies, and cutting off her phone calls. Like a prisoner trying to escape, Blanche tries to get help, but all her attempts to communicate with the outside world are foiled by her dingbat, crazed sis.

Meanwhile, a talented down-and-out man named Edwin Flagg (Victor Buono) answers Jane’s newspaper advertisement for a piano player and when Edwin shows up at the house, Jane grotesquely performs her signature song from her childhood movie, “I’ve Written a Letter to Daddy,” while Edwin plays the piano in studded silence.

The movie reaches a fever pitch when Jane murders their housekeeper and then imagines that Blanche is having an affair with her “boyfriend”, Edwin! The sickening ending is twisted and doesn’t quite give you an answer as to the certainty of Blanche’s life or death. You have to make that decision yourself.

Directed by Robert Aldrich in glorious black and white, this unsettling movie is dark, disturbing, and has the classic line delivered by Davis: “But you ARE, Blanche, you ARE!!”, in reference to Blanche being in the wheelchair. The acting is top-notch and worthy of renting just to watch these two women act the hell out of this movie. The subject matter so intense that the U.K. gave it their “X” rating. Highly recommended.


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