“There’s nothing I’d like more than to tell you, at the end of this year of relentlessly disappointing family fare, that Frozen — very loosely inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen — is a musical fairy-tale triumph: a throwback to the days of Beauty and the Beast, like many critics are saying.”

That’s how the great Steven Greydanus begins his review of Frozen.

Can you sense the pending “But…”?  Here it comes.

After carefully considering the film’s correlations with Disney’s Rapunzel tale Tangled, Greydanus says:

For a while, it looks like Frozen might turn out to be a breakthrough for male heroes as well as females. Yes, female protagonists are rare in contemporary Hollywood animation, but so are strong, heroic male leads (more on this in a moment). To have two viable romantic leads, either of whom might make a worthy love interest, is as unheard of as having two female protagonists.

And here’s where we get to Frozen’s biggest problem. Which of Anna’s three key relationships — with Elsa, Hans or Kristoff — is the movie ultimately about? Is it a traditional fairy-tale romance? Or is it a story about sister love? Either would be fine, if only the filmmakers could pull it off.

Fatally, by the time Frozen decisively answers this question, it’s too late. The movie is over, and there’s no time for the characters to actually have the relationship the movie is ostensibly about. It’s a movie more about the idea of a relationship than about an actual relationship between characters. Rapunzel had two important, complex relationships, with Mother Gothel and Flynn Rider. Anna has none. For that matter, no one in this movie does.

Meanwhile, in one of the most depressing twists of any recent animated film — I’ll try to be vague here, but I can’t avoid spoilers entirely — the filmmakers …

Whoa, whoa… I’d better not repost the whole review. If you want to brave the spoilers and find out about the film’s “most depressing twist,” go straight to the source.

Looking around at other reviewers I respectfully consult, I find other discouraging reports.

Keith Uhlich at TimeOut New York writes:

Sad to say, the magic is missing here: The songs by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez are admittedly catchy, notably Menzel’s showstopping, self-actualizing ballad “Let It Go,” but the story—aside from a climax that plays like a too-knowing rebuke to Disney formula—goes tediously through the motions. It isn’t only Papa Walt’s head that’s been put on ice.

Josh Larsen weighs in, saying Frozen is:

… well-intentioned, but something’s off. It feels like you’re either watching the first draft of a classic Disney animated musical or the 347th one.

And Scott Renshaw of City Weekly sighs:

Frozen drifts through a generally pleasant, well-performed final 80 minutes full of solid songs, effective action beats and decent laughs—a safely entertaining piece of work by committee. By the time it reaches its big emotional payoff—which could have provided a fascinatingly daring twist to the echoes of Disney’s Beauty & the Beast sprinkled throughout the film—it simply falls a little flat, never quite managing the punch that could have been realized in a story that was willing to commit fully to being about the relationship between two sisters who don’t know how to be sisters.

UPDATE:

But Ken Morefield at 1 More Film Blog — while noting a few flaws — is still enthusiastic.

I adored Frozen. It’s my favorite Disney film since Beauty and The Beast.

The last act felt less like a celebration of the film’s different-ness and more like a failure of nerve. Nevertheless, by that time I had already bought into the film. The ending dinged it but didn’t ruin it.

One of everyone’s deepest desires is to be loved in spite of our imperfections. Siblings, sisters especially, are one of the first people that did that for many of us. Frozen reminded me that I should celebrate my own sister and appreciate the relationship my friends and family have with theirs.

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