Glenn here, asking you to consider, if you will, a fantasy movie about two young women in a magical faraway kingdom, one of whom was born with a severe affliction. When her “powers” go wrong, everybody in their homeland believes she’s a monster. Wicked, you could say.
That’s the plot to Disney’s new musical, Frozen. It could, of course, easily be the logline for Wicked: The Movie if the powers that be had been smart enough to get the film adaptation of the massive Tony-winning Broadway musical off the ground. The failure to do so remains baffling and there's been just too much other Oz-related product on the market lately that it would risk brand-damaging saturation to make it now. At least Les Miserables showed that film versions of famous musicals can still be hits decades after the fact so maybe we will get one someday. Until that someday occurs, however, at least we have Frozen. A film that feels so obviously indebted to Wicked (yes, despite being loosely adapted from Hans Christian Anderson's The Snow Queen), so much so that they even cast Idina Menzel and got her to sing a big mid-film song about embracing the dark side that could have been called “Defying Gravity Part 2”.
Frozen opens tomorrow just in time for America’s Thanksgiving holiday after a one-screen release last weekend in L.A. where it made $243,390. If you don’t know, that is quite a bit of money. It’s a perfect film for families over the Thanksgiving break, as well as everyone else who just craves more musicals in their life. And really, who doesn’t?
Disney’s film is co-written and co-directed by a woman (that’d be Jennifer Lee working alongside Chris Buck who had previously helmed Tarzan and Surf’s Up) and alongside the Mickey Mouse short Get a Horse! that partners Frozen on the big screen and is also directed by a woman (Lauren MacMullen), it’s a very female-friendly day at the movies and, gosh, isn’t that something to be thankful for? And not even offensively so, either. I found Frozen to be blissfully anti-patriarchy in that its central female characters aren’t forced upon men, nor do men necessarily save the day like they almost always have in the past. Even if the film still falls into old tropes of the ruling class, it's a refreshing change of pace from damsels in distress. Jennifer Lee also wrote last year's Wreck-It Ralph with Jane Lynch voicing a particularly aggressive military leader so she's one to keep an eye out for. Of course, they risk alienating the boy audiences, but wasn’t that also said about Tangled? Frozen isn’t above jokes about bodily smells so audiences shouldn’t worry too much about whether young males will “get” a film about sisterly bonds.
Would I have preferred one more song at the end to cap off the fabulous score? Sure, but at least the songs that are there are mostly lovely. And well done to whoever hired Jonathan Groff and it’s kind of great that we haven’t heard a single word against the casting of an openly gay actor as the brutish heterosexual love interest. The film even offers Josh Gad his most likable film role yet, which is something I wouldn’t have thought conceivable after wanting to throw heavy objects at him after Love and Other Drugs and Thanks for Sharing where his appearance was toxic. His number, “In Summer” is giggly and cute and chock full of nice visual gags. Meanwhile, I definitely think they could have scored a second original song nomination with “For the First Time in Forever”. And wouldn’t it have been aces to see Kristen Bell performing on stage alongside Idina, whose divalicious “Let It Go” could very well win the category (as already discussed). It could definitely go two for two alongside a best animated feature win, as well.
Do I wish they’d gone ahead and made Wicked: The Movie? Sure, of course. Who doesn't? But since they didn’t and we’ve got Frozen instead, let’s roll (a snowman) with it. Let it go, as Princess Elsa would say, and embrace it.