Disney's new musical, "Frozen," may have done well at the box office, but it failed to convince all Christian reviewers. While some hailed the film as a masterpiece of sacrificial love, others attacked it as a lower quality cartoon.
"Frozen is not only a funny, entertaining movie with incredible animation – its highly redemptive, moral premise shows that true love is sacrifice," declared the Christian film review site, Movieguide. But in an email statement to The Christian Post, Alex Wainer, associate professor of communication and media studies at Palm Beach Atlantic University, wrote, "Of the two Disney animated fairy tales with past-tense single verb titles, this is no Tangled."
In the film, Elsa and Anna are sisters, princesses in the Norwegian kingdom of Arendelle. Elsa, the oldest, also has a double-edged gift – the ability to freeze anything and shoot ice out of her hands. But Elsa can't control it, and nearly gets Anna killed. Forever withdrawn, the older sister flees from all company to protect those she loves.
Anna, bereft of her sister, becomes desperate for attention. She gets engaged to the handsome prince Hans the very same night she meets him, and when she asks Elsa for her blessing, the elder sister goes crazy. Casting Arendelle in a perpetual winter, Elsa flees to the furthest mountain for refuge. Only by risking her life and rejecting the love of a man can Anna save her sister – and the kingdom.
According to the Movieguide review, the film "shows that love is not about lust. When Anna believes she has true love after meeting someone for a day, she's told that true love is really about sacrifice." Movieguide even claimed that "Frozen" presents "a very strong redemptive, moral worldview."
In addition to this theme – true love is sacrifice, not infatuation – Movieguide praised the film's animation, songs, storytelling, and humor. "Frozen," the review claimed, "has incredible animation and wonderful songs, with plot twists that advance the story in positive directions." And to boot, "it's also very funny."
Wainer, however, found it distasteful. "Princess Anna talks like a character from one of the Disney Channel's sitcoms – very contemporary – which breaks the fairy tale spell classic Disney animated films weave so well," the professor argued. He pointed to one line of dialogue – "wait, what?" – as an example of the weak language characters use. This phrase slips out "as if the character were posting on Facebook."
"The film's moral, as much as I could make sense of it, is vaguely about love casting out fear, but I found it favoring emotional over logical narrative," Wainer explained. This did not redeem the standard Disney happy ending substitute for Hans Christian Anderson's "The Snow Queen," the professor argued.
Paul Asay, senior associate editor for Focus on the Family's review site Plugged In, however, praised the film as a signature achievement for Disney. "There's something different about these ladies," Asay wrote.
"Frozen" tells a tale "not so much about a princess falling in love as it is about learning to love," he explained. "Under the veneer of traditional Disney magic, Frozen gives us a bit of the emotional depth Pixar so excelled at."
Rather than just seeking to entertain audiences, the film also shows "insight into the nature of family and friendship," Asay wrote. "It plays with Disney's well-worn messages of feel-good hope (be true to yourself; follow your dreams), modifying them and molding them into something stronger and more mature."
Asay went even further, comparing the sacrificial love in the film to the love of Jesus. In an email statement to CP, he highlighted, "That sort of love, of course, points directly to the love of Jesus – the affection he had for his disciples, the affection he has for all of us, the love that eventually sent him to the cross for all of our sakes."