When I watched the YouTube video of the song “Let It Go” from the movie “Frozen” before going to see the full movie in theatre, I was prepared to be unimpressed by the film. The animation was gorgeous, yes, and the singing was exceptional, but the song didn’t feel like it was celebrating an interconnected life. Was this the high point of the movie?
Fortunately, I went to watch the whole thing and learned to put the song in context within a narrative that speaks to many of us: the hero, Elsa, has something that makes her different, and out of fear she suppresses it for years in order to fit in to her home and her life before it breaks out and she feels she can no longer stay where she has been. But the story doesn’t end with the hero alone, simply able to let her nature shine out in solitude. Instead, the story guides her back to integrating with the world she left behind, no longer hiding. This is what puts the film on a level with Disney’s success of 20 years ago, “The Lion King”, in terms of the universal journey it portrays as well as the stunning visuals and careful details.
Meanwhile, a subplot is woven in with the hero’s sister, Anna, who has been missing her sister for years and who finally gets to connect with people again – but in her naivete is too readily charmed by a prince who may not be all he seems. We see the damage done by lifelong fears that constrict us from being fully ourselves as we engage with others.
But back to the song. “Let It Go” has gone viral on YouTube, with tens of millions of views. It’s Elsa’s anthem of grief yet celebration as she turns her back on her old life and unleashes her gift of creating ice and snow, building an icy castle for herself in the mountains far from any other human. The song was written with the voice of Idina Menzel, the character’s voice actor, in mind. And here’s where I’m not quite sold on the casting choice. Idina Menzel has a magnificent voice with a fierce and lush “belt” well up into high note ranges where most female singers tend to break into lighter head voice. She’s glorious. But Elsa is drawn and portrayed as a delicate, isolated, afraid and reticent young woman. Just being able to unleash her magical gift isn’t enough, when she still seeks more isolation, to justify the juicy and grounded mature voice Menzel brings to the character. I feel there needed to be a more crystalline, even fragile, quality to make Elsa’s voice believable.
This opinion probably won’t make me popular. Menzel is the vehicle of the song “Defying Gravity” from “Wicked”, the musical where she portrays the witch Elphaba who becomes the Wicked Witch of the West. This is also a sort of “coming out” song where Elphaba unleashes her gifts and refuses to be brought down. Menzel’s voice is brilliant here. But Elsa is not Elphaba. That comparison didn’t need to be drawn and doesn’t benefit the movie.
I won’t spoil for you the interplay between Elsa and Anna and how they finally manage to reconcile. But it’s well done, well animated, and musically very well presented. “For The First Time In Forever” is a brilliant duet where the two sisters have two very different moods – one hopeful and one fearful – that manage to fit together harmonically in a single song.
For the music, the animation and the story line, this film is a keeper. If you can still get to it in a theatre, go!
Pranada Devi is a communications professional living in Toronto, Canada. She is the Managing Editor of Parvati Magazine, and serves as an advisor on marketing communications for Parvati’s various projects. Recently, she edited Parvati’s new book “Confessions of a Former Yoga Junkie”, which has gone on to sell out its first two printing runs.