I Can’t Believe I Just Watched This!: “Loverboy”

Occasionally I’ll watch a movie and afterwards wonder if I was too harsh on other movies. Yes, Divergent, Mrs. Doubtfire and Myra Breckinridge are that bad, but Loverboy is such a bad film, best lost to time since it is so heavily dated, it makes Catch Hell look like Casablanca.

Randy Bodek (Patrick Dempsey) is a college student who has a girlfriend, Jenny (Nancy Valen), but is often distracted by partying and other stuff. As it turns out, he’s failed nearly every class and his father, Joe (Robert Ginty), is sick of paying for college. Randy turns to delivering pizza for a Mexican-themed pizza restaurant, but is invited to have sex with an older women, Alex (Barbara Carrera). After telling her his woes, she starts paying him for sex, so Randy becomes a gigolo. Meanwhile, his father thinks he’s gay and his mother thinks her husband is cheating on her.

Patrick Dempsey is a great actor and I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen of his acting on Grey’s Anatomy. The thing is in this film, which he was 23-years-old when it was released, he looks way too young for this film to not be gross. After you watch this movie, you will definitely need to take a shower. And the thing is, it’s not just he has an affair with an older woman. He is paid to have sex with older women and he unwillingly becomes a prostitute because the number for the pizza place gets passed around. And no where is there a scene where someone is reaching for a condom, not even a hilarious scene where Randy is carrying a massive amount of condom boxes, some falling to the floor as he walks.

The film is also rated PG-13 and there’s a part of me that feels like if it was rated R and more explicit about the sex, it would be more enjoyable, but I also think then you would feel the desire to burn your DVD player because of how gross you’d feel after watching this film. All that’s shown that’s sexual is post-coital cuddling and licking and some heavily obscured scissoring. Everything else we’re told happens while Randy dances with women and feeds them ice cream. (I really wish I was making up everything I just typed, but I’m not.)

There’s also the rampant gay panic in the film, which makes sense given when this film was released. It was released in 1989 and at that time we were still thinking of AIDS, which was fairly new at this time, as being a “gay disease.” This is similar to the attitudes expressed in Myra Breckinridge and Mrs. Doubtfire. The problem is this feels more like a bad farce plot point with a mistaken identity since Randy tells his dad he’s staying over with a guy and a Italian man drops off a suit for Randy with a note from Alex. This then leads to Joe talking to Harry Bruckner (Vic Tayback, who I mistook for Robert Loggia) about how his son couldn’t be a “fruit”–the film’s word, not mine–because just look at these pictures of his son playing sports. In fact, this film does have this idea that gay men can’t be interested in sports because later Joe asks Randy if he wants to toss the ball around.

In fact the film in general feels like a bad farce. There’s a lot of sneaking around, mistaken identities, misunderstood comments–such as Diane (Kate Jackson) thinking Joe is having an affair because she hears some noise and her husband simply tells her, “Oh those are just some hookers.” There’s a huge climax where the husbands of the women hiring Randy try to find him, only to beat up Randy’s pimp because the man actually being hired by their wives couldn’t be the guy they’re looking for because Harry has been told he’s gay. This, by the way, happens around the time Randy almost has sex with his mom, who has gotten her son’s number from her doctor (Kirstie Alley), who hired him.

But none of this is enjoyable partly because it has a really young Patrick Dempsey who looks barely legal in the lead role. Even if you bumped up the age, it would be a slog because a huge part of it is made up of montages of Randy dancing and doing things that aren’t having sex. At least Catch Hell, which had some problematic issues, was made enjoyable by watching Ian Barford chew scenery. Even Myra Breckinridge is more enjoyable than this because Myra Breckinridge is like watching two cars hit each other, leading to a pile up before being hit by a train.

This is an inherently disgusting concept at almost all areas. The only way this could possibly be worth watch is if it was a guy in his 20s or 30s and does not look like he just hit the age of consent, who becomes a gigolo voluntarily after his girlfriend leaves him and he learns how to be a better lover in the process, but I pretty much just described the film My Awkward Sexual Adventure, except for the male sex worker part. (Also, My Awkward Sexual Adventure is a much better movie.) With the rest of the movies I’ve written about, I can see why they were released, but I don’t know who thought this movie was a good idea.

And I really could have used that condom scene.

I Can’t Believe I Just Watched This!: “Mrs. Doubtfire”

“Mrs. Doubtfire” is one of those movies my generation probably feels nostalgic for. It’s a Robin Williams comedy with three adorable children he’s fighting to keep. It’s one of those movie you have to rewatch for a nostalgia check, like a Disney cartoon you loved or “History of the World, Part One.” And, like movies you often watch for a nostalgia check, it doesn’t hold up to the fond memories.

Daniel Hillard (Williams) is a irresponsible father whose behavior has been continually annoying his wife, Miranda (Sally Field), until a raucous birthday party for their son, Chris (Matthew Lawrence), is the last straw. They divorce and Miranda is granted full custody of Chris, Lydia (Lisa Jakub) and Natalie (Mara Wilson). Daniel, desperate to spend more time with the kids, decides to answer an ad for a housekeeper and pose as kindly English lady Mrs. Doubtfire, with help from his brother, Frank (Harvey Fierstein). Meanwhile, Miranda reconnects with old friend Stuart (Pierce Brosnan), whom Daniel despises because he’s not over Miranda.

There are very clear problems with the comedy and jokes made in the script, largely because they haven’t aged well and are, quite frankly, very offensive. But the two biggest problems are with the protagonist, Daniel, and the length of the film.

First I’ll get to the length of the film. “Mrs. Doubtfire” is more than two hours long and there’s a lot that could have been cut out. At this point I want to already penalize any film longer than “Myra Breckinridge” because one of the few things that film has going for it is it’s only 94 minutes long. There are giant portions of the film that exist for very trivial reasons. There’s an overly long bit of the film where Williams does a bunch of voices for a social worker. There’s a montage of Williams doing things as Mrs. Doubtfire with the kids, set to “Dude Looks Like a Lady” that feels unnecessary. There’s an entire scene with the social worker that plays like a bad farce that goes on for too long and feels horribly contrived. If you cut those scenes out, I feel fairly confident the film would be under two hours in length.

It also suffers from odd pacing. Although it’s understandable the film needs to set up the ending, everything in this film takes place in the last 45 minutes. Ultimately, very little happens in the first 75 minutes other than a lot of shenanigans with the occasional plot point. As a result the film is a slog until this sudden shot of frantic energy is injected right at the end for the climax.

But really, the core problem with this film is Daniel Hillard. It is entirely likely I will not watch a film for “I Can’t Believe I Just Watch This!” with a character as eminently punchable as Daniel Hillard. Tris was boring, Ryan Phillippe Regan Pierce a sad-sack, Riddick a fascinating mercernary and Myra Breckinridge an over-the-top caricature in a performance where more scenery is chewed than Ian Barford in “Catch Hell.” Daniel Hillard is a jag bag who is thoroughly unlikable. He takes advantage of so many people in the movie, including his brother, the make-up artist, who helps him get the mask and look of Mrs. Doubtfire, but they first have to do a crazy montage–which could have also been cut–even though Daniel has already established Mrs. Doubtfire will be a kindly, elderly British woman. He becomes belligerent to his wife and then wonders why she doesn’t want him spending time with the kids. And then, after it is revealed he has been posing as Mrs. Doubtfire, he gets mad at Miranda for him having to do supervised visits with the kids, once a week. You just committed fraud, broke the custody agreement and almost killed an old friend of Miranda’s. Do you wonder why you have to do supervised visits?

And although it’s nice, and honestly still a little progressive, for a film to have a male character who is crazy about the ex instead of a female character, the hatred Daniel feels towards Stuart is bizarre. Stuart is, ultimately, nothing but nice towards Mrs. Doubtfire, even if a comment is made about her accent. Daniel responds by telling his children, while Mrs. Doubtfire, that, oh, Stuart had liposuction. Then Daniel has to do a walk-by fruiting–which would be a great name for a gay street gang–and assault Stuart with a lime. Finally, he tries to sabotage a romantic relationship between Stuart and Miranda by telling Stuart Miranda has crabs and then putting pepper, which Stuart is allergic to, in his jambalaya.

(By the way, this is a film released in the 1993 when people treated allergies as an incredibly serious issue. It’s not like now where you say, “Oh I have a food allergy” and people scoff at you because of pseudoscience blogs saying, “Say you have an allergy so you can avoid this food I told you is evil” and give you food with those ingredients all the time. Why is Daniel shocked by Stuart’s reaction to the pepper?)

The biggest problem with the film is a lot of the humor now feels incredibly dated and very offensive. It’s not just humor you really can’t get away with now–like half of the jokes in “Blazing Saddles”–it’s humor that is in poor taste. The premise of the film involves a man who cross-dresses to be close to his kids. That’s fine. There are plenty of perfectly good movies involving drag and cross-dressing. One of those films even has Robin Williams. But there’s rampant jokes that at worst come off as transphobic, such as one of the fake nannies Williams poses as before calling as Mrs. Doubtfire being a Russian woman saying she doesn’t work with male children because “she used to be [male].” First of all, what the hell is with that line? Is this going back to some bizarre stereotype transgender women are crazed misandrists a la Myra Breckinridge? Second of all, the joke reads as, “Oh, ha ha, someone who used to be male is a woman and would consider being a nanny.” What? It’s cringeworthy and, in a lengthy montage of oddballs Williams creates to answer the ad, is something that would have been better left on the cutting room floor.

There’s also a bunch of other bizarre moments of “Oh, ha ha, a man in a dress” or jokes are made regarding gender expression and identity that simply don’t land. This includes moments like Frank expressing joy when Daniel arrives asking to look like a man, which does feel like a joke and it only really works because of Fierstein’s delivery. The bus driver at one point sees Daniel’s hairy leg under his Mrs. Doubtfire outfit, which leads to a very creepy come-on from a driver. And why don’t any of the passenger’s yell, “Hey bub, I got a kid with a fever and I need to get home. Get moving”? I want to yell that at a bus driver when they wait even 30 seconds before moving from a bus stop.

One scene that has an incredibly uncomfortable feel now is when Chris sees Daniel peeing, standing up, while dressed as Mrs. Doubtfire. He runs into Lydia’s room and tells her to call the police because Mrs. Doubtfire has a penis. At this point, they find out Mrs. Doubtfire is their father, but it’s very uncomfortable to know that today there are thousands of transgender women who could face serious problems if that situation happened in real life. Here it’s meant as a humorous moment, complete with a son horrifically saying, “I saw everything” about his dad’s junk.

The film also features the Standard Butch-Femme ’90s Gay Couple and an odd joke about how many British Pakistanis there are in London, coming in the form of a puppet on the TV show at the end of the film saying people in England speak Pakistani. Normally, I would angrily point out people in Pakistan speak English and Urdu, but this film has managed to drain me of my outrage over art.

What the film has going for it is Chris Columbus did a nice job directing the film. There’s nothing revolutionary about it, but there’s nothing incredibly bad. It’s just nice. What he does manage to do is get fantastic performances from the actors, right down to an adorable Wilson. It keeps the film from being incredibly painful to watch, it just is a film that fails to entertain.

It’s not surprising this is a film that managed to be incredibly successful and a beloved family movie. When it was released it was during the fury of films with transphobia–“Silence of the Lambs,” “The Crying Game,” “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective”–and this has a bittersweet story about family. But unfortunately the film’s most sympathetic characters are Miranda, the bread winner, and Stuart, the rich British man who adores Miranda and her children, taking them away from Daniel. As a result of bad writing and dated gender politics, “Mrs. Doubtfire” is a misfire on many levels, never reaching the level it could be with such a phenomenal cast.

(And I didn’t even get into how implausible this film is and all of the issues with reality. Really, those are minor quibbles compared to everything else in the film.)

Me, watching

Me, watching “Mrs. Doubtfire.”

I Can’t Believe I Just Watched This!: “Riddick”

Thanks to Meghan-Annette for suggesting this film for “I Can’t Believe I Just Watched This!”

After watching “Myra Breckinridge” I found myself explaining to people on social media that I was mentally fine after enduring that film. However, the fact that it’s been more than a month since I wrote a post for “I Can’t Believe I Just Watched This!” suggests that watching “Myra Breckinridge” did break me a bit, but any suspicion of that may be backed by how I feel about “Riddick.”

“Riddick” follows interstellar outlaw Riddick (Vin Diesel) who has been stranded on a planet after being asked to go home to the planet Furya. As you can imagine, he is not taken back to Furya. After battling various creatures on the planet, Riddick signals a distress beacon to try to get back to Furya. Two mercenaries arrive, one led by Santana (Jordi Molla) and the other led by Johns (Matthew Nable). Both have reasons for getting Riddick, one for getting a large bounty if he is returned dead, the other for personal reasons.

The main problem with watching “Riddick” on its own is it’s the third film in a trilogy. Even with the plethora of flashbacks, I found myself going, “Wait, what’s going on?” On the other hand, it makes a lot more sense for me to feel lost watching the third film of a trilogy or than the first film of a trilogy or a stand-alone film. That said, “Riddick” largely suffers from being a slog to watch because the pacing is very slow due to flashbacks as the title character remembers how he got where he is now.

If you come for a movie where Vin Diesel is in Tough Guy Vin Diesel mode, blowing shit up, that really doesn’t happen in the movie. There’s a lot of conversation and huge portions of the movie where Vin Diesel is not on screen. Yet somehow it works because once you figure out the premise of the film, it’s fairly straightforward, even if it feels like you are watching three different films, each one of which could be a fantastic film. Tough Guy Vin Diesel surviving on a planet would be a fantastic film. Tough Guy Vin Diesel negotiating with the mercenaries would be a fantastic film. The ending would be a fantastic film. Unfortunately, all three of those concepts are pieced together to create one film, but somehow this is the most enjoyable of all of the films because at least all three of those films are interesting, even though they essentially just exist. It’s different from “Myra Breckinridge” where we have stock footage, combined with a campy take on Gore Vidal’s novel, combined with whatever the hell Mae West is doing because even though it’s also from Vidal’s novel, it feels like a completely different movie. All three of those films are trainwrecks a viewer can’t look away from, creating the greatest cinematic trainwreck to ever exist.

This may be a sign of how my brain is a little worn from watching the last two films in this series. The problem is there’s nothing compelling about this movie. There’s nothing that will make me rush out and tell my co-workers to watch this. It’s a perfectly competent science-fiction movie and that’s really the best I can say about it. The special effects are great and there’s something oddly enjoyable about watching Riddick spend time with an extraterrestrial hyena.

The jarring moment in the film comes in towards the end when Dahl (Katee Sackhoff) is holding Riddick and says something along the lines of, “So when are going to have sex?” (I’m paraphrasing.) This sticks out because the characters keep pointing out Dahl is a lesbian. Earlier in the film characters keep saying Dahl will have sex with Riddick, which comes off as a form of torture by forcing a prisoner who is gay to have sex with another prisoner. But then she is attracted to Riddick, which comes off more as the film asserting to us how masculine Riddick is. There could also be the possibility Dahl is suddenly feeling sexual feelings for someone of the opposite sex, but this unlikely since bisexuals are cinematic unicorn.

Ultimately, a lot of this seems like a way to show how Riddick is an alpha male of science-fiction. He can fight bad guys, be stranded on a planet and play mind games with people who want to kill him, all without blinking an eye. The problem with this movie is it doesn’t succeed at being a great movie or a terrible movie. Fewer things are more disappointing than a bland movie.

I Can’t Believe I Just Watched This!: “Catch Hell”

Welcome to “I Can’t Believe I Just Watched This!” a new blog post series where I watch movies that sound bad and then write about them, mostly to see if they’re worth watching. The first film is “Catch Hell,” which was written and directed by its star, Ryan Phillippe.

Regan Pierce (Phillippe) is an actor seeking a film to catapult him back to the top. He goes down to Shreveport, Louisiana and stays in the world’s saddest Holiday Inn, preparing to shoot a new film. The day after he arrives, he’s picked up in a van by Michael (Ian Barford) and Junior (Stephen Louis Grush), who are basically the stock terrifying rednecks you find in a movie. They kidnap him, take him to a shack in the middle of the swamp and proceed to torture him over the next few days and leak nude pictures and send anti-Semetic and homophobic tweets from his account as retribution for Pierce sleeping with Michael’s wife, Diane (Joyful Drake).

Oh boy.

The biggest problem is I don’t care about Pierce at all. This is his story, one where he triumphs over his kidnappers and I just don’t care about what happens to him. He, like all of the other characters, feels generic. There are moments in the film where it feels like attempts are made to bring depth to the characters–okay, just Michael and Junior–but it never happens for Pierce. He’s just a generic celebrity. What attempts there are to give the captors depth comes with Junior showing kindness to Pierce and revealing he’s gay and maybe Michael trying to reconcile with his wife. But that’s it.

Another problem with the film is how poorly paced it feels. The first fifteen minutes has moments of trying to feel suspenseful, such as a scene where Pierce is in the fitness center of his hotel, but we just jump to him being kidnapped and then that goes straight to the torturing, which goes straight to 11 in terms of intensity and instead of building gradually. Although this may speak more to Michael being a terrible captor, it doesn’t work dramatically for the film.

The odd thing is the film is somehow entertaining. There are moments meant to be suspenseful that end up being humorous, like Pierce working out in the fitness center as a housekeeper slowly wipes off the window, which does lead to it being an entertaining film. But the film manages to not be unbearably bad because Grush and Barford give fantastic performances in this film. Although they are given rather cartoonish characters to play–Barford more so than Grush–the performances help make the captors a bit human.

The problem is they are not giving transcendent performances in this film that suddenly makes it worth watching. I had already seen Barford and Grush in something and it was “The March” at Steppenwolf, which I enjoyed. The film is ultimately rather dumb in terms of plot points and is supposed to make us rally around someone, but there’s no one worth rallying around. But I have to give it credit for keeping me entertained and not having an entirely baffling premise.

Also, the end credits play over footage of Junior dancing in a gator skin while Pierce laughs. So, that’s amusing and a bizarre note to end on.

Verdict: Skip, but if there’s video of the end credits, watch that because it’s bizarre enough to warrant a watch.

There Are Giants in the Sky

You should see my nectarines. “Into the Woods” is a film people have been anticipating with either glee or dread. On the one hand, it’s an adaptation of a relatively beloved musical–at the very least, one of the most well-known of Stephen Sondheim’s musicals–with an all-star cast that doesn’t leave one largely wondering who thought it was a good idea to cast that actor or actress. On the other hand, it’s produced by Disney and is directed by Rob Marshall, who did the delightful “Chicago”–which along with “Moulin Rouge!” helped resurrect movie musicals–and the bizarre and barely tolerable “Nine,” among other films. (He also did the made for TV movie of “Annie” with Victor Garber, Kathy Bates, Audra McDonald and Alan Cumming, which I truly enjoyed and is the only time I’ve enjoyed “Annie.”)

As “Chicago” is fun, but not astounding, and maybe the best movie he had made, there was a bit of concern, especially after “Nine.” “Into the Woods,” however, is a faithful adaptation although not incredibly inventive. It will at the very least satisfy most musical theater nerds and provide a good introduction to the show for the uninitiated.

“Into the Woods” follows the familiar fairy tale characters of Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) and Jack (Daniel Huttlestone), who we know from “Jack and the Beanstalk.” We are also introduced to a baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt), who are childless. They find out from their neighbor, a witch (Meryl Streep), that she placed a curse on the baker’s family that they would not have any children after the baker’s father stole magic beans from the witch’s garden. The witch tells the baker and his wife they can have the curse reversed if they bring her the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn, the slippers as pure as gold and the cow as white as milk. The baker sets off on a quest, with his wife following closely behind, while Cinderella tries to go to the festival, Little Red goes to granny’s house and Jack sets off to sell his cow, Milky White, and the character’s paths cross throughout the film. Eventually Cinderella gets her prince (Chris Pine), the baker and his wife get a child and everyone gets their happy ending…until a giant (Frances de la Tour) begins terrorizing the kingdom in search of Jack, who killed her husband when he chopped down the beanstalk.

I should first say “Into the Woods” is not my favorite Sondheim musical–that would be “Sunday in the Park With George”–although I have found as I get older I enjoy “Into the Woods” more. I do not have as much of an emotional stake in this as some people may, but “Into the Woods” still got a lot of play on my iPod in high school and I had a habit in college of watching the PBS film of the original Broadway production. Ultimately, I enjoyed this film possibly more than the musical and found myself getting choked up in some parts.

There are some numbers that are eliminated from the musical, although I only found myself missing “No More,” whose absence is handled well. The movie also tones down the sexual nature of the interaction between the wolf (Johnny Depp, giving what is one of his more restrained performances in the past decade) and Little Red Riding Hood, the brutality of some of the deaths and completely eliminates another character’s death. These changes work in this adaptation since Little Red Riding Hood is played by a girl rather than a teenage girl, although that doesn’t stop “Hello, Little Girl” from still being creepy. The death of both characters are still tragic, although the elimination of the death of Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy) does lower the emotional stakes of the witch a bit. (The witch kidnapped Rapunzel from the baker’s parents as payback for the baker’s father taking her greens.)

The musical also isn’t incredibly inspired with how it’s staged. In a way, this works because it avoids from being too inventive and also acts like the characters just sometimes burst into song rather than that they go off into a fantasy world where they sing on stages, as was the case in “Chicago” and “Nine.” The musical numbers largely occur on set pieces where the characters run into each other and sing in the woods, which works and feels safe. There is little in this musical to offend most musical theater fans–I say most because the most ardent will be upset about something. Moments of cleverness in this film arrive with the staging of “Agony,” a comedic self-pitying number from the prince and his brother (Billy Magnussen); and “On the Steps of the Palace,” where time actually stops as Cinderella contemplates her situation.

However, this film is gorgeous to watch and feels natural. It avoids being too chaotic and has performers who never feel stiff. It may have one of the best casts assembled for a movie musical in years where the weakest performance given by one of the lead actors is from Corden, who still gives a good performance, just not as good as the other leads.

Streep’s performance will either be read as another over-the-top performance given by her or one that works well. She twists and contorts prior to her transformation from an old hag to a glamorous blue-haired woman, which is gone post transformation. Her witch sells that she is to be feared and will have revenge without blinking an eye. Once transformed into her younger self, she spends much of the remainder of her on-screen time walking around looking like she’s sick of everyone’s shit, but when she is left by Rapunzel she shows her heartbreak very subtly. During “Last Midnight” her performance builds from the admonishment of everyone to the ache and fury from a woman who is alone, angrily singing the last half of the song. It helps that a furious storm appears, whipping up the leaves, which swirl around her before she disappears, but she breathes new life into the song, making it hers.

Streep doesn’t even give the the best performance in the film, which is divided between Kendrick and Blunt. Kendrick plays Cinderella as clever and caring providing the character with depth. Blunt fills her character with warmth and nervousness where it’s needed while also having a good singing voice. Both her and Kendrick inhabit their characters fully, bringing them to a new life. Every second they’re on screen is a delight.

Crawford manages to provide great sarcasm when it’s needed without it being forced and Huttlestone brings a fantastic eagerness to his role. Elsewhere, Tracey Ullman keeps Jack’s exasperated mother from being too one-note and Christine Baranski tends to steal every scene she’s in as Cinderella’s stepmother.

The film also has lush orchestrations of Sondheim’s score that never feel canned and generally amazing costume designs, although I’m still not sure what to think of Depp’s zoot suit. The film is well-paced, never lagging at all. It even manages to remove parts in Act One of the musical that I felt always dragged the show down a bit.

It is however not a feel-good family film or really even a movie for the whole family. Even if it is not nearly as bleak as the musical, it is still very dark and not something I would take a young child to. If children are taken to see “Into the Woods” the content and themes of the film are worth discussing.

In the end it is one of the better film adaptations of theater to occur in recent years and Marshall’s best film to date*. Although it has some faults, it is enjoyable and manages to simultaneously have a cast of stars–Corden gets to be a star since he won a Tony and is taking over The Late Late Show now that Craig Ferguson is leaving–and a good cast of stars who do not feel miscast. It does not disservice Sondheim’s work and hopefully introduces a new generation to an excellent introduction to a good musical.

*”Chicago” was fun, but not a great film and “Memoirs of a Geisha” was beautiful to look at, but dull as hell.

The Disney Princess Project: “Frozen”

I don't have a skull.Previously:
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Cinderella
Sleeping Beauty
Beauty and the Beast
Pocahontas
Hercules
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
The Little Mermaid
The Princess and the Frog
Brave
Tangled
Mulan

There are certain elements expected in the standard Disney Princess movie. One can expect there to be a love story, usually involving a handsome man, where the woman presumably ends up with the man, as well as a menacing villain. This could be a jealous stepmother, an older woman or a conniving man. The menacing villain is usually made clear early in the film. “Brave” is the only film examined so far that throws these elements out, which might be the result of it being made by Pixar, rather than Walt Disney Animation Studios. “Frozen” is the first film made by Walt Disney Animation Studios to throw these elements out the window.

In the rather Norwegian and Scandinavian feeling kingdom of Arendelle, Princess Elsa (Idina Menzel, Eva Bella and Spencer Lacey Ganus as her younger voices) possesses the ability to create ice and snow, which allows her and her sister, Princess Anna (Kristen Bell, Livvy Stubenrauch as her younger voice), to enjoy winter fun inside of their castle. One night, while playing, Elsa accidentally strikes Anna in the head with her powers, injuring her. The King (Maurice LaMarche) and Queen (Jennifer Lee) take Anna to trolls, who cure her, but also remove any memory of Elsa’s magic from Anna. The King and Queen then isolate Elsa from her sister and try to have her control her powers. The two daughters grow up, separated from each other. When Elsa is a teenager, their parents die in a shipwreck because it’s not a Disney movie unless at least one of the parents is killed. Three years later, Elsa comes of age and is crowned queen of Arendelle.

The coronation results in numerous nobles from across the region descending on Arendelle, including the Duke of Weselton (Alan Tudyk) and Prince Hans (Santino Fontana). Anna, excited to be able to leave the castle, runs into Hans and they hit it off immediately. As the coronation celebration occurs, they spend more time together and Hans proposes to Anna. She accepts the proposal and rushes to get her sister’s blessing, but Elsa refuses to give it because Anna just met him. They argue and eventually Elsa’s powers are revealed, frightening everyone at the celebration. She flees Arendelle, in the process blanketing the area in an eternal winter. Anna decides to go after her sister and try to get her to thaw the region. On the way, she teams up with Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer Sven and a snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad), who was animated by Elsa’s powers.

“Frozen” is possibly the best film Disney has made since “Aladdin.” The animation is gorgeous and the film features very complex and interesting characters. All of the problems usually found in Disney films are absent in this movie. There is no annoying sassy sidekick as Olaf is mostly just dim, which seems to largely be the result of him being a snowman. Olaf provides quite a bit of the comic relief in the film, usually at moments when it’s really needed. (He does not appear in the first 30 minutes of the film, which I bawled through most of) “Frozen” could work if it didn’t have him in the film, but his presence actually makes the movie better because he provides a much needed laugh here and there.

The film also expands as to what love means. Love or romantic interest in someone fuels the plot in a lot of Disney Princess films, but Anna’s love of her sister is why she tries to reason with her sister. The film in fact celebrates sisterhood and shows the power of familial love.

Although there is the subplot of Anna being engaged to Hans, everyone surrounding her scoffs at the engagement and suggests she’s not really in love with him. As you might know if you’ve read my posts on Disney Princess films, I’m prone to kvetching about films where the female lead goes to great lengths for a man she just met and insists she’s in love with. For this movie to have multiple characters say, “You can’t marry a man you just met” is very refreshing.

Finally, the songs written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and recent EGOTer Robert Lopez–yes, the guy who worked on “Avenue Q” and “The Book of Mormon” wrote the songs for a Disney movie–are magnificent and incredibly memorable. Each one is unique and works perfectly in the situation. As I remarked to my mother after seeing the film, I honestly want the duo to write all of the songs for Disney films now. The last Disney movie I can think of to have such great songs is “Mulan” and many of the songs tug at your heart strings even without having the visuals to accompany them. (And, yes, “Let it Go” really is that good of a song. I keep trying to tell myself to stop listening to it so often on my iPod.)

“Frozen” is the great Disney film everyone has been anticipating for years. If they can continue to create great films after this, then Disney films will once again become the must-see films they were in the ’90s.

But are Anna and Elsa Good Role Models for Children? Yes.

Elsa, although terrified of herself and her powers early in the film, does embrace them after she flees Arendelle. She also fears hurting her sister immensely because she still remembers the last time her powers hurt Anna. Elsa is the most complex female character in a Disney film. She can defend herself, she embraces her powers, but she also fears them at the same time. It easy to understand why she would lock herself away after her powers are discovered at her coronation–well, she is viewed as a monster by people for being different–because she does fear hurting her sister again.

Anna, meanwhile, cares very much for her sister and after finding out about the powers, she understands so much about her sister. She could have easily shunned her sister, but it seems that she loves her even more after finding out about Elsa’s powers. And while she does have Kristoff help her get to the mountain Elsa’s ice palace is located in, Anna mainly goes on the mission to unfreeze Arendelle on her own. When it comes to reasoning with Elsa, she does go in, alone, asking Olaf, Sven and Kristoff to sit outside. Anna is also a bit awkward at moments, but you would be too if you had been rather isolated in a castle for most of your life. Both her and Elsa are characters you can relate with, no matter what your age.

And if I were a mother, I would love to have a daughter who saw the love the sisters have for one another.

A List of the Five Best Disney Villain Songs

I decided to actually update my blog and since there is a new Disney film being released this month a Disney-related list felt appropriate.

(Note: I’m still trying to figure out if I want to see “Frozen,” but I’ll probably end up seeing it.)

So now, a list of what in my opinion are the five best songs done by Disney villains.

5). “Gaston”——”Beauty and the Beast”

It’s a list song, which a lot of people don’t enjoy, but it’s so incredibly catchy. It also conveys to the viewers of the film how everyone in the village but Belle adores Gaston. When LeFou tries to pep Gaston up, everyone in the tavern joins in. Plus it’s just a delightful song to listen to.

4). “World’s Greatest Criminal Mind”——”The Great Mouse Detective”

“World’s Greatest Criminal Mind” is essentially an exposition song so we learn why Ratigan is someone Basil is obsessively trying to catch. This is the greatest criminal in the mouse world. He’s drowned orphans and widows! He was the mastermind behind the Big Ben caper! He’s the most evil person in London and this song does an excellent job telling us why without feeling like a slog.

3). “Be Prepared”——”The Lion King”

Here Scar lays out his plans for overthrowing Mufasa and who doesn’t love a musical number where a villain lays out his or her plans? He also berates his Hyena followers/henchmen for being dim, which gives a hint as to what type of a ruler he’ll be since he realizes he needs the Hyenas, even though he starts the song off with “I never thought Hyenas essential.” The music and chorus accompanying the song give a spine tingling quality to the song, which makes it simultaneously invigorating and scary. Plus, Jeremy Irons sells every word of this song.

2). “Poor Unfortunate Souls”——”The Little Mermaid”

In some ways, Ursula is a charming con-woman. She knows the way to get what she wants is to get Ariel in her clutches. She charms the mermaid by letting her know “I do magic, but it’s to help other merpeople get what they want.” It makes her seem like someone to trust, but then it goes on and gains intensity as she continues to tell Ariel she doesn’t need her voice to get Prince Eric, which only continues to help Ursula get to her goal. She’s sly, she’s charming, she’s devious; She’s the perfect villain.

1). “Hellfire”——”The Hunchback of Notre Dame”

Claude Frollo is a horrible, possibly sociopathic human being. He fails to see his own actions as being wrong, except for when the Archdeacon of Notre Dame points it out to him. He goes to great lengths to get what he wants, never seeing his actions as being potentially damaging or harmful. This song captures how evil he is, in case you missed that he kills a mother and almost kills a baby within the first five minutes of the movie.

Here he’s praying to the Virgin Mary and he begins by singing “Beata Maria, you know I am a righteous man/Of my virtue I am justly proud,” because he views himself as the most righteous person in the film. He then continues extolling his virtue before asking why it is he has lustful feelings for Esmeralda if he’s so pure. The feelings and thoughts he’s having of her are consuming him and it troubles him because he knows it’s sinful.

Then we get into him saying it’s not his fault he’s lusting after Esmeralda because she’s a gypsy, therefore it must be witchcraft or the devil. As he’s singing that, the choir is singing “Mea culpa! Mea culpa! Mea maxima culpa!” which is Latin for, “My sin! My sin! My grievous sin!” It’s as if the choir is saying what is really in Frollo’s head because he doesn’t want to admit this sin is his fault, but he knows it is.

Then Frollo takes the idea of “If I can’t have you, no one can,” to a new level by finishing off the song by going “If I can’t have you, then I’m going to burn you at the stake and have you be consumed by the fires of hell!” The song shows how tortured he is by these thoughts as he quickly progresses from, “I’m so pure, how is it I can feel lust?” to “I will get to have sex with her, or I’m going to kill her!” It shows just how twisted and evil Frollo is while being a terrifyingly brilliant song.

It’s also a magnificently animated song, as I’ve brought up on my Tumblr.