The story sees Olaf go out in search of a family tradition for Anna and Elsa to celebrate during the holiday season, and I really quite enjoyed how this new Frozen short played out. Something I've noticed is how both Frozen Fever and now Olaf's Frozen Adventure are essentially gift themed, which sorta plays into how the films are presented more as gifts to the fans of the series. However, while Frozen Fever may have been a bit more heavy handed on the fan service, this one ties back into the original film in ways that feel a lot more organic, and are as such a lot more satisfying.
I mentioned in my Frozen Fever review how I liked how that movie really added new layers to Elsa's character that we hadn't seen before. And I think that this movie accomplishes a similar feat with Olaf, adding a lot more depth to the character, and strengthening his bond with the other characters in a really fulfilling manner.
However, not all of the characterization feels quite right here. Specifically, there's one scene that takes place in an attic (which itself felt odd as a setting. Do castles even have attics like this?). And in this scene, Elsa speaks to Anna as if Anna's far younger than she is, and Anna in turn responds accordingly, acting about half her age. And, I dunno, it just felt awkward. Like, perhaps they'd act this way towards each other because, due to their upbringing, there's a part of them that's still stuck in that place in their life. But this is also the only time in any of these films we've really seen them act this way, which lends itself to that off feeling. That scene aside, I didn't really have any issues with the characterization, but that one did throw me off a bit. (Also, is it just me, or does it feel like Anna got just a little bit shafted in general this time around, comparatively speaking?)
Just a bit odd, that.
What I especially love most about this new short though is how they managed to fit in a full fledged musical into such a short period of time. The previous short, Frozen Fever, was just a single song, which is about what one would expect from one of these. However, with a slightly longer runtime of about 20 minutes, there's actually six new songs packed into this one. And the music is mostly great all around.
I'd say that perhaps a single song is a little extraneous, that being Elsa's brief solo reprise of "Ring in the Season". I know, shocking that I'd say such a thing about anything Elsa related of all things, but it honestly was the one musical cue that felt a bit forced, though the song is still quite nice. And really, I'm just nitpicking at this point, and probably wouldn't have felt it as out of place had it perhaps not been quite as abrupt as it was.
That said, when you listen to the soundtrack, you'll find there's an extended version of Kristoff's song "The Ballad of Flemmingrad", which is really the only time in which Jonathan Groff is given the opportunity to really show off his singing chops. However, the version we get in the film is significantly cut, including his moments where he really shines as a singer, which is really a bit of a shame. Groff really does keep getting screwed over in these movies like that, but it would've been nice to see a fuller version play out in the final film, even if it meant cutting the brief Elsa song to make it happen. At least we got it on the soundtrack, though.
As to the rest of the songs, Olaf's numbers "That Time of Year" and its more somber reprise are obviously the bulk of the film, and they're fine for what they are. But the two big standouts are the opening and closing songs, which are both duets from Anna and Elsa, "Ring in the Season" and "When We're Together", which are both really powerful tracks that'll stay with you well after the movie.
So anyways, there are some hiccups along the way, but all in all, I quite liked the new Frozen short. And the fact that it has its problems is perfectly fine honestly, and stays true to the rest of the series. I've mentioned time and again that Frozen is by no means a perfect film, and a lot of its charm comes from its flaws, being a film about such broken characters after all. So I'm more than okay with there being a handful of flaws here as well, none of which bring this film down at all.
And I'd also say that this was a perfect short to place in front of Coco, despite not actually being a Pixar short. For one, there's a lot of shared themes regarding family between the two movies, but the fact that it's a musical preceding what is essentially Pixar's own first musical is also quite fitting.
Now, I call Coco a musical, though that's not in the traditional sense. There's no moment where the characters suddenly stop and spontaneously break out into song and dance. Rather, it's one where the music comes more realistically, through performances and such throughout. So leave it to Pixar to take a different route with the musical genre, but it definitely works for what they're going for.
Hell, the main character, a boy named Miguel, doesn't even actually sing any of the songs himself until about halfway into the movie. But they spend a lotta time building up to the moment where we'll finally hear him perform, and when he does, boy is it worth it. Anthony Gonzalez seriously surprised me in the role, what a voice!
As to the film as a whole, we follow Miguel who wants to be a musician, but his family has forbidden it. So, in his quest to follow his dreams despite his family's wishes, he somehow finds himself in the world of the dead, and now has to find his way back home. And along the way, the story is beautifully told through its stunning visuals and outstanding mariachi style music, with plenty of satisfying twists along the way that keeps things interesting, and keeps the emotions stirring in unexpected ways.
And really, I honestly don't have much to nitpick about Coco. It's a real solid outing through and through. So much so that I've already seen the film twice. Though if I'm being honest, had it not been for the Frozen short attached, it's very likely that I wouldn't have gone out of my way for that second viewing. Because after all, while the movie is magnificent while in the moment, my one squabble with it is that it's not exactly a memorable outing.
You see, right after the movie's over, I've left the theater, and almost immediately it was the songs from Olaf's Frozen Adventure that leaped back into my head, as opposed to the songs from Coco. And soon enough I found that I was barely thinking about the new Pixar movie at all. And I've experienced this now twice. So I can say that, yeah, it's a bit ironic just how much of the movie is about being remembered, considering just how little I find myself able to keep this new film in memory after the fact.
Still though, I'd say it's definitely worth checking out, even if it doesn't quite have the staying power of the likes of other Pixar films such as Wall-E or Inside Out. If you're a fan of Pixar, then you'll love this. And if you're a fan of Frozen, then definitely check this out while it's still in theaters, so you can see Olaf's Frozen Adventure on the big screen beforehand.