See It Instead: Frozen Edition
Sometimes a movie comes along and makes you aware of an itch you never knew you had. Perhaps a review piqued your interest, or you’d rather stay in and pay yourself $10 for a small popcorn and watch a movie on the cheap. Perhaps you’re valiantly struggling through your queue on Netflix or Amazon Prime, and need a wise, cultured voice to direct you to where the real movie viewing gold is hiding amidst the shitty Christmas cartoons and serial killer biopics. Well, look no further. See It Instead is here to take today’s new releases and guide you to what you should really be watching.
Telling the story of yet another princess, Disney’s Frozen is freezing out the competition at the box office. It is loosely based on the beloved and bizarre tale “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen. You know, the guy who wrote all of the heart-warming tales of mermaids with their tongues cut out and little matchstick girls who freeze to death. Family friendly stuff. Parents worried about the potentially dark material of Andersen’s work can have no fear, as this movie is given the complete Disney white-wash, turning it into yet another plucky princess needs to find love story. It’s as loosely based on “The Snow Queen” as Miley Cyrus’ career is based on “music”. Why not skip the marketing of yet another line of pretty princess toys and watch these movies instead?
The Serious Pick: Hans Christian Andersen (1952)
A touching and fanciful introduction to the world and works of Hans Christian Andersen.
While not a biography, Hans Christan Andersen features supremely talented funny-man Danny Kaye as the danish poet/storyteller and creates a fictional sketch of the period and places that influenced the real Andersen as a young man. At one point, this film was slated to include animated versions of Andersen’s most iconic works alongside live action, provided by Disney ironically enough, but as the animation was deemed unworkable, many of the stories are simply narrated by Kaye himself. There is much singing and dancing, which modern audiences may find a bit strange (even recent Disney movies have been slowly ditching the musical schtick), but on the whole the production rises and falls on the talents of Kaye, who was a total showman: deft at slapstick, dance, and blessed with a melancholy and soothing singing voice. It is well worth the time to watch such a talented actor, and hopefully introduce a new audience to his wonderful library.
The Lighthearted Pick: The Ice Pirates (1984)
For fans of “the princess needs hunky hero to solve her ice problems” genre…which is a thing now I guess?
By no means a great movie, The Ice Pirates is a great movie to riff on. Intentionally silly and bloated with sci-fi tropes, this movie is like watching a hybrid of Star Wars and Space Balls where you have to guess scene by scene if this is a tongue in cheek parody or a straight up homage to the late 70’s-early 80’s cornball space opera. Robert Urich, mostly known for his television roles as a hard-nosed stud, is surprisingly agile in this piece, rolling with the camp and sexual innuendo, of which there is a ton. The final scene riffs on the dilemma of aging during time travel, so this movie is at least good for a physic-nerd chuckle. And God knows we need all of those we can get. Plus Ron Perlman and Angelica Huston appear, which means the movie could be about making cheese and I would watch it. So should you!
The Unconventional Pick: The Care Bears in the Land Without Feelings (1983)
If you want to see the power of love melt a cold heart…and bears. Who stare. With their painted tummies…It’s complicated.
Children’s toys seem to come attached to television series as a general rule these days, but The Care Bears line of toys spent many years in the wilderness trying to find the right vehicle to get parents to shell out all of their money. The first solution was for a series of TV movies, of which The Land Without Feeling was the first. It is notable for a less refined animation style, a surprising lack of saccharine melodrama, and some pretty morbid material. The story of the care bears saving children who stop caring from living as stunted green slaves to Professor Coldheart is essentially the hopeless swamp part of The Never Ending Story…for an hour. It gets pretty bleak in there. On the upside, Professor Coldheart steals away children in his car like a creepy pedophile, and then forces them to listen to him sing a song about himself that is pretty great. So you have that to look forward to, at least.