Guest Reviews with Paper Alchemist: The Snow Queen (1995)

Hey, everyone!

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And see ya later, arachnophobes!

It’s your favourite Antipodean arachnid alchemist here. Mouse is off recovering from his holiday in the Big Apple, so I’m filling his wee little shoes this week.

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As Australia is home to the Big Pineapple, the Big Prawn and the Big Banana, I was very disappointed to discover that there is no Big Apple in the Big Apple.

It’s late autumn where I live at the moment. Despite the very loveliest April we’ve ever had, the Season of Mud has now begun, and I can’t feel my extremities. You might have a mental image of me lurking in some rusty outback shack, where it’s hot enough to fry bacon and eggs on the driveway, but I’m from the temperate zone in the south. And believe me, it gets cold down here. Once, in my town, it actually snowed for a couple of minutes!

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‘*snort*’

Australasia

‘She’s dead serious, Europe! Everyone thinks I’m all about beaches and red dirt, but Antarctica’s just across the ditch from me. Sometimes people in Victoria and Tassie have to put on bloody trackie-dacks!’

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‘Is that some kind of anti-shark armour, or…?’

Australasia

‘Nah, ya dag. Tracksuit pants.’

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Long trousers!

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“Pfft…”

Australasia

‘It’s true! Poor buggers have to cover their legs right down to the ankle.’

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‘Sorry. You’re – you’re fine. It’s cute. Don’t let me stop either of you.’

Right now, most of you are probably cuddling little lambies, and dancing around Maypoles with flowers in your hair (I know you don’t have swooping magpies or termite swarms, so I have adjusted my mental image of spring in the Northern Hemisphere accordingly). You guys are just coming into summer right now, so it may strike you as odd that I’m reviewing such a wintry film. But for me, today’s movie is seasonally appropriate.

Which is probably the nicest thing I can say about it.

How shall I begin to explain what makes this little-known film so terrible? What sets The Snow Queen (1995) apart from The Snow Queen (1957), The Snow Queen (1977), The Snow Queen (2005) or The Snow Queen (2012)? Well, let’s start with the source material.

If The Snow Queen (‘Snedronningen’, 1844) can be considered a fairy tale, then it might be my favourite one. Not because I’m a particular fan of Hans Christian Andersen…

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‘Happily ever after? What an odd thing to say.’

… but because of its emphasis on platonic/fraternal love, and its astoundingly progressive treatment of its female characters considering the time in which it was written. The women in this story are adventurous, innocent, magical, evil, wise, caring, rough and haughty by turns, but they’re all active characters and several are fascinating. The heroine, Gerda, does fit a nineteenth-century feminine ideal of sweetness and selflessness, but she has a determination and optimism that ensures she’s active throughout her own story.

This is partly why I didn’t love Frozen to the moon and back. I liked it just fine – it’s a sweet movie with very catchy tunes that manages to retain most of the emphasis on sibling love – and some of its changes to the source material, like the decision to humanise the Snow Queen herself, are quite clever. But in terms of adapting The Snow Queen, it actually looks kind of conservative by comparison in adding so many male characters who are instrumental to the plot. And considering the number of landscapes little Gerda moves through and how they differ (gardens, palaces, a spooky wood), Frozen seemed to me, at first viewing, to be very blue and white – visually restrained, compared to the sumptuous colours of most animated blockbusters these days.

Right now, though, I feel like an idiot for ever thinking Frozen wasn’t excellent. I feel like a prisoner trying to appease a three-day hunger with a dry rusk, knowing in the hollow pit of my stomach that I deserve this punishment because I once complained that ice cream was not my favourite dessert.

And what a stale, weevil-infested rusk this movie is.

There’s not much I can say about the film’s development. It seems that both Ventureworld Films and Martin Gates (director) have disappeared from human memory. From the few stubs I’ve managed to glean, the company was pretty short-lived. The Snow Queen seems to have been their first feature out of four. They started production on it in 1991, finished in 1995, and disappeared from the face of the earth by 1998. The film was only intended for home release. I think. Piecing this stuff together is like trying to build a prehistoric fish out of a jawbone and three vertebrae. It was probably trying to corner the lucrative ‘out-of-the-loop-relative’ market, hoping a flustered, distracted or elderly hand would grab the VHS from the shelves of the Blockbuster.

I found exactly one critic review for The Snow Queen which called it ‘humorous and neatly drawn’. I’d disagree with everything in that review, except for the part that called it ‘nothing spectacular’.

Okay, so let’s have a look at the bahahaha!

Sorry, I just… I have to… what the hell is happening with this cover? Is that a wonky-browed blue Snow Queen in a spiky turban emerging from a glass trophy? Who’s the guy in the teal turtleneck, and why is he so laissez-faire about this adventure? Is that supposed to be Kay?

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‘I’ve been stabbed in the heart? Ah, swings and roundabouts.’

Oh boy. Okay. Guess we’d better find out.

The first thing I notice about the credits is that it isn’t ‘HCA’s The Snow Queen,’ but ‘The Snow Queen, written by Sue Radley and Martin Gates, inspired by the […] Andersen story.’ This is akin to saying your shampoo is ‘inspired by nature’, when it’s actually made of sodium laureth sulphate and methylchloroisothiasolinone and benzalethafragilisticexpialidocious and two drops of what might have once been a coconut.

Depending on your translation, the original Snow Queen begins with an evil troll, the devil himself, or ‘a most wicked magician!!!’ creating a mirror that makes everything beautiful look ugly, and blows everything ugly way out of proportion. This time, we start straight off the bat with the Snow Queen. Sure – valid creative decision. Perhaps a most wicked magician!!! (or Satan) would only complicate your story at this point. Our Snow Queen is standing on a mountain in a blizzard.

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So far, so good: appropriately evil laugh, billowing jacket, lots of snow. What heinous scheme has filled her with such glee, such –?

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Wait – slow that zoom down, I haven’t –

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Aaaah! She’s all up in my grill!

Aaand she’s gone. That was, what, a four-second cackle?

We’re now in a generic cozy living room, where a generic granny is reading a generic fairy tale tome to a generic blonde child.

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These kids are Tom, Polly and Ellie. Tom (Damian Hunt) is assembling a puzzle while Ellie (Ellie Beaven) watches. She blandly asks how he’s so good at putting the identical pieces of sky together, and he blandly replies:

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‘Talent, I suppose. And intelligence. I shall probably grow up to be a genius.’

Maybe you will grow up to be a genius, Tom. Go ahead and apply for that scholarship at the University of 84-Piece Jigsaw Puzzles. Perhaps you’ll complete your Masters in Barn Puzzles. You could write a PhD thesis on Sky Assembly. Who knows? Maybe one day you’ll finally graduate to hundred-piece jigsaw puzzles!

Now, these kids look suspiciously similar to the ones on the cover, but I’m sure that’s for a reason. We’ll no doubt end up back in the book in a minute, and find out Kay and Gerda look exactly like them, costumes aside, as if they’re imagining themselves as the heroes.

There’s an attempt at character establishment centred around Polly’s teddy, and who plays what role at bedtime. My confidence in the script is dropping by the second, and it’s taking far too long to get back to that book.

But – thank God – it turns out a talking animal was eavesdropping on them the whole time. Surely he’ll be the one to set us straight. Come on, bird, where’s our real heroine?

That’s odd. He’s not narrating. He’s just… tripping over things and having snow fall on him. I was sure he was about to tell us the rest of the original story. I mean, he was pretty cheesed off about Granny stopping – it seemed like the ideal segue into him becoming our narrator.

Unless these are our heroes?

Nah. Can’t be. The Snow Queen’s been established as fictional in this universe, after all.

Oh, but now we’re drifting over the frozen wilderness until we arrive at an ice palace. So the Snow Queen is real? And her castle has a… chimney?

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Huh. I guess the cold did bother her after all.

Actually, the chimney belongs to the Snow Queen’s troll servants. These unlovely fuckers are Eric, Wardrobe and Baggy (voiced by Don’t Know, Don’t Care and Ear Poison).

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I can only assume the screenwriter named them after his best mate, the nearest piece of furniture, and the packet of weed beside him. They’re nailing together a flying machine (?) out of brass plates (??) under the threat of being fed to the Snow Queen’s bats (??????). Even Wardrobe admits it’s ‘aerodynamically suspect’.

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Ow! Shit! My logical cortex!

The trolls are summoned via Magic-Ice-Skype by the Snow Queen. She’s a campy piece of work, voiced by…

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Helen Mirren?!

The Snow Queen herself is my favourite thing about this movie. She chews the scenery, spits it out and shoots ice lasers at it from her eyes. You can tell Mirren’s having fun: she breathes the words ‘oh, how delicious!’ like she’s just seen the world’s most precious baby, and can’t wait to raise it as her evil protégé.

This Snow Queen wants to deflect all the sunlight from Earth in order to freeze it and rule it eternally. Despite the fact that her mirror is barely five metres tall, her employees could be outsmarted by a potato, and most of Europe appears to be already frozen.

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So she’s clearly deranged. And she’ll probably die of Ebola keeping those bats in her coat. But, damn, bitch got style.

Her design, although a little bit generic, is the best in the film. Everybody else in this thing is either blandly hideous or hideously bland, but the Snow Queen’s dress and the planes of her face actually gleam and sparkle like she’s carved out of ice, which is a nice touch. In fact, I feel like one of the animators must have had a thing for old Snowy because she’s markedly more beautiful than the rest of the rather cartoony cast, and she’s always striking these poses that show off her curves.

Mind you, her earrings aren’t attached to any ears and she doesn’t appear to have feet either, so that should give you some idea of the level of care we’re looking at here.

The trolls fly over the palace in the brass balloon and engage in some pointless slapstick nonsense before lifting the Queen’s mirror to the top of a mountain. From here, at just the right angle, it should deflect all sunlight from an entire planet. A delicate operation, considering the fragility of the mirror and the Snow Queen’s sanity. It will take the utmost care and precision.

Naturally, the trolls slam it down on the summit and prop it up with a single ice pick.

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Perfect.

Of course, it shatters inside a minute, and the pieces fall to earth to the sound of wobbly violins. Mirren gives the most glorious wail of ‘My mirror! MYYY MIRRAAAAA!’ as we follow the fragments down to the village. From the North Pole.

Back at the Bland Family home, Tom goes outside to collect firewood and finds the bird from earlier. ‘Cheep, cheep,’ says the bird, and I have to agree with him: cheap is exactly the right word to describe this movie.

The pieces of glass tinkle as they fall, despite not touching each other, and then…

Oh no. 

Oh no.

The glass has hit Tom’s eye and… his eyebrows… they’re turning down… and his voice… sounded almost mean for half a second there… which means… oh, God, I can barely stand to say it…

Tom is Kay and Ellie is Gerda and I’m stuck with them for the rest of the movie somebody help somebody please help they’re so boring they’re so inoffensively sweet and nice I can’t do this Mouse I can’t listen to their expressionless droning for another hour somebody help…

Anyone?

Anyone want to watch Frozen with me instead?

Ugh. 

Well, anyway, Tom is struck in the eye and the heart by pieces of the mirror. It’s been established that it’s not a magic ugly mirror like in the original story, so I don’t know why they make him turn into a little Joffrey, but they do. He tries to stomp on the bird, tramps over Ellie’s puzzle, insults their grandma and… becomes amazingly fast at puzzles? Which then make him furious? If this was closer to the original story, it might have made sense: the devil’s mirror made everything beautiful turn ugly, so Kay could hate a puzzle for showing an idealised image of pastoral life, which seems suddenly twee to him. As for Tom, though… I suppose they’re too easy for him now? Because he’s evil? Because evil… makes you smarter? Or is it that evil makes you angry at random things?

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‘Fuck you, Ravensberger!’

The Queen sends her rapidly colour-changing bats to collect the million pieces of broken mirror. (And why bats, may I ask? What was wrong with Andersen’s ‘snow wasps’ and ‘snow chickens’?) But upon discovering that the final two are ‘inside the boy’ (and she says that line very creepily), she decides to ‘fetch them [her]self’. The next morning when Tom and Ellie decide to go sledding in the village square, neither of them are surprised by the stranger with the white sleigh and demonic purple reindeer until she has already taken them way beyond the town limits. Ellie begins to protest – and, actually, I might have been unfair on little Ellie Beaven earlier. She’s putting way more emotion into the character than the animators are. The sleigh leaps into the air and a blue hand cuts Ellie’s sled rope.

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‘Lazy bastard kooka-!’

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‘Oi! We’re not bloody lazy!’ ‘Yeah, we’re perch-and-pounce predators!’ ‘Right, Frank! And that’s the pot calling the kettle black, coming from a HUNTSMAN SPIDER!’

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Um, I – um – shut up! And it’s huntsWOMAN spider to you!

Ellie tumbles into a snowdrift, Tom’s eye sparkles like a disco ball, the demonic reindeer morph into bats and Snowy flies away on a sled shaped like an evil goose.

There’s a sentence I never thought I’d type.

As Ellie raises her broken body from the ground, that same nattering sparrow from before starts spitting snow and accusations at her. Looks like he’s going to stick around, then. His name is Peeps, as it turns out, and he’s voiced by… Hugh Laurie?

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Argh! My logical cortex!

Peeps… Hmm. What can I say about Peeps?

Peeps makes me question the very foundations of my identity.

See, as regular readers may know, I’m a bit of a nature nerd. (Walking stereotype? Who, me?) I’ve dived in a shark tank and on coral reefs; watched rare orangutans, sea turtles, platypi and dugongs in the wild; been climbed by silver langurs, tree frogs, possums, parrots and a snake as long as a school bus. I can take you on a hike, point out every interesting animal, plant or fungus, and bore your ears off with trivia about it. I have my own personal landcare project in the forest in my backyard, removing introduced trees to revitalise the habitat for native species. And that is tough, what with all the bull-ants, razor grass and the deadliest thing in Australia: skin cancer.

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Slip on a long shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat, slide on some sunglasses, and then slither under a rock so the horrible, horrible sunshine can never find you.

In short, I have always thought of myself as someone who loves animals: the hopelessly fragile, the freakishly dangerous, and everything in between.

But I fucking hate Peeps.

Laurie’s putting in some effort, but his expressive delivery can’t hide the fact that Peeps is every terrible sidekick trope rolled into a single mosquito-in-the-ear of a character. He’s always bitching and moaning, fretting about what’s going to happen next, or hilariously tripping over his tiny scarf.

Anyway, Peeps tells Ellie that the stranger was the Snow Queen, and tries to dissuade her from going to rescue Tom by telling her that Snowy eats children and has ‘hundreds of trolls and dragons.’ Which is a reasonable move, because the truth – she’s magical and shoots lasers from her eyes – would probably make half the children I know desperate to meet her. It doesn’t work on Ellie, though: determined to save Tom, she sets off then and there for the North Pole, without any supplies. And with a possible concussion. Peeps is struck by guilt, and decides to accompany her.

Meanwhile, Tom is welcomed into the Snow Queen’s palace where the first thing he notices is the broken mirror. Snowy promises him a ‘suitable reward’ if he can fix it. Now, I do like the homage here to the Andersen version, in which the Queen promises Kay he can go free if he spells ‘Eternity’ with ice shards. It also means Snowy has a convenient way to explain to Tom why she needs him, even though she didn’t know at first that he was a puzzle prodigy. What I find odd is the fact that she fondles a dagger right in front of him! I doubt he’ll ‘grow up to be a genius’, but he can’t be too thick to notice that!

It’s getting late for Peeps and Ellie in the dark woods. But they have promises to keep, and miles to go before they sleep, so they press on until they come to a house which is… wow! It’s actually beautiful! Have we stumbled into a different movie?

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A witch (Julia McKenzie) owns the cottage, and despite the skulls casually lying around the place, Peeps and Ellie accept her hospitality. In Andersen’s version, the witch was just lonely, and wanted to keep Gerda by her side forever. This time, she needs Ellie’s heart to make an elixir of eternal life.

But what’s happening with the music? There are conspiratorial oboes now. Is this… a song? 26 minutes into a 75-minute movie and now it’s a musical? As if that wasn’t confusing enough, the witch turns herself young during the song. So why does she need the potion at all?

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Ow! My logical-… I swear, one more trick like this, movie, and I’ll have to get an MRI.

To be fair to the movie, she says the potion will bring her fame and riches, although the song is only about eternal youth. But this suggests to me that they wrote the song first, realised it didn’t make sense, and hastily rewrote her lines so that her plan wouldn’t be so silly. While I’m on the topic of the song, I have to talk about these lyrics:

The only thing that’s needed to complete my potion/ of backward motion/ is a little girl

And now that I have found her I’ll be on my way back/ What a payback/ Welcome to my world (Welcome to my world, Cuddles! Hee hee hee hee!)

A payback for whom? And Cuddles, her cat, is already in her world. He’s miaowing along with her! So these lyrics were clearly picked for no other reason that to make them not quite rhyme. I can think of three alternatives that would fit better here. Watch my plan unfurl. Let’s give it a whirl. Change ‘girl’ to ‘child’ and then you could say  I’ll no longer be reviled. 

The witch’s cat catches Peeps, who screams for help. Ellie wakes up, and makes this horrible wall-eyed face:

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Argh! Go back to sleep, go back to sleep!

The witch locks Ellie up in a convenient dungeon cell to stop her interfering, but in the course of trying to eat Peeps, the cat knocks over the witch’s equipment. The witch lectures her cat for an inordinately long time, allowing Peeps and Ellie to make their escape.

We get a minute or two of the trolls’ annoying slapstick shenanigans while Tom fixes the mirror. Snowy, I am disappointed in you. You promised to kill them. Did you find out the hard way that bats aren’t some kind of piranhas of the sky?

Next morning we return to Ellie and Peeps in the forest. In their search for breakfast, they come across a pair of giant ravens who work at a palace. The male is Les (Richard Tate), a butler, and the female is Ivy, a maid, voiced by… I-Imelda Staunton?!

Just how many of Britain’s most successful actors are in this thing? Are we going to hear Dame Judi Dench speaking from the beak of a friendly ptarmigan? Is there a Stephen Fry polar bear waiting in the wings? Will our heroine be waylaid by a pair of lemmings with the voices of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost?

And can I review that movie instead?

Ellie tells them she’s looking for her brother, and the ravens say a boy, who fits a very vague description of Tom, came to the palace the other day and is now betrothed to the princess. He had to ‘pass all the tests’ to qualify for her hand, and Ellie assumes that Tom, being a puzzle buff, could have done so.

The ravens sneak Ellie into the palace by disguising her as a new maid and then –

Gah, not another song!

‘Highly Recommended’ is a pretty basic ditty. It’s not even really about anything – essentially it’s just Les saying, ‘I told everyone you were excellent so don’t muck this up, kid,’ which is kind of a cruel sentiment, despite the bouncy tune. Not ‘good luck’, or ‘welcome to the palace staff’, but ‘don’t fuck up my reputation’. To make matters worse, I can’t get the bloody thing out of my head!

Anyway, Ellie takes a dish of jelly and fruit to the princess. But though she’s in the midst of royalty, she can’t take her eyes off the figure silhouetted in the window. He turns to face her…

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UGH! NO! Turn back around, you’re hideous!

Ellie shrieks and drops the tray. She falls to her knees on the cold, unforgiving tiles. Sobbing, she covers her eyes, that they might not see any more ugliness, but it is too late. She has borne witness to the Prince, and she will see him evermore in her nightmares.

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Thought I was joking?

Her distress at the Prince’s cross-eyed, lumpy visage (fine – at not having found Tom) is kind of hilarious because it just clashes so much with the cheerfulness of the previous scene. Also, Ellie has heretofore displayed the emotional depth of a thimble. It’s like seeing a microwave cry. It’s so sudden and weird that I can’t help but giggle. Even Peeps, whose design doesn’t allow for much expression in the beak zone, is looking at her here as if to say, ‘Christ, Ellie, I had no idea you even knew what feelings were.’

Luckily, the two misshapen youngsters (proof of royal inbreeding if ever I’ve seen it) don’t stick around for long. They decide they can only help Ellie by speeding on her way. They send her off in their Royal Runaround, a sort of multi-terrain steamboat on skis, bidding her good luck, cheerio, toodle-pip, au revoir, farewell, and several other increasingly ridiculous synonyms for goodbye.

Peeps, whiny little bludger that he is, loves the luxury of the Runaround, and shortly bursts into another song with ‘The Open Road’. He’s ostensibly thrilled to not be flying or hopping, and enjoying the travel now that he has a cushy chair. But he’s actually more active during this song than he has been for pretty much the entire movie, dancing around on the machine as opposed to riding on Ellie’s shoulder. And hang on – Ellie herself hasn’t had a song yet. They gave one to the witch, the ravens, and Peeps, but not to our heroine. Did they have to work around it because the girl can’t sing?

Ooooh. Yes. Yes, that’s exactly why. Not only can the poor kid not quite hit the notes, she has suddenly put on an American accent for some reason.

Their singing, and their garish vehicle, attract the attention of a gang of bandits. In the book, they were normal human criminals, but these guys are… I don’t know what they are.

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Are they wolves? Rats? Giant anthropomorphic antechinuses?

The Bandits of Indeterminate Species are led by the Robber King (Rik Mayall… yep), who demands that they seize the Runaround so as to pillage future targets more effectively. They set up an ambush for Ellie and Peeps. ‘I don’t like this very much,’ says Ellie flatly, as the Runaround careens into the hillside, but it could be that the mic was left on under little Ellie Beaven’s nose.

Neither do I, darling.

The Robbers capture Ellie, which means it’s time for my favourite character! Took you long enough, movie. Let’s have a big hand for this spunky chick, ladies, gentlemen and assorted personalities of the comment section!

She’s a robber!

She’s a girl!

Sheeeeee’s…

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GAAAAAH!

Bloody hell. Sharpson, you magnificent bastard.

Let me explain. HCA’s Robber Girl is a child raised by bandits who lives in a castle, mucking around with knives and wild animals. She plays a bit too rough for Gerda, but by the end of the story she learns how to be a kind person (if not a law-abiding one), leaves the robber gang and goes on her own swashbuckling adventures. Robber Girl:

  1. Has spent all her life running around the woods and subsisting on foraged food.
  2. Was raised by her mother, who beats and berates her.
  3. Is gleefully, unashamedly wild and naughty.
  4. Is desperate to make friends, but too naïve and poorly-raised to know how.
  5. Turns out to have a 24-carat heart underneath it all, giving up her own pet deer and the world’s biggest ham sandwich to help Gerda on her quest.

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    6. Likes fancy muffs. Nudge, nudge; wink, wink.

This movie looked hard at the Robber Girl, wrote a list of all the traits that make her complex and endearing, and threw that list in the toilet. In her place, we have Angora (Staunton again): a chunky robber princess, spoiled by her loving father, who scorns robbers as ‘cultureless peasants’, and who never – not once! – asks Ellie if she can warm her hands in her muff. Oh, and also, Staunton’s putting on the actual worst voice. Angora sounds like a screaming rabbit made of squeaky balloons punching a Boohbah in the balls.

There’s another interlude with Tom, Snowy and those gsdflkgsjsfhfhsnsncfing trolls. Tom’s not enjoying himself, so Snowy gives him a kiss that makes his face blue and his pupils… square? The trolls considerately (ha ha ha ha sob sob) gives us exposition on the nature of Snowy’s kiss: Tom can’t resist the impulse to finish the mirror, but he’s forgotten everything else about who he is and the world around him, and also it’s going to kill him. I expect this would heighten the urgency of Ellie’s mission, if I cared, which I don’t.

Meanwhile, Ellie is tied up and put in a shed while the robbers celebrate their victory. Through song, of course, because I haven’t suffered enough. Mayall’s barely singing – he’s just sort of speaking the lyrics. In the shed, Ellie meets a flying reindeer by the name of Dimly (Gary Martin). His character is essentially not that much different from that of Peeps – nervous and pessimistic. While Peeps comes off as a whiny little bitch, though, Dimly actually seems to be suffering from deep-seated anxiety issues. It’s making me uncomfortable, how much this goofy-looking deer hates himself. I mean, I hate him, but it’s kind of disturbing that he was written this way.

Eventually, Peeps shows up to free them both. The robbers are defeated by a series of ludicrous pratfalls and we’re on our way again, off to find the wise woman who runs Dimly’s flying reindeer school.

Sure. Pile more characters in there, why don’t you?

Soon, Ellie, Dimly and Peeps arrive at their destination. They’re greeted by some reindeer that look like creepy dogs, singing a Caribbean-style number about Frieda’s Famous Flying School.

Or maybe that’s just the hallucinations brought on by the gentle collapsing of my brain.

Frieda the Lapland woman (McKenzie again) has been drawn as a kind of magical Indigenous American. But once the song is over, she springs into action, making her the smartest and most useful character in the movie so far. She packs a bunch of magical bits and bobs and sets a course for the ice palace virtually straight away, telling Dimly to ‘be quiet [and] stop being so defeatist’.

Huh. You know, Frieda’s starting to grow on me.

Peeps, Ellie and Frieda fly on Dimly’s back to the ice palace. The trolls accost them in the doorway, but instead of throwing the intruders out, they patiently listen to Ellie’s explanation. And then something truly horrible happens. As Ellie speaks, Eric – the leader troll – starts to blush. Mate, she’s… what, nine? And a different species! Urgh. Bleccch. Creepy. Disgusting.

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And I know creepy and disgusting.

The trolls let our heroes in and Ellie finds Tom kneeling by the mirror. He’s in a frozen trance, repeating ‘It’s not finished. I must finish. I must get it finished,’  in a robotic monotone, kind of like me working on this review. He doesn’t recognise his sister, which in the original Snow Queen was heartbreaking. Here, Ellie’s mildly confused, and Frieda tells her, in a tone of utter boredom, ‘Some of that evil mirror is inside him – we must dissolve it away or he’ll die.’ After a moment of magical dabbling, she announces, ‘There we are. My super-effective and fast-acting potion especially for dissolving pieces of mirror out of people’s eyes and hearts.’

OH, HOW CONVENIENT.

Ellie tries to give Tom the potion to drink, but the Snow Queen appears out of nowhere and zaps it from Ellie’s hand.

Where the hell has Snowy been, anyway? Was she on the magical ice phone? Was she sleeping? Reapplying her eye-shadow?

She starts freezing trolls and sidekicks left and right as they try to overpower her. Peeps threatens to punch her, and the Snow Queen is so shocked, her lips disappear for several frames.

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Four years of production, everybody.

This moves incredibly slowly for a fight scene. Dimly’s reaction is shown, even though he’s outside. Ellie backs away but the animation’s so terrible it looks like she’s just shrinking. It’s a confounding mess.

Blah, blah, Ellie and Snowy are the last ones standing. Blah, blah, Dimly gallops onto the scene to bowl Snowy over. Blah, blah, a stray bolt of ice laser knocks the potion down from the ceiling so that it shatters on the mirror and creates an ice tornado that freezes everything in its path. It’s all very predictable.

The Snow Queen is chased out of the palace by the ice tornado (are you forgetting something, Snowy?) but it freezes her just as her sleigh takes off into the sky. Given that she appears to be made of ice to begin with, I don’t think that’s going to hold her for long. And neither does the movie itself, to judge by the ominous flashing of her eyes. Still, Ellie’s tears wash the mirror splinters out of Tom’s body and he returns to normal. That pretty much ties up all the necessary loose ends so that’s got to be the end of oh nooooo…

tsqrevenge.jpg

‘Featuring Brenda the Wollybird and the Ice-o-saurus!’ 

 

Animation: 3/20

That’s for Snowie and the prettily painted backgrounds – not least, the witch’s garden. Everything else is really ugly or just really boring to look at. The lip syncing is so terrible that I initially thought the movie must have been dubbed from Slovakian. There’s a lot of recycling, really obvious animation flubs, changes of scale, inconsistent designs, nonsensical physics…

Leads: 3/20

The little girl gets a pass for effort for her voicework. As written, Ellie and Tom are as bland as plaster on a rice cracker.

On the other hand, Peeps could be exactly what I need to motivate the Federal Environment Minister to start an Invasive Bird Species Eradication Program.

Villain: 11/20

Enthusiastic hammery by Mirren, and she’s the closest thing to the fairy tale in this whole sorry mess. But her character is pretty much Generic Evil Queen, and despite all her posturing, she’s not all that intimidating.

Supporting characters: 1/20

Frieda’s kind of appealing. I would rather tip a barrel of snakes over my head than spend another second with the others.

Music Noise: 0/20

That’s for the sound as well as the music and songs. Sound effects in this film don’t sound quite like the thing they’re supposed to represent, or go on for way longer than they’re supposed to. Every song sounds like the most stereotypical example of its genre you can imagine. The worst thing is how hard the music tries to convince you that something is funny. Some pointless slapstick happens and the background music goes from utter silence to a chirpy ‘de-de-deedily, deedily, deedily-dee!’ to emphasise just how wacky these hijinks have become. It’s like a laugh track on a dull sitcom.

Total: 18%

Next week: Hope you enjoyed your holiday, ya scheming furball. (Mouse is back.)

Amelia Mellor, aka Paper Alchemist, is an emerging playwright and novelist based in Australia.

50 comments

  1. Thanks for the review, and reminding me why I seldom watch anything that does not include “Muppets” in the title.

    For an actually good adaptation of The Snow Queen, how about reading “The Raven and the Reindeer” by T. Kingfisher. (Yes, it’s actually Ursula Vernon, but it’s a cool pen name, so let’s roll with it. 😉)

    1. My pleasure, Jackel. I’ve had just about all I can take of Snow Queen adaptations for a little while, but I’ll keep it in mind.

      1. You’ll get what’s coming to you, my fine furry friend. I just have to… planet.

      2. Next you’ll be asking, “someone please Venus off of this terribly addictive pun thread!”

  2. Awww, for a second I thought you were reviewing the Soviet one. The one so beautiful it supposedly singlehandedly inspired Hayao frickin’ Miyazaki.

    Also, will you ever unlock Under the Doona again? There’s no shame in having one that petered out partway through, and I’d like to reread them sometime.

    1. Not likely, I’m afraid. I got paranoid that I was going to jeopardise my future career in YA fiction (and my thesis supervisor agreed). Considering I’m now chasing agents to represent my first novel, ‘Anomalies’, I sort of don’t want them out there. The industry here is small. I think I’d be kind of dumb to keep shit-talking other writers.

      But I’m glad you like my writing! I’ll let you know when ‘Anomalies’ finds its home.

  3. Excellent review, Amelia! 🙂 I’m a little ashamed to admit that I still haven’t read The Snow Queen, although I’ve been meaning to check it out for a while. Hopefully I’ll get around to it one of these days. Any opinions as to what the best film adaptation of the story is?

    As an aside, do you have a blog, or somewhere else we can read your writing? I’d love to see more of your work. 🙂

    1. Ah! You guys make me so happy.

      Used to have a blog, but closed it down. But when my novel gets published, I’ll start another one.

      1. Ah, sorry to hear that about your old blog. I look forward to reading your next one. 🙂 And congratulations on writing a novel!

  4. Nice review! Man, Mouse really saddled you with a stinker, eh? That movie looks sub-Care Bears in quality.

    What were so many good British actors doing in this thing? They can’t have had a good budget, with animation of that caliber. Did the producers have incriminating photos of some sort of BAFTA orgy?

    1. It’s actually fairly easy to get a high powered cast for animation. A few thousand and residuals for the rest of your life, all for a few hours work in your tracksuit bottoms? Who could say no to that?

  5. Great review paperalchemist! I vaguely remember seeing the first few minutes on YT, but then getting bored and switching it off. And my thoughts on the original fairytale are the same as yours, I’d love to see it get a proper adaptation someday (also, I remember your old blog and miss it too, your Hobbit review was something of an influence when I was writing my review of the first film, but I understand why you took it down. Good luck with your book!)

    1. When Mouse first gave me the link, I was all, ‘aw, this isn’t so bad.’ And then the trolls appeared and I would have sold my firstborn (pet chicken) to turn the thing off.

      I’m so glad you liked it! I did feel a lot better after closing it, though. And there’s plenty more writing in these fingers (legs? I don’t know how Mouse keeps this up) of mine. Just nothing that’s public at the moment.

  6. Still not ready to forgive Frozen…but yeah, there are a number of terrible adaptations of this one out there….last Christmas I stumbled over a CGI one (don’t ask…just don’t….)

    1. There’s one that airs on the kids’ channel here every Christmas with a creepy children’s choir in the background. I thought I dreamed it but then it turned out to be real…

  7. Assuming the comment about “growing up to be a genius” is actually in the movie, Tom was incredibly unlikable well before he got mirror in his heart. I missed the part from the original story where Kai was a pompous asshole.

    1. Nope, he really says it! But in a very mechanical way, so that he comes off not as an arrogant little bastard but as a robot who simply tells it like it is.

  8. Sweet summer child. You know nothing of cold.
    I come from a land where winter is not a season, it is a declaration of war by Mother Nature herself.
    A land where the cold is not a temperature, it is a foe seeking to kill you through every manner imaginable. Be it the water, the exploding trees, or even the air itself, it wishes to leave your corpse as a message to all who would dare attempt to live here.
    The Snow Queen did not set up shop here for she found it too cold for even her evil to flourish.
    A land called……Michigan

      1. Michigan… Is that the one that’s so freezing it’s actually shaped like some kind of… snow… glove… thing?

      1. Fair point. We just have the amusement of being literally shaped like a winter accessory to go with the joke of how cold it gets.

  9. The word you seek is “Mitten”. A device used to warm the hand in temperatures that would cause frostbite. The state requires one, or else the state itself would freeze and die.

  10. Huh, there’s another animated Snow Queen movie? Fascinating. The only one I’ve seen was live action. And I really mean the only one because of how hard it’s been for me and my sister to set aside time to watch that Frozen DVD my grandma got us. I’ve certainly never heard of this one, though I’ve got the feeling that may be a good thing. I don’t know why that caribou has the face of a sea lion, but I have a feeling explanations will not be given.

    Ha ha, “just coming into Summer” Yeah, maybe a decade ago. Global warming’s effectively bit the country I’m in hard, so summer’s started early. May’s flowers came in April, whose showers were skipped completely. And poor Alberta’s only gone orange for about a year before going orange in the literal sense (as in turning into a ball of fire) and B. C. got turned into B. B. Q. this time last year. Having lived in Canada though, I can empathize with the chill. Even if we didn’t even get snow this winter, which by our standards is pretty ridiculous.

  11. Ha ha, I love the throwback to Kay and his don’t-give-a-crapitude. It’s been a long time since Sword in the Stone has been brought up. ……..Wait, wrong Kay. Though perhaps the screenwriters made the same mistake. In any case, that kookaburra banter made me laugh. As did the Robert Frost reference in this review of a frosty snow movie. Though I wonder what made the screenwriters decide to turn the witch into a Hocus Pocus extra. And speaking of Sword in the Stone again, I doubt that witch can pull off a musical number while turning young and pretty without a silvery voice and long purple hair. Not everyone can be Mim, ma’am.

    …Wait, piranhas of the sky? Why on earth would an Australian need to use animals from another continent to make a deadly ravenous beast metaphor? I think you really do need an MRI, Miss Alchemist! And I guess you’ve probably learned your lesson about trusting rodents. Though considering where you live, it’s a wonder you hadn’t much earlier.

    1. Glad to hear it, Honkey.

      The thing is, we don’t actually have a lot of creatures that eat you. Nature got a bit more creative than that. Crocs sometimes hunt people, and sharks will take an arm out of mistaken identity, but after that, there are kickers, biters, stingers, suckers, spur-ers, swoopers and droppers (not drop bears, but widowmakers – aka, tree limbs that fall because it’s wet, windy, dry or just because the tree was feeling chunky that day). But you know what I’m actually scared of, apart from the sun? Bears. What’s with bears?! They’re too big! The teeth! The claws!They’re like something out of the Pleistocene! What do you do about them? Crocs might be bad news but at least they don’t sprint!

      As for explanations – I think there were like ten animators, and some of them couldn’t draw? Because Snowy’s bats change colour five times, and there’s a fawn in the background early in the movie that looks like a deer.

      Also, I don’t know why I trust that sly little fuzzbudget. Maybe my legs are too spindly to carry both me and a grudge.

  12. I love this review. I remember Ellie Beavan when she was on TV, wonder where she’s got to now. i want to watch this just for the review and see how bad it is, especially with all of the well known actors

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