For years, I have been a big supporter of revival cinema. There's something uniquely wonderful in the air when a crowd of people gather together in a theater to see an old movie that they could easily watch on TV. There's a shared sense of enthusiasm in these cinematic events, because most people who attend them came to love the movie the way it was intended: unfurling on a big screen before and eager audience.
Obviously, in my line of work, I see a lot of movies in theaters. Rarely do I see the kind of unifying excitement at new releases that happens during revival screenings. But then I saw the Frozen Sing-A-Long.
In its tenth week in theaters, Disney made an unprecedented move by re-releasing the film in 2,000 screens as a sing-along, complete with a lyrics on the screen and a helpful bouncing snowflake. Full Disclosure: I absolutely love Frozen. After I saw it at a press screening, I mainlined the soundtrack for days on end until I knew every word. Then I played it some more. As of Friday, I had seen it twice in theaters. But this third time, I wouldn't have to bite my lip when the urge to sing along with Elsa, Anna, Olaf and Kristoff hit me. I could really let it go. And when I did, I discovered a cinematic experience unlike any I had had before.
Here is my GIF review of the Frozen Sing-A-Long. Note: There are spoilers for Frozen below.
The Frozen Sing-A-Long seemed tailor-made for a girls night out, so me and fellow critics/Frozen fans Angie Han and Perri Nemiroff selected the latest Friday night screening we could find. Why? Because Baby Ella singing may be irresistible to most, but it's not my thing. Instead, this will be like karaoke. Which means we'll need a bit of booze for courage. Problem solved.
With some white wine and a girlish giddiness we walk into a theater that had only three other people. But as the movie drew closer to showtime, we are joined by about 30 more. Six are children, the rest were adults in pairs, groups, mostly. It seems like a good crowd. Then in troops a bunch of men enter just as the trailers start. They sit right behind us and as they chat through the trailers….
The opening bars of Frozen starts and there's a discontented murmur as no lyrics appear for the gorgeous chant, "Vuelle". But then comes "Frozen Heart", here we go!
Little Anna teases, "The sky's awake; so I'm awake. So we have to play!" Anna asks Elsa, "Do you want to build a snowman, and one audience member yelps, "Yes!"
"Do You Want To Build A Snowman? Come on and let's go and play!"
I misjudged the men behind me. They are not here to be snarky or distracting. They clearly love this movie. They know all the words, even the spoken interludes of the songs, which are not put on screen. And these men are singing beautifully and with panache. Blame it on the wine if you will, but I am a teary mess by song's end.
Elsa runs away across the ice path she's made, and I realize I could watch this movie on a loop forever.
Building up to "Let It Go," you can feel the theater pulsating with anticipation. And we're off! Every man, woman and child taps into their inner diva in this moment.
A theater employee who'd wandered in to do that mysterious business with the flashlight, waited out the whole song. At the end, we applauded ourselves, and he said, "That was nice!" If "Let It Go" doesn't win the Oscar for Best Song, there will be a riot.
Footsize doesn’t matter? Just got that.
Olaf appears and my heart explodes into glitter and Lisa Frank posters.
Singing together has made the disparate crowd a chipper community. There's a vibrant warmth and joy in this theater.
Hot Glogg!? The white wine is tasty, but we could have drunk on theme!
Anna confronts Elsa, begs her to come home. We're all singing along, and I'm crying (yes, again). This scene is fantastic on its own, but when you can feel your own ribcage vibrating with the songs, the emotions are even more deeply felt. I'm shaking (and crying) as Elsa cries out, "I can't!"
"Fixer Upper" is the only song on the soundtrack I don't care for. It seems I'm not alone as the voices have fallen off for this one.
"Oh Anna, if only there was someone who loved you."
Kristoff returns! May this movie make little girls dream of meeting a "valiant, pungent reindeer king" over a prince charming!
Angie points out that it was dumb when Day After Tomorrow's characters ran from cold, but here it works.
I've sung myself horse. Anna strains to cry out for Kristoff, and I literally feel her pain.
Many fans have commented that Frozen could have used one last song. In a Sing-A-Long environment, that feeling is even greater. I am half-hoping the men's chorus behind me (they must be) will sing one of the fan-made variants.
Nope. It doesn't matter. Even without a reprise of "Do You Want To Build A Snowman?" I am crying again.
Frozen has drawn to a close; the whole audience applauds heartily. Before we head out, I make it a point to thank the men behind us for their singing. It really was terrific.
Now, it's after midnight, my eyes are wet with tears and I'm grinning like a fool. It's no exaggeration to say The Frozen Sing-A-Long is one of the most wonderful theatrical experiences I've ever had. There was a harmony, literal and metaphorical, in that crowd that made the theater the place of communal enjoyment it is meant to be. We laughed, cried, cheered and sang together. The movie was as beautiful as I remembered, and I relished picking up little details I'd missed before--like Anna's hair being entirely red by movie's end. But what made this special is the allowance the Sing-A-Long gimmick gave the audience a chance to indulge in the movie the way we dreamed of doing. We let it go, and it felt like we were building a dream castle of our own.