With the voices of Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Idina Menzel, Alan Tudyk, Ciarán Hinds. Written by Jennifer Lee. Directed by Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee. Rated PG for some action and mild rude humor. 108 minutes.
From the opening “classic” Mickey Mouse short to the final gag at the end of the closing credits, FROZEN offers the best of Disney Animation outside of its Pixar offerings. Indeed, given how “Monsters University” was a bit of a disappointment, this may be the best animated offering out of Hollywood this year.
Inspired by a Hans Christian Andersen story, it tells the story of two sisters, Elsa and Anna (voices of Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell). As children they are close, but Elsa’s power to create ice and snow can be harmful, as when she accidentally casts an ice spell on Anna. Anna is saved, but their parents––the King and Queen of Arendelle––decide the girls must be separated for their own safety. Years pass and Elsa is about to become queen, which ought to lead to the reuniting of the sisters. Instead, things go awry and Arendelle is thrown into an eternal winter, with Elsa fleeing to an ice castle in the mountains.
Plucky Anna is in pursuit, soon joined by rugged Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his loyal reindeer, and a plucky snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad) who doesn’t seem to understand that when summer returns that’s bad news for him. Not only does Elsa not wish to be saved and returned to Arendelle, but there are some rival powers who would be happy to see Elsa––and Anna––destroyed. This provides sufficient conflict to keep the story moving, as well as the opportunity for several musical numbers.
What makes “Frozen” work beyond the superb animation and clever script is Anna is anything but a conventional “Disney princess.” Sure, she’s funny and attractive and full of energy, but she’s also motivated by something other than meeting the right prince. Not since “Beauty and the Beast” have the Disney animators so subverted our expectations for this kind of story. Characters don’t always turn out as we might have expected, and the “true love” that is needed to save the day and rescue the characters isn’t what’s usual for this kind of story either.
While young girls will be engrossed in the story of the two sisters, boys looking for some low comedy slapstick will enjoy Olaf’s clowning, particularly in a number where he looks forward to getting a sun tan, as well Kristoff’s earthy ways. At one point Kristoff describes something disgusting that he claims “all men” do and such is the humor of the film that they his statement is actually disavowed in the closing credits.
Perhaps well aware of the reaction of families paying extra for 3D, the folks at Disney have made every effort to make this one worth it. While the feature film is beautifully animated, it probably could play just as well in 2D. The 3D is a nice enhancement. However, for the preceding short, the 3D is crucial and works so well that it’s only fair to say nothing more about it so you can discover it for yourself. Suffice to say this is an attempt to bring “classic Mickey” into the 21st century.
As for “Frozen,” the folks at Disney have every right to be proud. This is some of the best work they’ve done in years. It should be noted, however, that the studio that has done more to distort and extend copyright restrictions in this country has, once again, shown they are most inspired when they are able to draw on material in the public domain. There’s a lesson here, but the corporate types at Disney have yet to learn it.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His first novel, Shh! It’s A Secret: A Novel About Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide has just been released. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.