When princesses Anna (voice of Kristen Bell) and Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel) were children, they were inseparable, but when Elsa uses her icy powers to save her sister from a fall, she almost kills her. Advised by a mountain troll that he wouldn't have been able to bring her back had her heart been hit, Elsa struggles to control her gift by becoming a recluse who shuts her sister out. Years later, on the day of her coronation, Anna's impulsive acceptance of a marriage proposal undoes Elsa's precarious control and the new Queen flees into the mountains leaving her kingdom "Frozen."
Directed by Chris Buck ("Tarzan," "Surf's Up") and screenwriter Jennifer Lee ("Wreck-It Ralph"), "Frozen" is said to have been based on Hans Christian Andersen's 'The Snow Queen,' but Menzel's presence suggests even more similarities to the Broadway musical 'Wicked,' where one woman trying to do good is instead branded a monster. The filmmakers have a blast skewering all things Nordic and its Broadway musical format works well, but step away and think about the film's big obstacle and there's a glaring problem here - the 'solution' to Elsa's problem was not only at hand all along, but could have been disclosed (and would have made more sense) at the film's beginning. Of course, then there would be no movie here. At least "Frozen's" sisters are a far better example of female empowerment than "Brave's" Princess Merida.
The film begins with beautifully rendered animation, a below-a-frozen-lake shot of ice harvesters about to saw blocks of frozen water. It's here we meet the young Kristoff (voice of Jonathan Groff) and his baby reindeer Sven, before returning to the palace to see the girls grow up. This is economically done with a montage over the movie's best song, 'Do You Want to Build a Snowman?,' Anna's call to her remote sister, remembering the day they made Olaf using Elsa's magic inside the palace. Once Elsa runs from her coronation day debacle, Anna sets off to find her, leaving her suitor, Prince Hans (voice of Santino Fontana), in charge until they return.
In the mountains, Anna quickly finds herself up against the elements, but luckily she comes across Wandering Oaken's Trading Post (and sauna). Oaken (voice of Chris Williams) is perhaps the film's highlight, a merchant with a sing-song accent and penchant for seasonal sales. It's here that Anna meets Kristoff, now a broke iceman given Elsa's having flooded the market. His reluctance to assist is shamed by Sven's disapproval, the big-hearted reindeer a classic Disney sidekick. As they reach Elsa's ice castle, Anna's astonished to find Olaf (voice of Josh Gad), the now living snowman, who joins the adventure (Olaf's love for summer is one of the film's running jokes). But Elsa has proclaimed herself happy to be herself (in Menzel's big solo 'Let It Go') and sets a giant snow monster on her sister's party. Meanwhile, back in the kingdom, Hans has revealed himself to be a throne seeker in cahoots with the Duke of Weselton (voice of Alan Tudyk).
The animators have crafted some great beauty in moments of terror (the sinking of the King and Queen's ship, Sven's great leap across a snowy chasm) and lovely details (the sprinkling of freckles on Anna's shoulders), but Anna and Elsa are fairly generic, saucer-eyed dolls. Olaf is the equivalent of the Charlie Brown Christmas tree, which might be the point, but he's clearly the product of a modern age set in a nostalgic, traditional landscape. The same problem befalls the mountain trolls, this film's minions.
Buck and Lee have shaping of the story as a traditional musical works for pacing but only the aforementioned songs stand out. "Frozen" has much to recommend it, but it left me a little cold.
Robin also gives "Frozen" a B.
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