Although it shares numerous similarities with “Tangled” from 2010, “Frozen” still manages to impart an amusing story, entertaining characters, humor, and heart better than the majority of computer animated rivals this year. Deceptively, and as conspicuously avoided by teasers and trailers, this loose adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” is a musical, which might clearly dismay a large portion of moviegoing audiences while also delighting fans of modernized Broadway infusions. Shedding the darker themes of splintered, perception distorting mirrors and deadly kisses, “Frozen” instead opts for the lighter fare of true love, sisterly bonding, and loveable sidekicks.
As little girls in the palace of Arendelle, princesses Anna and Elsa were inseparable. But Elsa was born with the power to manipulate and command icy matter, which results in the accidental injuring of her sister. With the help of magical mossy trolls, Anna is saved, but the king and queen insist that Elsa’s abilities must be kept hidden, outside contact remain limited, and the staff is drastically reduced. When their parents drown at sea, the siblings continue their quarantine until, three years later, it is time for Elsa’s coronation.
Anna (Kristen Bell), now a young woman, is anxious to find true love. She’s so restless that she falls for the first man she meets – the debonair Hans (Santino Fontana) from the Southern Isles. She hastily announces her engagement to Elsa (Idina Menzel), who is unable to discipline her temper or frosty touch, causing the townsfolk, including fearmonger neighbor the Duke of Weselton (Alan Tudyk), to panic. Fleeing the city walls, Elsa decamps to the mountains, where she constructs a massive ice castle for isolation. As Arendelle becomes frozen over with wintery conditions, Anna departs into the woods in search of her sister, hoping she can convince her to reverse the climatic damage. She’s guided by mountain man Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his faithful reindeer Sven, who must contend with an abominable snowman, the fearful new snow queen, and an obvious love triangle dilemma.
In “Frozen,” the heroes are heroic and the villains are refreshingly villainous. Plenty of adventure works its way into the picture, along with heartfelt moments of sacrifice, stirring compassion, and unexpected deviousness from ambiguously motivated characters. While most of the roles are coordinated around singing, the purely comic relief, waddling, buck-toothed snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) is exceptionally hilarious, never delivering an impotent line and capable of inspiring laughs based entirely on visual gags. In a way, it’s unfortunate his role wasn’t even greater, though his importance to the plot fluctuates. One of the most memorable songs is performed by Olaf as a montage of summertime daydreaming (with some wittily calamitous ruminations on enjoying the heat), not entirely disparate from Mrs. Lovett’s “By the Sea” digression in “Sweeney Todd.”
The story occasionally transforms around the musical numbers, but they’re of notably momentous design. Choruses are booming while dialogue shifts into melodic verses. Transitions aren’t always natural, and spontaneous crooning can feel disruptive when conversations are weighty (in the middle of an argument a song breaks out), but the pieces conducted in solitude are especially moving. Outside of the music, “Frozen” is a captivatingly old-fashioned fairy tale full of action, comedy, and romance. In addition, following the tradition of Pixar’s works, the film is opened by a short film – here, “Get a Horse!” features Mickey, Minnie, Clarabelle Cow, and Horace Horsecollar as they battle the infamous Peg-Leg Pete. It uniquely blends black-and-white, ’20s-styled traditional animation with very impressive 3D, breaking the boundaries of the screen in a fascinatingly creative manner.
– Mike Massie