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Frozen

D: Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck / 102m

Cast: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk, Ciarán Hinds

With many a nod to Tangled, Frozen is the story of two sisters, Anna (Bell) and Elsa (Menzel), young princesses in the fairytale kingdom of Arendelle, who seem to live an idyllic lifestyle until Anna is hurt by Elsa’s “gift”: the ability to create snow and ice just by touch alone.  Anna nearly dies; this leads to Elsa hiding her gift and devoting the rest of her life to living a quiet, almost monastic life away from other people (including Anna). When their parents die, it is Elsa who becomes Queen.  On the day she is crowned, events transpire to reveal her gift to the people, who are horrified.  Urged on by the treacherous Duke of Weselton (Tudyk), Elsa is forced to flee the kingdom and take refuge in the snowy mountains, but not before her gift has covered her kingdom in ice.  There she fashions a castle for herself and determines never to return to her kingdom or her people.

Unperturbed by the revelation of her sister’s gift, Anna determines to find her, heading into the mountains by herself.  She soon finds herself lost and without transport, but is rescued by Kristoff (Groff), an ice harvester who agrees to help her (with the aid of his trusty reindeer, Sven). Meanwhile, the Duke of Weselton has sent two of his men to kill Elsa; they form part of a party led by Prince Hans of the Southern Isles, whose romantic eye has fallen on Anna (he leads the party in order to find her after she goes looking for Elsa).  They all reach Elsa’s hideout at the same time only to encounter a snow monster created by Elsa, as well as a snowman named Olaf.  Olaf tags along with Anna as she seeks to convince her sister that there is still a place for her in the kingdom.  But treachery ensues, and the fate of the kingdom rests in Elsa’s “gifted” hands, and Anna’s forgiving heart.

Frozen - scene

Overloaded with songs in its first half – the first of which is hard to understand – Frozen is a fine addition to the list of animated Disney Classics.  With richly drawn characters, often breathtakingly beautiful animation, a terrific voice cast, and memorable scenes throughout, the movie is a visual treat.  The storyline packs an emotional heft and the script is clever and well-constructed.  There are the usual Disney themes of a family in crisis, unselfish love winning out, the importance of being true to yourself, and being kind to others, and while these are all timeworn aspects of virtually every Disney movie (animated or otherwise), there’s a freshness here that keeps the familiar material interesting, and the audience’s attention throughout.

Ably directed by Lee and Buck, Frozen succeeds because it takes the aforementioned Disney values and puts a pleasing modern spin on them, even if the story feels like it’s taking place a couple of centuries ago in some mittel-European kingdom.  The movie is funny, sad, dramatic, action-packed, romantic and affecting, with fine performances from Bell and Menzel, and a great supporting turn from Gad as Olaf the endlessly upbeat, glad-to-be-alive snowman.  There’s what appears to be a cameo from Tangled’s Maximus (see Prince Hans’s horse at the quayside), a pleasing and convincing relationship between the two sisters, a couple of unexpected twists and turns, and a satisfying comeuppance for the main villain.

Rating: 8/10 – another absorbing, engaging hit from Disney, with glorious visuals and the required amount of laughs; even more impressive in 3D.

NOTE: I saw Frozen with my daughter.  She’s nineteen, loves animated movies, and has probably seen Disney’s Beauty and the Beast more times than is actually good for her.  She thought Frozen was wonderful.  For me, though, what was wonderful was that she and I can still go to the movies together and both let our inner child out to play for a couple of hours.  I hope we can carry on doing that for a very long time to come.

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