I'm just waiting for my spin-off
Grade: B –
Director: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
Starring the voices of: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad and Santino Fontana
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hr. 48 min.
The classic Disney vibe that Frozen aims to capture is best conveyed before the movie even begins. Get a Horse!, the new short that precedes it, is a marvelous meld of classic black-and-white handdrawn Mickey Mouse animation (Mickey’s voice is actually archival audio of Walt Disney himself) and color computer graphics, all rendered in 3D and blended into a step-off-the-screen setting in the spirit of Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr. Directed by Lauren MacMullan, it’s seven minutes of hilarious, glorious animated movie magic.
There are many moments in Frozen that evoke that same magic. Charm and whimsy abound, the 3D computer animation is stunning, and the musical’s Broadway-style show tunes are clever and as broad as the CinemaScope winterscape. However, the story is wispy as a snowflake, a delicate string to connect all the pretty pictures and toe tapping tunes.
Disney’s decades-long struggle to adapt Han Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen still bedevils this modern update. Two princess sisters, Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel), are kept apart as children after Elsa’s potent but untamed cryokinetic power to create snow and ice nearly kills Anna. All grown up, Elsa’s glove-covered secret finally comes out on her coronation day, causing the new ice queen to unwittingly unleash an eternal freeze across the mythical kingdom of Arendelle and flee into exile atop a nearby Nordic mountain.
It falls to spunky Anna to track down her sister and coax her return to the throne. Accompanying Anna on her journey is Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), a rakish ice peddler (you see where that subplot is going), his reindeer sidekick Sven, and a buck-toothed, carrot-nosed snowman named Olaf, voiced by Josh Gad of The Book of Mormon fame.
The plotline is predictable and somewhat vapid—essentially, the narrative tension revolves around the fact that Elsa has serious anger management issues. Otherwise, every conflict is ultimately resolved in banal and befuddling fashion (not unlike Disney’s popular Tangled, this film’s creative inspiration). Beyond the showstopping songs, the only thing that warms Frozen’s frigid story is Olaf’s witty interjections.
Frozen might thaw your heart, but your head will feel like it’s still on ice.