Directors: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Starring: Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff, Santino Fontana, Ciarán Hinds, Alan Tudyk
As little girls, Princesses Anna and Elsa are as close as two sisters can be. Elsa has been graced with a special power to turn things to ice and snow with a simple touch. They love playing around their castle in Arendelle when Elsa creates a snowy play area for them to have with inside the castle. One day the playing gets out of hand when Anna accidentally gets hit with a blast of ice by Elsa. In order to protect both of them, their parents have Anna’s memory erased of the incident. This also leads to Elsa being banished to a separate room of the castle so no one in the village has any knowledge of her power.
Years pass and the girls grow up being separated from each other. Elsa (Menzel) has grown to resent her power and is unable to fully control when it happens. She is the heir to the thrown and on her coronation day Elsa and Anna decide to open the doors of the castle to all of the villagers of Arendelle. After the ceremony, another incident occurs and Elsa’s powers are exposed to the villagers. She feels so embarrassed and out of control that she runs away. As her frustration grows, the icy cold spreads over the village turning it into a snowy frozen land year round. She retreats to a mountain and tries to come to terms with her power. Anna (Bell) chases after Elsa and runs into the rugged Kristoff (Groff), his reindeer Sven, and an energetic snowman named Olaf (Gad) who help her along the way.
With so many animated movies released each year, it should come as no surprise that the annual Disney offering stands out as one of the best. Inspired by “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Anderson, Frozen hearkens back to the old classic princess stories set to singable score. The story uses that traditional model but puts a different twist on it as this is not about some helpless princess pining after her unattainable prince. Yes, there are two dapper men along the way, but this tale is all about the love and bond of sisterhood. Kristen Bell’s Anna is scrappy, tough, and has the never-give-up attitude in her quest to find and save her sister. Idina Menzel has a huge belter voice who completely nails the powerful main theme song “Let It Go”. It would have been easy to make Elsa the Snow Queen the evil villain, but I applaud the writing team for not going that route. What would a Disney movie be without the comedic fool. Josh Gad makes Olaf fun and hilarious without ever crossing the obnoxious line which can be tricky with these types of Disney characters.
The songs by husband/wife duo Robert Lopez (Broadway’s “The Book of Mormon”, “Avenue Q”) and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (Wreck-It Ralph) have written a Broadway-inspired score with “Let It Go” most likely to get stuck in your head. Long gone are the days where you would have two different actors doing the regular voice and singing voice of the character. All of the actors perform their own singing in Frozen. It also boasts four Broadway actors in the main cast including Menzel, Gad, Groff, and Fontana. The orchestral score by Christophe Beck should also be noted for using Norwegian music and instruments as inspiration. I could not help but envision this being turned into next big Disney Broadway musical some day.
The Walt Disney Animations Studios has hit it a resurgence lately with Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph. You can confidently add Frozen to that list. There were numerous trailers for upcoming children’s movies and I think only one, maybe two of them, seemed to stand out and would be appealing for both young movie goers and their parents. The animation of the ice and snow is stunning and beautiful. The story has that traditional Disney feel but takes a different twist on the concepts. The characters are spunky, have determination, and represent good role models for the young girls who go see the movie. I remember for awhile in the ’90s, some concerned parents took issue with Disney movies turning a bit too violent or scary with their villains. Rest assured here as Frozen is appropriate for all ages and can be enjoyed by moviegoers of all ages. It has a real wholesome and timeless quality about it that is missing from many of the animated family movies released each year.
RATING: **** (4 out of 5 stars)