It’s not easy to make a feature-length animated film these days that doesn’t feel like a formulaic retread or that it exists solely to launch an endless array of licensed products. Disney’s Frozen is a dazzling exception. Not to say that there won’t be an avalanche of products related to this 3D tale, very loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, but the film is so refreshingly original and emotionally engaging it hearkens back to Disney classics such as The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid.
Frozen features a host of appealing characters including two new members of the Disney Princess brigade that are focused more on conquering their own inner demons than on getting a guy. With memorable songs by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (The Book of Mormon, Avenue Q) and delivered by the Broadway-quality voice talents of Kristin Bell (Gossip Girl, Veronica Mars), Idina Menzel (Wicked, Rent), Jonathan Groff (Spring Awakening) and Josh Gad (The Book of Mormon), Frozen is the most heartwarming Disney film I’ve seen in ages. The groundbreaking computer animation depicts the wintry scenes in spectacular 3D glory. Bring a jacket with you to the theater because you will feel like you’re trapped in a mystical land of ice and snow! With a clever, funny script by Jennifer Lee (Wreck-It Ralph) and excellent direction by Lee and Chris Buck (Tarzan), Frozen is the rare family film that will hold the interest of moviegoers of every age. I laughed, I cried and I never once looked at my watch!
When the story begins, we meet the two young daughters of the King and Queen of Arendelle: Princess Elsa, who one day will be Queen, and Princess Anna. Elsa has the mysterious ability to create snow and ice but she hasn’t learned how to control it. After a childhood incident in which she accidentally injures her sister, her parents forbid Elsa to use her powers and they make the young girl keep her distance from Anna, despite how close they once were. Following the tragic death of the King and Queen, Elsa continues to live in isolation. When she is grown, Princess Elsa (Idina Menzel) prepares for her coronation where she will finally reunite with her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) and reveal herself to her public. But at the July coronation, Elsa’s emotions get the best of her and she inadvertently creates a magical, eternal winter that freezes the entire kingdom. The evil Duke of Weselton (Alan Tudyk) plots to turn everyone against Elsa, forcing the new Queen to escape deep into the mountains and create an ice palace where she will live the rest of her life in seclusion.
Fearing for her sister, Anna travels with a mountain man named Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his trusty reindeer Sven on an epic journey through the snowy land. Along the way they encounter mystical trolls, an enormous snow monster, and an endearing snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad). Back in Arendelle, evil forces are gathering to take control of the kingdom. Will Anna and her friends find the misunderstood Elsa and make things right before it’s too late?
Walt Disney had been interested in Andersen’s The Snow Queen since the early 1940s but repeated plans to make a film based on the story never came to fruition. The project was attempted again in the late 1990s by Walt Disney Feature Animation but stalled until 2011 when new writers finally found a way to make the story work and to transform the main character from an outright villain to a woman struggling to accept and control her own unique talents. It was worth the wait. Frozen is the perfect holiday movie and is sure to become a Disney classic. It will melt the hearts of even the most Scrooge-like moviegoers.