What It Is
Elsa (Idina Menzel) and her younger sister Anna (Kristen Bell) are two princesses in Arendelle, a land of fjords and long, warm summers. As young children, they share a secret, namely, that Elsa has the power to make snow and ice. Just why or how she came by this power is unclear, though both their parents are aware of it, and only caution Elsa to be careful. She is, until she isn’t, and one night she zaps Anna with a cold blast to the head that threatens her very life.
Anna’s survival comes courtesy of some trolls her dad knows, and it is costly: Anna must forget that her sister has a secret power and so join the rest of the population who has no idea of it; to this end, their parents separate the girls, locking Elsa away in a room with a very large wooden door through which the sisters sing longingly, each wanting to see the other and both miserable. When the girls lose their parents in a terrible accident, they remain separated until the night when Elsa “comes of age” and is destined to be crowned queen. The ceremony doesn’t go quite as it’s supposed to, and soon enough, the teenagers are separated again, this time because Elsa flees town, embarrassed and hurt when an accidental display of her icy gift makes everyone afraid of her. That, and, she leaves the entire country engulfed in endless winter.
Everyone, that is, except Anna, who leaves the kingdom in the charge of the visiting Prince Hans (Santino Fontana), and determines to find Elsa despite the cold, the darkness, and the loss of her horse (who runs off when she falls off). She needs help and gets some, from a sidekick of a snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad) and Kristoff (Glee’s Jonathan Groff). An exceptionally handsome and big-hearted ice salesman, Kristoff is traveling with his best friend, a reindeer named Sven. With his sales down owing to the endless winter, Kristoff sees a particular benefit in aiding the princess, though he also immediately worries for her, and makes her safety his top priority, making clear to everyone but Anna and himself that he’s in love with her.
As this frankly charming romance develops, mostly by a series of near-crises and escapades, Anna and Kristoff both find in themselves a kind of loyalty and generosity they hadn’t imagined before, being teenagers. That Anna is dedicated to saving her sister is a starting point, that all three come to see the value of love in all its forms — familial, romantic, and best-friendy — makes this film an unconventional fairy tale.
Why It’s Fun
The sisters are wonderful, together and apart. That they both consider their relationship the most important one in their lives keeps the film focused on their struggles to understand one another as individuals as well as family. Much like Brave, which explored the relationship of a mother and daughter, this movie invites all viewers — boys and girls — to appreciate girls’ complex emotional lives, their occasional disappointments and also their adventures and thrills.
Kristoff is adorable, and his longstanding relationship with Sven is delightful (we see them at film’s start as little blond boy with little reindeer).
Before Frozen, Disney is running a Mickey Mouse short, “Get a Horse,” featuring Mickey, Minnie, and a few other animals, including a horse. The short starts in the old fashioned Steamboat Willie style, and this means the villainous cat who means to steal Minnie makes some vulgar remarks that younger viewers likely won’t understand. It’s not long before the short takes on other dimensions, including color and 3D, a kind of cascade of clever plotting and imaging that is terrific.
Who’s Going To Love It
Fans of big, bold Broadway musicals may like the songbook here, written by Robert Lopez and his wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who previously wrote the music for the wonderful Winnie the Pooh (2011). Here the songs move plot and detail character, and are lovely tunes to boot, sometimes funny (the trolls make jokes with “Fixer Upper”), sometimes exhilarating (Elsa’s “Let It Go”), and sometimes a perfect mix of sweet and resilient (Anna’s “First Time in Forever”).
Fans of the source material, Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale, “The Snow Queen,” may appreciate the translation to an animated musical, with well-composed evocations of snow in 3D.
What To Be Aware Of
Elsa’s primary directive from her well-meaning father — to “conceal it, don’t feel it” — is, of course, terrible advice, and so she learns not only to express herself, but also to use her self-expression in the most loving way possible.
This after some initial missteps, of course, by which she endangers Anna and Kristoff by sending a monstrous abominable snowman, with icy claws and a terribly fanged mouth.
A scene in the dark woods when Anna and Kristoff first pursue Elsa features a pack of scary wolves, their eyes gleaming orange in the night and their attack is rendered in fast, mildly alarming cuts from wolves to would-be victims.
9 out of 10
Directors: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Cast: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk, Ciarán Hinds, Chris Williams
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
US General Release: November 27, 2013
UK General Release: December 6, 2013