With all of its lovably animated characters, epic set pieces, and fantastic musical numbers, there is no mistaking “Frozen” as being anything other than a spectacle of purely Disney-esque proportions. Everything about the film — helmed by joint directors Chris Buck (Tarzan) and Jennifer Lee (Wreck-It Ralph) — refers back to masterpieces like “Snow White” and Cinderella.” There’s magic, plenty of beautiful princes and princesses, and love permeating in the air — all in glorious 3D, I must add. While these might all sound like common fantasy tropes, “Frozen” adds a whole lot of girl-power to the classic Disney Princess. The result is one of the best animated films of the year.
Based on the Hans Christian Anderson tale “The Snow Queen,” “Frozen” tells the story of two fearless princesses who share a dark past. Even when we first meet Esla (Idina Menzel), as a small child, she has been able to conjure the powers of winter. With little more than a flick of her wrist, we watch as she sends icy bursts shooting across her bedroom. Sadly, after almost killing her little sister Anna (Kristen Bell) by accidentally hitting her with one of her ice spells, she vows to never let her powers see the light of day again.
Everything changes, however, on Elsa’s coronation day. After over a decade sheltered in her hillside castle, she tries to let the world in on her ice cold secret. Unfortunately, she is only met with fear. As a result, it becomes the duty of the daringly optimistic Anna to set off on an epic journey to find her sister, and rescue the entire city from an endless winter. Along the way, she teams up with a rugged mountain man named Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his loyal reindeer Sven, and Olaf (Josh Gad), the hilarious talking snowman. All four heroes must battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom.
Being a Disney Princess movie, after all, there is definitely a lot of romance in “Frozen.” Although, Jennifer Lee — who also penned the script — flips this idea on its head, and often trades love for laughs. Anna, after spending a lifetime hidden in a castle, cannot wait to meet the town folk on coronation day. She is so eager to find “the one” that she literally decides to marry the first guy she runs into — Prince Hans (Santino Fontana). Most of the time, love at first sight is something that only happens in the movies. This idea is only confirmed when Anna introduces her soon to be husband to her sister. Elsa scoffs at her younger sister and agrees that this notion is absolutely ridiculous.
Once Kristoff is introduced, another layer of romantic intrigue is added to the narrative. Maybe he’s Anna’s true love? All the while, two underlying struggles are at play: Anna and Elsa trying to mend their fractured relationship and Elsa finally learning to see her powers as being something good not evil. Lee’s multidimensional script, and she and Buck’s expert direction, manage to convey all of these complex plots in a way that will keep small children thoroughly entertained. This is probably because a near endless amount of laughs come from the likes of Josh Gad, who hilariously voices Olaf, a snowman who dreams of experiencing his first summer. Still, this shouldn’t stop the older kids in the audience from catching this great message.
At its core, however, “Frozen” is a musical. So, it is only natural that the movie is at its most enchanting during any one of its eight original songs from Kristen Anderson-Lopez (Winnie The Pooh) and Tony Award-winner Robert Lopez (The Book of Mormon). Both Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel have exceptional voices, and they display them throughout. Although no song tops the gripping anthem “Let it go,” every uplifting musical number warrants a standing ovation — if only it were acceptable to do so in a movie theater.
While family get-togethers, NFL games, and Black Friday shopping deals will surely take up plenty of time this Thanksgiving weekend, “Frozen” is nonetheless a must-see cinematic experience this holiday. Not only is it the best Disney movie I’ve seen in quite some time, it’s probably the best animated movie I’ve watched all year. Anna and Elsa will surely become staples in the Disney Princess kingdom. I also see plenty of box office revenue coming their way too.
By David Morris