An in-house Disney animated feature that’s not Pixar, and it’s often magical, enchanting, plucky and musically giddy. Frozen, based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” or at least inspired by it, is mostly an old-fashioned yarn that disposes of any current pop culture references. It tells the story of two sisters, younger Anna (Kristen Bell) and the magically gifted elder Elsa (Idina Menzel), who are the heir princesses of a frosty Scandinavian kingdom of Arendelle. Elsa has a bewildering power she hides: she can conjure snow and ice, wield them into sculptures, bridges, and even ice castles at a whim. Broadway-style songs are peppy and lifting to the spirit even when the lyrics are just OK. The idea though is that, young or old, we all come out happy.
Hasty, Anna is engaged to be married to the Prince Hans of the Southern Isles (Santino Fontana). How hasty? She only met him that day and she’s in love. Elsa forbids Anna to marry that quickly, that it’s a mistake to confuse love with infatuation. Elsa goes into a hissy-fit, loses control of her powers by blanketing her kingdom in permafrost, and scaring her people in the process. Elsa will go into self-outcast seclusion building her own Fortress of Solitude (with a Hans Christian touch!), and Anna will track her down and bring her home while foraging peace amongst the people. Anna and Elsa also must bond as trusting sisters – yes, it’s a message about removing family secrets and embracing sisterly kinship.
On the way, Anna enlists a handsome guide named Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) who clumsily is in the business of ice and loves his reindeer, Sven. Then there’s Olaf (Josh Gad), an anthropomorphic snowman with twigs, buck teeth and sometimes a carrot, who is a singing jester if there ever was one – he dreams of summer, and has an inspired song with “In Summer” to go with it, the funniest and most charming number of the movie. He is blithely unaware that a snowman in summer can’t possibly prevail.
The third act works in clever twists without grating the audience with umpteenth issues, it smoothly unfolds. In other words, I can imagine how the story could have packed on another dozen dicey (or icy!) scenes of conflict, but good triumphs over evil in a nicely wrapped and urgent fashion. Anna and Elsa are too smart to be duped by any of the rascally boys, and they are quick-thinking and no-nonsense about restoring peace to Arendelle. Oh, and which guy – Prince Hans or Kristoff will end up with which sister and belong to whom? – is played out with I dare say, suspense.
Old-fashioned pleasures are at hand with “Frozen,” and the only immediate thing I didn’t like about it is that Elsa has something of a plastically Lego face to her. I did love the old-fashioned pliable faced drawings of Disney classics “Cinderella” and “Alice in Wonderland” of the past. “Tangled” and “Frozen” aren’t drawn with girls with rosy cheeks it seems like. A second gripe: Bell comes off sounding like a little too much like a modern day Bachelorette. But don’t let those said things keep you away. “Frozen” is happy and charming. And if Olaf should get his own merchandizing product tie-in on Happy Meals everywhere, that would even make me happy and chuckled.
This feature is preceded by a memorable short called “Get a Horse!” which should be vaulted as a little classic. Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Peg-Leg Pete show up in a scratchy 1930’s black and white romp, and out of “Sherlock Jr.” inspiration, tumble into a new dimensional three-strip color plane. Clever and ingenious it is, and I usually don’t find shorts to be memorable. Catch the show on time.
85 Minutes. Rated PG.
FAMILY MOVIE / MILD & CHARMING / WEEKEND FAMILY MOVIE