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'Frozen': Cool and collected, but not quite a Disney classic

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Frozen (2013)

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Frozen” swept into box-offices to a warm reception from critics and viewers. A cute, surprisingly dark and unconventional twist on the Disney formula, it’s refreshingly distinct. Vivid, life-like animation, a compelling Hans Christian Andersen adaptation and intricate relationships boost “Frozen” above recent Disney releases. However an uneventful finale and trite, forgettable musical numbers offer minimal freezer burn to an otherwise terrific tale.

Loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, Disney’s animated flick tones down the original story. That being said, the first few minutes are rather grim for a kids movie. Elsa (Idina Menzel), princess of Arendelle, plays with younger sister Anna (Kristen Bell), as the two frolic about ominously carefree. Using her powers to create ice and snow, she builds a snowman, and offers fun and games until accidentally striking Anna in the head with ice. The king and queen rush their unconscious daughter to the troll community where she’s saved. After Anna’s near-death at the hands of Elsa, the king and queen deem it appropriate to suppress her powers.

The following sequence presents Elsa and Anna blossoming into adults independently. Their “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” number is moving, and seeing the sisters separated within the same household is quite tragic. Additionally, the girls lose their parents to a storm at sea. Disney children would have had difficulty attending PG and above movies due to lack of parental guidance. Seriously, find one Disney movie where at least one parent isn’t dead or missing. After their demise Elsa sequesters herself in the castle, partially out of grief and somewhat to contain her powers. Enter the inevitable coronation day, and opening of the gates. As you can guess, Elsa initially gives the crowd the cold shoulder and the party certainly doesn’t continue as planned.

It’s interesting to see a kids film featuring a protagonist with uncontrollable abilities. This may be unique in the Disney catalog. Elsa appears simultaneously frightened and attracted to her superpower. After learning of Anna’s hasty engagement to charming Prince Hans (Santino Fontana), Elsa reveals her arctic blast, alarming her guests. The attendees seem overly scared, cowering and clutching their children in fear. It’s not like she goes all “Jack Frost” on the kingdom. Queen Elsa merely creates a few menacing ice statues. Rushing from Arendelle, the queen unleashes eternal winter upon the town, and Anna embarks on a mission to retrieve her sister and restore proper seasons to Arendlle.

In her journey, Elsa joins Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), the bumbling but genuine ice seller and his faithful reindeer Sven. Kristoff and Sven emit a Han Solo-Chewbacca dynamic. Only Kristoff seems to understand reindeer speak, the pair own a sled comparable to the Millennium Falcon, and Kristoff initially agrees to assist the princess for personal gain. Their relationship infuses the film with humor, and Kristoff’s development throughout the narrative, while minor, feels natural. It’s this limited transformation actually that seems more appropriate than a character overhaul.

Moreover, “Frozen” saves a handful of twists for the latter part of the film. Despite some predictable moments, there’s a surprising reveal (no spoilers), and the ultimate act to save Arendelle isn’t what you’ll initially expect. In fact, several possible scenarios arise, leading viewers astray. This bolsters the movie’s originality, though redemption feels like a cop out. It almost feels as though the well-planned finale lacked a definite ending so the writers concocted the most cliché savior to bound on set. That being said, at least Prince Charming’s kiss isn’t the thawing agent.

While the majority of the flick is quite stellar, the ending does fall short as do most songs. The actors and actresses phenomenally render their pieces, but lyrically each piece stumbles. Musical numbers aren’t terrible, they’re simply unremarkable. Don’t expect “Friend Like Me,” “The Bare Necessities,” or “Be Our Guest.” Despite impressive visuals, severely lacking tracks bog the movie down. “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” is decent, though stratified by spoken pieces. “For the First Time in Forever” sounds beautiful, but uneventful lyrics mar the effect. The only truly dreadful tune, “Love is an Open Door,” seems confused. A trite love-at-first-sight tale, Elsa flips the Disney script upside down after this number by dismissing the notion altogether. While it’s refreshing to hear this acknowledgement, it begs the question of why the song made the cut. “Let it Go” finally redeems the “Frozen” soundtrack, albeit after several ho-hum tracks. Forgo the CD, watch the film. Through the musical blemishes, and humdrum finale, “Frozen” brushes off the icicles with stellar animation, lovable characters, and realistic character development.

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