“Frozen” is loosely based on the fairy tale, “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Anderson. It’s given a very modern musical spin, following Princess Elsa (Idina Menzel) and her younger sister, Anna (Kristen Bell). The plot revolves around Elsa developing her mutant ice powers and the way it affects her life. Her powers are incredible, making her even capable of creating sentient life out of snow and ice. Yeah.
Two things immediately catch the eye here, and one more so the ear. This is a musical, despite what the trailers and ads might have you think. Right from the get go we’re thrown into song, and they’re all pretty good for the most part. None of them really stand out, but they’re not unpleasant, either. The best of these is probably the “Let it Go” musical number, but that’s in large part to the powerful pipes on Idina Menzel. Kristen Bell doesn’t have the same vocal strength, but her voice suits the songs and the character just fine. There are the occasional padded numbers, and both of the two I’m thinking of are sung by the silly side characters. The trolls and Olaf the snowman (Josh Gad) both have their own songs, and while amusing, are both forgettable and feel a bit irrelevant during the story.
The other thing to notice is the spectacular animation. The effects and texture for the snow and ice is incredible and detailed. The lighting and the weather effects of it is surprisingly good and makes for beautiful imagery. The opening number set in the night on the ice beneath the aurora borealis is a very memorable introduction, as is the musical number “Let it Go”, where Elsa erects an entire castle and her clothes from ice. All the ice visuals are pretty incredible, but one of the most memorable is the climax on the frozen fjord. Fog and ships rising out of the ice as Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) races toward the castle on his reindeer. Very cool stuff.
The characters are all charming and likeable, speaking in a very modern style for the period and the setting. There’s plenty of humor and the majority of it works. The main focus is on family, as opposed to romance, and the emphasis being on the sisters and their relationship. They were extremely close as children, but after an accident, Elsa lets fear control her and her powers, isolating her from her sister and both of them from other people. After a public freak out, Anna sets out to find her and meets Kristoff the ice seller along with his reindeer and the sentient snowman, Olaf. They’re all funny and interesting and the movie coasts along with their charm.
Though it’s only a minor detraction from the overall experience, there are plenty of predictable plot points and more than one moment for song or comedy that feels thrown in to keep the kiddies' attention. It lacks the seamless musical transitions that the Disney films from the nineties had, as well as their masterful pacing. The villain is also lacking and the story would have benefitted from either a strong villainous presence or no villain at all. It’s a shame, because this is still a really good movie. But it needed a bit more to be truly great.
Still, “Frozen” is a fun, charming, and visually striking animated musical, and it’s certainly refreshing to see another since so many of them these days go without music. Disney seems to be on an upward trend, so hopefully they’ll stay on this track.