**** (out of 5)
November 27, 2013
Kristen Bell as ANNA
Idina Menzel as ELSA
Jonathan Groff as KRISTOFF
Josh Gad as OLAF
Santino Fontana as HANS
Alan Tudyk as DUKE
Directed by: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
As a force in animation, Disney has been around long enough that one has to talk about animation eras rather than something like “The Golden Age.” Sure, the time of “Cinderella” and “Snow White” are part of the original golden age of animation, but how can one say that it was any different than the more rustic but charming time of “The Jungle Book” and “101 Dalmatians”?
Ten years ago, there was a serious dip in animation at the Mouse House, where we pretty much said good-bye to 2D cell animation, as their feature-length films were not making much money. During that time, we saw movies that simply weren’t that good – like “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” – which remind us of the similar stumble animation took at the studio in the early 80s with films like “The Great Mouse Detective.”
Even though Disney owns Pixar (and was intimately connected to them before the actual buy-out happened), the studio still needed to differentiate itself from that arm of the company. A couple years ago, they took a solid first step to this with “Tangled,” which continued the Disney Princess tradition but stepped away from ink-and-paint to CGI. “Frozen” will be remembered as the second part of the one-two punch of Disney returning to classic form in the new media of computer generated cartoons.
Like “Tangled,” “Frozen” is a princess story, but rather than drawing from a well-known classic story like “Rapunzel,” it draws from a lesser-known Hans Christian Andersen story and takes place in Norway. The story follows two sisters, Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel). Elsa has the ability to control ice and snow. However, this power proves to be potentially dangerous, so she hides it from everyone, including her sister. When Anna and Elsa reach womanhood, Elsa accidentally freezes the entire kingdom, and she places herself in exile. Anna is determined to save her sister and heads off into the frozen wilderness to help.
The first thing I noticed about “Frozen,” even before I saw the movie, was how it was marketed. Rather than having a single vision, “Frozen” was packaged differently for different people. For girls, it was a full-fledged princess story. For boys, the advertising focused more on the comic relief side characters, the living snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) and a precocious reindeer named Sven. For the die-hard classic Disney fan, “Frozen” represents a return to the movie musical with multiple songs throughout rather than an occasional diversion. (Of course, the moderate cell-animated hit “The Princess and the Frog” a few years ago was also a musical, but this wasn’t the game changer that the studio hoped it would be.)
Usually when a film tries to be all things to all people, it’s an unmitigated disaster. However, in the case of “Frozen,” it all works. This is because these elements work together and don’t conflict. In fact, I took my 10-year-old son to see “Frozen,” and while he rolled his eyes at the princess elements and the number of songs, it didn’t take him long to get into the movie and adore it by the end.
Simply put, “Frozen” is an adorable film with brilliant animation and plenty of old-school Disney charm. It also is unique in the sense that there isn’t a huge villain in the story. There’s some less-than-savory people who show up now and then, but this is more of a character study than your average Disney movie. There’s no witch in the woods or evil step-mother. Instead, this is a story of trust and forgiveness, and that’s a great thing to put out there for young, impressionable audiences.
In this sense, I think I liked “Frozen” the most because it plays with convention. Rather than retreading the same morals that Disney animated films have delivered for decades, it turns some of the would-be obvious messaging into a different direction. It takes a lot for a movie to surprise me, and “Frozen” did just that.
“Frozen” is pure fun from Disney and destined to be one of their most memorable animated films for years to come.