Entire family: Yes
2013, 102 min., Color
Rated PG for some action and mild rude humor
Aspect ratio: 2.24:1
Featured audio: DTS-HD MA 7.1
Includes Blu-ray, DVD, UV DigitalHD Copy
Bonus features: C-
Disney’s latest animated adventure is a Frozen delight. You children will want to watch this over and over again, and the good news is that the film is creative enough, clever enough, and with solid enough animation and music that you won’t suffer one bit from the repetition. In fact, you’ll come away from it appreciating the Disney magic more with every viewing.
That’s because Frozen is a princess movie that doesn’t feel like a princess movie—even though there are two of them in it, as well as a handsome prince. It feels more like an adventure, and a fun one at that. Given the strength of animation, the memorable characters, and a killer soundtrack that’s collectively the most impressive I’ve seen from Disney since Beauty and the Beast, it may well be one of Disney’s most accomplished animated features from the past 20 years.
Frozen is loosely based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, but makes more sense than the tale that inspired it, and it’s full of great visual effects, memorable music, and heart-warming moments—check that. Small moments that make you smile, laugh, or marvel at how clever the scene is.
Anna (Kristen Bell) is a little princess who loves her older sister, Elsa (Idina Menzel), especially when Elsa freezes the floor of a room in the castle so they can skate, and summons snowflakes so they can throw snowballs and make a snowman that they name Olaf. Though Anna thinks her sister’s powers magical, the king and queen know otherwise—that it’s dangerous, and nothing drives home that point more than the night Elsa almost accidentally kills her sister. Like Rapunzel, she’s instantly sealed off from the world. In her room, she can do no more harm, but to make sure, the king orders the palace grounds sealed off from the rest of the kingdom.
The real plot is set in motion when many years later the parents are lost at sea and the palace is opened to the public for the first time so the people can coronate their new queen: Elsa. But of course her powers intrude, as does a prince named Hans (Santino Fontana), and a birdlike old duke from Weaseltown (“That’s Wesselton!”), and it all threatens the happy reunion the sisters crave, and any hopes for a happily-ever-after involving a young man for ONE of them.
Disney likes their comic relief to come in pairs, and with Frozen it’s a reindeer and an enchanted, talking snowman that lighten the mood. But Frozen has more texture and complexity than most recent Disney animated films, taking viewers on an emotional ride. Some of the segments smack of romantic comedy, with Anna a winning screwball—like a young Katharine Hepburn that’s refreshingly un-princesslike: a little giggly, a little clumsy, a little too honest and open, and with enough childlike wonder to power the whole kingdom. Other segments feature straight comedy, like a bunch of rocks that turn out to be trolls who burst into song, or a talking snowman who prattles on like Jar-Jar Binks and keeps falling apart, while some segments are dramatic, and still others take you down the fantasy-quest road, or remind you of the King Midas legend. There are many themes floating around and a nifty reversal of expectations every now and then—enough to keep the story from seeming totally predictable.
And the songs? Except for two that don’t mesh as well with the overall tone of the film—one sung by the snowman, and another by the trolls—it’s a terrific soundtrack. Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez won an Oscar for “Let It Go,” which, sung by Menzel, may remind viewers of her “Defying Gravity” solo from Wicked. But there are plenty of other wonderful songs too, including “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?”—a catchy, tender song that plays during a montage to show the passage of time and the estrangement of the sisters. Or the playful give-and-take that drives “Love Is an Open Door,” sung by Bell and Fantana. Even “Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People,” a strum-sung ditty performed by Groff, has the combination of wit and warmth that characterizes Frozen and makes you wonder, who in the heck are Robert and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, and why haven’t we heard of them before? Their songs are an important component, adding another layer to a complex, accomplished production.
Which is to say, Frozen is a complete package. While it’s always premature to talk about “instant classics,” this entry from directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee seems on track to become just that, in part because the themes—estrangement of family members, sacrifice for the good of others, and, ultimately, the celebration of “difference”—touch people as much as this wonderfully animated film entertains. And it looks absolutely sparkling on Blu-ray.