Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 48 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG for Some Action and Mild Rude Humor
Directed by: Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee
Written by: Jennifer Lee
Starring: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana & Alan Tudyk
Ever since Disney made the transition between traditional hand-drawn cartoons to computer animation, it seems that a crucial quality of their films vanished. As fantastic as movies like UP (Pixar are in a league of their own it seems) and WRECK-IT RALPH are, they don’t feel like the old-school fairy tales that Disney had become so famous for telling. Where are the memorable songs that convey the emotional state of our characters in a unique way? Where are the complex characters and positive messages given in a creative story? Where’s the magic? Recent efforts like THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG and TANGLED tried to bring these back but did so with mixed success and still lacked the real “magic” Disney was known for. In the year 2013, it has returned (at least for one movie). FROZEN is the best Disney film since BEAUTY & THE BEAST!
Inspired by a Hans Christian Anderson tale, FROZEN is about two royal sisters (Anna and Elsa). Anna is the younger eager of the two and Elsa is the older gifted sister. By gifted, I mean that Elsa possesses icy powers that can create snow, freeze water, and perform other winter wonders. After accidentally injuring her sister, a troll finds a solution to the potentially dangerous situation. The parents lock Elsa away from everyone and close the gates of the castle. Meanwhile, Anna has no memory of the powers her sister has and feels that she has been shut out. On one special evening, a disastrous disagreement between the sisters erupts and Elsa’s powers plunge the kingdom into eternal winter. It’s up to Anna and her newfound companions, Kristoff and Sven (along with a living snowman named Olaf) to find Elsa in order to bring summer back.
There are a lot of details in the plot that I am leaving out, because part of the real enjoyment in this movie comes from the viewer expectations being altered. A few clichéd Disney tropes are brought in and shifted in a way that makes the story feel fresh. I especially enjoyed how the film poked fun at how eager princesses usually seem to find true love, so much so that they will jump at the first opportunity to be married to their “Prince Charming.” FROZEN actually undoes this stereotype in a way that’s so hilarious and well thought-out that it might have children looking at Ariel or Cinderella with a bit of judgmental scorn.
The computer animation itself is stunning. It helps that the effect of winter itself can be a beautiful thing, but the landscapes and the design of an ice castle that Elsa builds are simply wonders to behold on the screen. Then there are the songs, all of which are good. This joins the ranks of HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, BEAUTY & THE BEAST, and THE LION KING for Disney movies with perfect soundtracks. Not one track is bad or annoying, though they easily could have wound up being so.
Even the side characters that we all think we know so well in these kinds of movies have been changed up. The comedic supporting character (in this case, a talking snowman) provides some huge laughs and serves a purpose rather than just being there for some cheap chuckles on the side of the story. The so-called villain of the piece is just a misunderstood girl who has been cursed with a power that is simultaneously beautiful and dangerous. It’s a nice change of pace that there wasn’t a total villain that was a main focal point for the entire film. The characters are ones we want to root for. That in itself marks a great quality of a so-called children’s film.
Running just under two hours long, FROZEN is so expertly paced to the point that the film doesn’t feel like it’s really lasted as long as it really has. The story is highly enjoyable for the any audience, old or young. I always have said that the best family movies are the ones that can awe a child and an adult equally. This film does just that. Somehow FROZEN managed to capture that slick hidden element that’s been missing from Disney since the early 90’s. This is pure magic!