[Screen It]


(2013) (voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel) (PG)

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Musical: After her sister's powers accidentally turn their kingdom from summer to icy winter, a princess sets out to find her sibling to make things right.
Princess Anna and her older sister Princess Elsa were once close siblings, but the latter's magical ability to create snow and ice eventually drove a wedge between them following a near tragic accident. Ever since then, their parents, the King and Queen, have kept Elsa locked away for fear that her increasing powers might harm someone, while Anna isn't aware of this as the only way to save her in the past was for a troll leader to wipe her memory clean of Elsa's powers.

Three years after their parents' tragic deaths at sea, Elsa (voice of IDINA MENZEL) is about to go through her coronation to be the queen, all while Anna (voice of KRISTEN BELL) would be happy just to find a man. She believes she's found that in a bit of love at first sight with Hans (voice of SANTINO FONTANA). He's a prince from a neighboring kingdom who's there for the celebration along with many others, including the Duke (voice of ALAN TUDYK) who's long wondered why the palace of Arendelle has long been shuttered from outsiders.

When Elsa objects to her sister's sudden engagement to Hans -- after knowing him for only one day -- the sisters have a spat, with Elsa running off into the wilderness, unaware that her heightened emotions have plunged all of the kingdom into a deep winter. Anna rushes off to find her sister and set things right and ends up helped by Kristoff (voice of JONATHAN GROFF) -- an ice harvester whose line of work is now in jeopardy considering there's ice everywhere -- and his trusty reindeer, Sven. They're eventually joined by Olaf (voice of JOSH GAD), a sentient snowman created long ago by Elsa's powers who's enthusiastic about the chance to help them as well as experience the return of summer for the first time, unaware of what that will ultimately mean for him.

But Elsa wants to live a life of solitude in her newly constructed ice palace where she can be herself with no fear of hurting anyone. Undeterred by that or a giant snowman monster created to keep her, Kristoff and Olaf at bay, Anna tries to reconnect with her sister no matter what the cost or danger.

OUR TAKE: 7.5 out of 10
While all of the major movie studios delve into nearly all genres with their yearly offerings, Disney has long held a lock on most closely being associated with traditional animated comedies and dramas, the animated Broadway style musical, and any number of tales about princesses. Yet, after dominating the world of animation for decades, Pixar came along and stole much of their thunder. And while the great Mouse House single-handedly resurrected the movie musical with "The Little Mermaid" and rode that to the genre's box office zenith with "The Lion King," the results after that have been a mixed bag.

Sensing that alignment shift, Disney bought Pixar to cover themselves on that side, came up with a decent musical offering in 2010's "Tangled" and delivered a fun and imaginative animated offering in last year's "Wreck-It Ralph." One of the screenwriters for that film, Jennifer Lee, now becomes the first women in Disney history to write and co-direct an animated offering with "Frozen." While it might not quite be up there with "Beauty and the Beast," it's pretty darn close. A terrific all-around offering, it's my current pic for Best Animated Movie of the year.

Lee's script is based on Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen." An adaptation of that mid-19th century tale has reportedly has been in the works at Disney for decades, with each subsequent effort being shelved for one reason or another before being resurrected and then canceled again and again. While I have no idea how those other films might have turned out, the wait has definitely been worth it. Filled with award-worthy songs, terrific visuals, fun characters and a good mix of drama, comedy, thematic elements and some moments of suspense and action, the pic should appeal to nearly everyone.

In fact, I don't think I've been entertained to this degree all year long. Lee and co-director Chris Buck (co-director on "Surf's Up" and "Tarzan") put some fun, funny and clever spins on the traditional princess story with this tale of two sisters who end up mostly estranged due to circumstances beyond their control.

After an ice-cutting and harvesting musical number that could remind some of the opening "pull the ship" song in "Les Miserables," we're introduced to the two characters as girls where they get along perfectly. But Elsa's magical ability to create snow, ice and so on accidentally results in Anna being injured. The only way to save her is to wipe her memory clean of her sister's magical abilities and the only way to protect her and others is to hide Elsa way. All of which leads to Anna growing up wondering why her sister is so cold (get it?) to her.

Following the Disney fairy tale playbook, there's a parental loss (that leaves it up to the siblings to work things out), the handsome prince (in this case, a real one and a dashing young man who ends up being more princely than the real one) who sweeps the doe-eyed princess off her feet (despite her otherwise being capable of handling things herself -- go girl power!), and the funny sidekick characters (in this case a reindeer that comes off like a cross between a happy dog and Chewbacca, along with perhaps the funniest snowman ever to grace the silver screen).

The vocal performances from leads Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel and supporting vocalists Jonathan Groff, Alan Tudyk, Santino Fontana and especially Josh Gad (as the aforementioned man of snow) are spot on, while the singing from the ladies is particularly strong. As is the song selection, with the ladies belting out powerful ballads that are Broadway worthy (this being a Disney project I can only imagine the stage musical is in the works), while others are simply toe-tapping fun.

While the film loses just a bit of its entertainment steam in the third act when things get serious and some of the songs and especially the humor dry up, overall I immensely enjoyed this offering. Contrary to its title, "Frozen" should heat up the end of the year box office and likely spawn a hot Broadway musical. Yes, it's that good and thus rates as an 7.5 out of 10.

Reviewed November 25, 2013 / Posted November 27, 2013

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