Starring: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff, Alan Tudyk, Santino Fontana, Ciarán Hinds
Directed by: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Run Time: 108 minutes
Opens November 27th
by Eric Forthun of Cinematic Shadows
Frozen is an intelligent, briskly-paced family film that remains an animated joy from start to finish. It feels like a newly minted Disney classic, standing alongside 2010's Tangled as a reinvention of traditional princess films, using musical numbers to distinguish itself amidst modern animated fare; "Let It Go" is not only a bonafide showstopper, it's also a guaranteed win for Best Original Song at 2014's Oscars. The film centers on Anna (Kristen Bell), an optimistic young girl that lives in a castle with her younger sister, Elsa (Idina Menzel). Elsa has magical powers that enable her to turn things into ice, leading to a freak accident one day when the girls are playing at a young age. To heal Anna, her parents sacrifice all of Anna's memories relating to Elsa, forgetting that she has powers and forcing her to distance herself from her sister so that another incident does not occur. Where they used to be close, loving siblings, they are now cold, isolated individuals. It's a fairly dark compromise for a Disney film, but one that excels once the plot escalates.
Elsa is destined to be queen, the Snow Queen in fact, but a mishap on her expected day causes her to run away, leading to a witch hunt of sorts to stop Elsa from any more damage. Anna feels that her sister is a misunderstood soul and hopes to find a way to save her. Put in charge during Elsa's absence is Hans (Santino Fontana), a chivalrous prince charming that Anna starts to fall in love with, although Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) also ends up being an admirable man that stands by their side through this fight. As Anna and Kristoff journey off to find Elsa, they also come across Olaf (Josh Gad), a snowman that the girls built when they were kids that is brought to life by the magic of the land that Elsa unleashes. Add in some trolls and a few other fairy tale elements and Frozen becomes a busy, if seemingly conventional, princess tale.
But it's not. That's the magic of Frozen, the way in which it navigates this familiar world with a strong understanding of the groundings of this sub-genre. This is an intelligently drawn tale of feminism above all else; where these princesses feel like they need a man to have happiness in their life, the tale becomes one of the way that they can find peace without the aid of a man's hand in marriage. There's something oddly groundbreaking about the manner in which Disney, a company that has prided itself on that message to females, presents this idea, surrounding it with zippy musical numbers and sweet humor. The voice cast all-around is excellent, with Menzel standing out in her numbers and Gad providing more than sufficient comedic excitement to a role that is inherently silly. And I cannot help but feel swept up in how magical Frozen is, a delightfully pleasant, visually stunning adventure that not only stands as the year's best animated feature (in the weakest year that genre has seen), but one of the year's brightest, happiest films.