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Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013 12:01 am

Frozen upholds strong Disney tradition


In 1989, after suffering an unusually long draught where successful animated features were concerned, Disney Studios released The Little Mermaid, a blockbuster musical cartoon based on a Hans Christian Anderson tale that righted the Mouse Factory’s floundering ship and marked the beginning of the modern resurgence of the animated feature film. With their latest, Frozen, the studio returns to the plumb, the same author’s works, finding inspiration for one of their strongest features in the last decade.

Based on the Anderson story The Snow Queen, the movie examines the extraordinary relationship of two sisters, Princess Elsa (voice by Idina Menzel) and Princess Anna (Kristen Bell), siblings who are polar opposites where their outlooks on life are concerned and who each have their mettle tested over the course of an extraordinary weekend. Almost from birth, Elsa displays strange powers; she’s able to freeze anything she touches, commanding the ice she makes to do whatever she imagines. While this seems fun at first, it becomes apparent that as she grows older, she has less and less control over this odd ability. It becomes such a threat that the two sisters are isolated, never permitted to interact with one another, until many years later when Elsa is to be made queen of their kingdom, as her parents had died years earlier. However, what is suppose to be a joyous occasion turns tragic when Elsa loses her temper over an impulsive act Anna takes and before you know it she’s cast the world into an eternal winter and exiles herself atop a nearby mountain in an ice castle of her own making.

What ensues follows the well worn Disney formula. Anna sets out to find her sister and have her undo the damage she’s caused, all the while accompanied by a handsome love interest – hunky ice merchant Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) – and a sidekick or two for comic relief, which this time out happens to be a very expressive reindeer named Sven and Olaf (Josh Gad), a rather dim snowman with a good heart. Of course, their quest is not without its perils. They must combat a large, malevolent ice monster, misguided soldiers and Elsa herself who is raging out of control.

The screenplay by co-director Jennifer Lee is very smart, quirky and fun, while the songs by Robert and Kristen Anderson-Lopez serve to move the plot along and provide many a clever turn of a phrase or well-timed joke. The musical highlight of the film occurs when Olaf belts out In Summer, regaling us with the exploits he will accomplish when the sun is high in the sky, blissfully unaware that such a course of action will spell his doom. Gad it quite good here, finding the proper clueless yet endearing tone for a character that I think will be a crowd favorite long after this movie is done with its initial theatrical run.

It comes as no surprise that there are no surprises where Frozen is concerned and that’s just fine. Sure, it’s a formula exercise but directors Chris Buck and Lee execute the film which such a sense of enthusiasm that it seems fresh enough to sweep us away and leave a smile on viewer’s faces. In the end, that’s the purpose of movies like Frozen, and it delivers exactly what I expected with style, wit and good-cheer. I’d be quite happy if most films I saw managed just as much.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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