Frozen’s combination of classic storytelling and David-Lean-does-animation epic visuals make it a future Christmas classic.
Reclusive princess Elsa (Menzel) possesses uncontrollable magic powers - Midas-like, everything she touches turns to ice - and it’s a secret she has kept from her outgoing sister Anna (Bell). When Elsa reluctantly invites her kingdom’s well-to-do to witness her coronation, she and Anna squabble over Anna’s desire to marry the handsome Hans (Santino Fontana). When the argument escalates, Elsa accidentally unleashes her terrible power, plunging the kingdom into a perpetual winter, and flees into the snowy wilderness. Anna employs gruff huntsman Kristoff (Groff) to help track her down…
Inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, Frozen boasts a lengthy set up but in taking its time to get going it cleverly disguises how it will turn out and who exactly the villain is. While doing that directors Buck (writer-director of the criminally underrated Surf’s Up) and Lee (Wreck It Ralph co-writer) put the audience on unsure footing, toying with the rules of the world they’ve created. First they set up the 18th century Scandinavian-like setting, then they sneak in a little magic, then talking trolls disguised as rocks, and then, just when you’ve got a handle on things and accept that Kristoff’s reindeer is pretty savvy in the ways of righteousness, Olaf the friendly snowman (Gad) turns up. And proceeds to run off with the entire movie.
The funniest sidekick since Shrek’s Donkey, Olaf is a delight; his presence could have been too wacky for the story’s tone – it’s like he is parachuted in from a stoner comedy – but Buck and Lee subtly dot Frozen with just enough oddball quirkiness so his eventual appearance, while still a surprise, makes sense. Kind of.
But then there are the songs. Some love their songs in movies, others can’t wait for them to fade out so they can get back to the business of the story. Coming thick and fast at first (Frozen is at times one of those irritating sing-the-dialogue counterpoint Broadway musicals) the songs eventually thin out and there’s thankfully none at all for the final twenty minutes. Hooray!
So bar the distracting and forgettable songs (and that the real story here is actually Elsa’s, not Anna’s hero quest) Frozen is wonderful stuff.