(2013)3Perry SeibertIt was two old-fashioned musicals -- The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast -- that put Disney animation back on top in the late '80s and '90s. While they've maintained their dominance in this field ever since, the Mouse House hasn't come close to matching the quality of those masterpieces. However, thanks to a number of sweet and lyrically deft songs, Frozen is a giant step in the right direction.
The plot hinges on the relationship between Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) and her younger sister Anna (Kristen Bell). They are the daughters of a king and queen in Norway, and Elsa actually possesses magical powers. She can create snow and ice out of thin air, and as a child she nearly kills Anna by mistake. This leads their parents to keep the siblings physically separated much of the time, which is painful for Anna because she doesn't know why her big sister suddenly wants nothing to do with her.
After the king and queen die -- as is the fate of seemingly all of the parents of Disney main characters -- Elsa inherits the throne, reveals her powers at a celebratory ball, and then runs away from her village fearing she will do harm to everyone; in the process, she accidentally ices over most of the surrounding area. Anna sets off to find her big sis, leaving her hometown under the care of a strapping young man with whom she's smitten. She soon teams up with a kindhearted ice salesman and a talking snowman in order to locate and reconcile with her sister and save their town.
What makes Frozen far and away the most entertaining Disney musical in quite some time is that the married songwriting team of Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez have put together a set of reasonably ambitious songs that not only have pleasant melodies, but are matched with lyrics that are humorous while revealing character. Menzel is the kind of Broadway belter who can absolutely sell numbers like these, and the whole cast wring the humor and pathos out of the tunes. There are a large number of songs throughout Frozen, and they aren't superfluous: This is a traditional musical. So much so that it won't be surprising if they announce a Broadway production based on the movie -- or at the very least, a touring ice show.
While Menzel certainly has the best voice of the lot, Bell is heartbreaking with the poignant "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" And Broadway veteran Josh Gad not only provides a ton of welcome comic relief as a snowman named Olaf, but gets a funny and touching song of his own, "In Summer," in which his character dreams of what the warm sun will feel like.
The movie never quite gels entirely: The complicated relationship between the sisters isn't so much explored as treated as a contrivance to set the story in motion, and the animation, while certainly colorful, lacks a certain polish -- Pixar this is not, even with John Lasseter serving as the executive producer. However, anyone with an appreciation for old-school musical numbers will find something pleasantly familiar and cozy about Frozen.
After the kingdom of Arendelle is cast into eternal winter by the powerful Snow Queen Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel), her sprightly sister Anna (Kristen Bell) teams up with a rough-hewn mountaineer named Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his trusty reindeer Sven to break the icy spell. Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee co-directed this Walt Disney Animation Studios production based on Hans Christian Andersen's beloved fairy tale The Snow Queen.