Movie Information

The Story: A newly crowned queen — with the ability to freeze things — plunges her country into perpetual winter. The Lowdown: It's certainly dazzling to look at, but apart from the presence of two female leads and no real male hero, it's pretty standard Disney fare, decked out in a largely forgettable, but occasionally irritating, songs. Not a bad movie, but far from a great one.
Genre: Animated Fantasy
Director: Chris Buck (Surf's Up), Jennifer Lee
Starring: (Voices) Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk
Rated: PG

Yes, Frozen looks terrific. From a purely visual standpoint, it’s pretty impressive — no complaints there. But beyond that … I can only conclude that all the raves are the result of 2013 being a particularly bad year for animated movies (The Wind Rises and The Croods to one side). It’s not that Frozen is actively bad — assuming you like the standard Disney ersatz-show-tune-studded fantasy. It’s just that it’s really nothing special — despite all the palaver about its female-empowerment message (which I didn’t find all that strong). It’s worth noting that I am not a big Disney fan. I own one — count it, one — bona fide animated Disney movie, so I’m not really the target audience. Bear that in mind.

The story is a loose reworking of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, where we find two little girls — princesses, of course — in an unusual dilemma. The elder, Elsa (voiced as a child by Eva Bella), has this never-explained gift (or curse) for turning things to ice, and while she and Anna (voiced as a child by Livvy Stubenrauch) are playing, Elsa accidentally freezes her little sister’s brain. This causes the family to rush Anna off to see the trolls (well, what would you do?), where the the high muckety-muck troll (voiced by Ciaran Hinds) fixes her up. He also erases all memory of things magical from her mind and remarks that it was a good thing it wasn’t her heart, which would have been a trickier proposition. (The troll is apparently up on the concept of “Chekov’s gun.”) So the family locks Elsa away and the sisters grow distant. (And, yes, you can read all this different-and-closeted stuff as gay subtext, but it doesn’t really go anywhere.) Well, this is Disney, so the folks get killed and eventually Elsa (now voiced by Idina Menzel) comes of age to take the throne. This is where the real trouble starts.

There’s a coronation ball where Anna (now voiced by Kristen Bell) falls for — and immediately decides to marry — low-rent visiting royalty, Hans (voiced by TV actor Santino Fontana). The announcement of this impending union doesn’t sit well with Elsa, and this turns into a squabble that climaxes with Elsa going all Carrie-at-the-prom and freezing the kingdom, before storming off to sing a power ballad and reveling in her acceptance of her true, icy self. Well, of course, this must be fixed, so Anna sets out to find her sister and get her to come home and defrost the place. This is the bulk of the story — and, naturally, Anna meets a hunky ice salesman Kristoff (voiced by TV actor Jonathan Groff), his comic sidekick reindeer and a loquacious snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad).

What happens is sometimes amusing — especially in scenes with the snowman, even though he’s created in a style that looks like it belongs in some other movie — and it will undoubtedly please children. But it also feels more than a little perfunctory and predictable. Plus, the songs by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (of Book of Mormon fame) are undistinguished Broadway knock-offs. If, however, you’re keen on all things Disney — especially the princess stuff — you’re likely to get more out of this than I did. Rated PG for some action and mild rude humor.

Playing at Carmike 10.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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