The Disney fairytales have never really been grounded in reality other than emotional truths, like fear, courage, sacrifice and honor. But as far characters behaving practically goes, fairytales have a poor track record. On the hand, if fictional characters acted sensibly, there probably wouldn’t be many interesting stories to tell. Frozen offers a compromise; it features all of the poor judgment that help kick off grandiose tales, but also real consequences and smart decisions. For parents who don’t want daughters who are princesses, this is one princess movie they won’t mind sharing with their children.
Princess Elsa (Idina Menzel) has an innate power to command the cold. As a child, she and her younger sister, Anna (Kristen Bell), would play in the castle, building snowmen and turning the interior into a winter wonderland. Unfortunately, Anna is injured by Elsa’s power and their parents lock Elsa away, teaching her to hide her ability. Years later, now grown up and with their parents passing away, Elsa stands to inherit the throne. But her power has grown beyond her ability to hide it and, during a very public event, Anna accidentally reveals Elsa’s secret with far reaching effects – Elsa freezes the entire kingdom, turning summer into winter. Ashamed and afraid, Elsa flees into the mountains, but only she can reverse the cold, and Anna takes it upon herself to face her sister. Teaming up with local ice seller, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his trusty reindeer and a curious living snowman, Olaf (Josh Gad), the group marches toward their fate to save the kingdom.
Frozen looks absolutely superb and is wonderfully animated. Early on the representation of Anna and Elsa as children will warm the heart and then break it when Anna suffers her injury at Elsa’s hands. The visuals never lose their luster as the children grow throughout their accelerated youth, making audiences really feel like they’ve experienced life with these girls. Then later, with Elsa flexing her magical power, the ice effects look completely believable and will fill audiences with awe and wonder. From an aesthetic standpoint, however, some audiences may be put off by how mousey the women look, with their gigantic eyes and long noses over tiny mouths, but it won’t ruin the experience.
The voiceover work coupled with excellent dialogue and lyrics is a perfect combination. Kristen Bell is plucky and her character is easy for audiences to relate to. Idina Menzel showcases her solid singing voice in the few numbers she has. Interestingly, her big number after being outed as having magical powers will remind of “Defying Gravity” from the musical “Wicked”, which may have been why she was cast in the role. Fortunately, all of the musical numbers are fun, poignant and always engaging. Special recognition, however, does go to all the work surrounding the character Olaf. As the constant comic relief for the film there’s always a danger of annoyance with constantly trying to be funny, but excellent delivery from Josh Gad keeps the character idiosyncratic, making the humor ironic rather than forced.
What makes Frozen standout from other princess fairytales is that it subverts the timeworn plot of “love at first sight” and being saved by True Love’s Kiss. It’s fun and familiar to watch Anna meet her true love, spend a day together and then decide to marry him. It’s an unexpected and refreshing bit of reality, however, to watch her sister – and everyone else, for that matter – react to the news. Those looking for pure escapism shouldn’t worry, Frozen is still very much that and viewers will definitely feel transported out of their lives and into a fantastical world.