In the land of Arendelle lived two princesses: Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel) and Anna (voice of Kristen Bell). Elsa was born with the gift of ice. She can create ice, snow and cold temperatures even in the heat of summer. Elsa and Anna often play in the grand ballroom of the castle where they live with their parents the King and Queen, turning the giant room into a winter wonderland any time of year. Once while playing, Elsa accidently hit Anna in the head with a blast of her powers, knocking Anna unconscious. The King and Queen rushed Anna to the rock troll people led by King Pabbie (Ciaran Hinds) for magical healing. Pabbie warned Anna’s parents that if Elsa had hit her in the heart, she would have frozen solid. The King and Queen decide to keep the girls separated for Anna protection. The troll king removes all the memories of Elsa’s powers from Anna and just leaves the fun times they shared, not how they actually happened. Anna and Elsa live in the castle but never see each other. The King and Queen locked the castle doors and prevented anyone from coming inside. That’s the way it stayed for a very long time. While on a trip at sea, the King and Queen die when their ship sinks in a storm. Three years later, it is time of Elsa to be crowned Queen. The castle is opened up to guests for the first time in years and Elsa is afraid her powers will come out for all to see. Anna is looking forward to finally seeing people besides the servants. During a reception following the coronation, Anna meets the handsome Prince Hans (voice of Santino Fontana) and immediately falls in love. Hans feels the same way and asks Anna to marry him. She says yes instantly and brings Hans to Elsa for her blessing. Elsa refuses to give her blessing causing an argument between the sisters. The stress of the fight causes Elsa’s powers to come out, frightening all the party guests and causing Elsa to run off to the north country to live in a giant ice palace she creates in the mountains. In her emotional state, Elsa’s powers have thrown the entire kingdom of Arendelle into a perpetual winter. Anna decides to go after Elsa and, while walking through the forest, runs into Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his pet reindeer Sven. Kristoff is an ice trader and will never be able to make any money if the unnatural winter continues. Anna convinces Kristoff to join her on her journey to find Elsa and get her to undo the cold weather. As they travel through the forest, they encounter a living snowman named Olaf (voice of Josh Gad). Olaf looks exactly like a snowman the sisters built as children. Elsa’s powers must have reformed him and brought him to life. He says he knows where Elsa’s castle is and offers to guide the pair to it. Back in Arendelle, Prince Hans is in charge and oversees the passing out of blankets to the people. The Duke of Weselton (voice of Alan Tudyk) urges a search party go looking for Elsa and kill her to end the winter; but his true motive is to use Arendelle’s natural resources to build his own wealth.
“Frozen” is a movie that’s been in development in one form or another for 70 years. It started as a joint project with Disney and MGM in 1943. The plan was to adapt the life of Hans Christian Andersen into a film with Disney animating his stories and MGM shooting live action then merging the two into one film. When the Disney folks got to “The Snow Queen,” on which “Frozen” is based, they ran into a problem making the main character relatable and the project fell apart. There were other efforts over the years to make “The Snow Queen” into a film but they all failed at about the same place…making the Snow Queen a character audiences would support and care for. Finally, after radically changing the story and making the two main characters sisters, Disney cracked the code and has produced a beautiful, fun and visually dazzling film that parents and children can both enjoy. Can you tell I liked it?
The CGI animation is spectacular with a feeling of depth and dimensionality that is evident in the 2D version I saw. While there may have been a few visual treats to seeing “Frozen” in 3D there is still plenty of eye candy in the standard version. The stand-out image of “Frozen” is the ice palace Elsa builds in the mountains. It is one of the most interesting animated images I’ve ever seen and of course, it doesn’t move. The texture of the ice, the refraction of the light coming in through the walls and the shimmer as it reflects endlessly off the interior surfaces is mesmerizing. The film doesn’t spend much time in the palace but when it’s there it makes the most of the look and design of the structure. Other aspects of the animation are beautiful as well. All the characters have very classic Disney designs that will look familiar to many fans of the traditionally animated films.
“Frozen” is a musical. I’m usually not a big fan of animated musicals but this one is unique in that the songs don’t just repeat information we already know. The music actually moves the story forward and provides greater emotional punch as well. Idina Menzel, who appeared on “Glee” as Rachel’s birth mother, is an accomplished Broadway actress with numerous musicals on her resume. She and Kristen Bell both have beautiful singing voices and their duets are powerful, bringing the story’s conflict into sharp focus. None of the songs are maudlin or sad. Even the music that is meant to reflect Elsa’s fear at what she might do by accident with her powers is hopeful. You may even find yourself humming “Let it Go” or “For the First Time in Forever” after the movie is over.
Humor is a big part of “Frozen” and a large part of that is delivered by the living snowman Olaf voiced by Josh Gad. Gad is comic actor and Broadway star as well. He appeared in the original cast of “The Book of Mormon.” Olaf is a simple child and is eternally optimistic. Gad voices the role with enormous energy and fun providing a perfect match to the visuals of Olaf as a short, stout and easily separated snowman. Sven the reindeer also is a comic character that is able to convey meaning with a snort, grunt and wrinkling of his snout. Kristoff and Sven often have conversations but Kristoff provides both sides of the discussion with Sven making faces that match what’s being said. It’s a new take on the man’s best friend dynamic that works very well. Anna is also a source of humor. She is a bit of a tomboy who is frequently clumsy or says the wrong thing at the wrong time. She can give orders like a queen and ignore her foot is caught in a bucket at the same time. Anna is a strong female character that doesn’t shy away from any challenge.
“Frozen” is rated PG for some action and mild rude humor. Anna and Kristoff are attacked by wolves and must jump a crevice in the snow to get to safety. A giant snow monster attacks Anna and Kristoff along with others. There are numerous other close calls but no one gets hurt. Olaf says a few things that could be interpreted as inappropriate. For instance, when he is flying through the air in three pieces he yells to look out for his butt. That’s about as rude as it gets.
Everything about “Frozen” is a joy. The characters, the music and the animation all works together to make it a nearly perfect film. It’s also great that a kids film can be enjoyed by parents as well. I hope other studios see that it’s possible to make an entertaining film for both young and older crowds alike. After a strong opening weekend at the box office, it certainly proves there’s an audience for it.
“Frozen” gets an enthusiastic five guitars out of five.
There are a ton of new movies in theatres this week. I’ll see one, maybe two, based on your votes.
The Book Thief—A spirited and courageous young girl transforms the lives of everyone around her when she is sent to live with a new family in World War II Germany.
Inside Llewyn Davis—Follow a week in the life of a young folk singer as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961. Guitar in tow, huddled against the unforgiving New York winter, he is struggling to make it as a musician against seemingly insurmountable obstacles—some of them of his own making.
Kill Your Darlings—The previously untold story of murder that brought together a young Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs at Columbia University in 1944, providing the spark that would lead to their Beat Revolution.
Old Boy—Follow the story of Joe Doucette, a man who is abruptly kidnapped and held hostage for 20 years in solitary confinement, for no apparent reason. When he is suddenly released without explanation, he begins an obsessive mission to find out who imprisoned him, only to discover that the real mystery is why he was set free.
Out of the Furnace—One man has the pressures of work and the care of his terminally ill father to deal with. Now his brother has come home from serving in Iraq and gets caught up in a violent criminal gang. When he disappears and the police don’t solve the case, he takes it on himself to find his brother.
Philomena—After giving her illegitimate son up for adoption decades ago, Philomena connects with a reporter from the BBC and begins a quest to find her boy. Based on a true story.
Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any film of his choice in theatres or On Demand.
Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.
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