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‘Frozen’ wintry mix of music, fun

11/28/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Craig Marks

The Disney fairy-tale movie “Frozen” is now playing in theaters.
Photo courtesy of Disney
The Disney fairy-tale movie “Frozen” doesn’t achieve the majesty of “Beauty and the Beast,” but it’s more ambitious and tuneful than the studio’s last adjective-titled princess movie, “Tangled.”

The story, loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Snow Queen,” takes us to the fictional Nordic kingdom of Arendelle, where two young princesses frolic in the snow. The white stuff is courtesy of one of the princesses, Elsa (voiced as an adult by Idina Menzel), who is a literal snow machine. With her hand she magically conjures a winter wonderland inside the walls of the palace, much to the delight of Elsa’s spirited younger sister, Anna (voiced as an adult by Kristen Bell).

But tragedy enters the picture. An accident on the ice leaves Anna unconscious and results in Elsa closing herself off from the world. Anna recovers, but the relationship between the two becomes, um, icy. It will get exponentially worse a few years later when a sisterly disagreement leads Elsa to freeze the entire kingdom.

A tormented Elsa leaves the castle for parts unknown, singing the power ballad “Let It Go.” (Menzel starred in the Broadway production of “Wicked.” She’s not in the production that will be in Cleveland next month, but for those who can’t afford tickets, numbers like this might make “Frozen” the next best thing.)

Anna goes on a quest to find her sister, getting assistance from amiable Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), whose ice-selling business experienced a sudden downturn when Arendelle settled into a permanent winter. They are joined by Olaf (Josh Gad), a sentient snowman with a dangerous ignorance of thermodynamics (specifically, why the sun is bad for things made out of snow).

Olaf’s musical number “In Summer” is one of the movie’s highlights, a song that will tickle both young and old. Most of the other songs are pleasant and well sung, though I could have done without the number performed by a family of trolls. It felt like a song purchased at a Muppets clearance sale.

The movie, directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, sticks with the well-trodden “love conquers all” theme but throws in a surprising twist or two. It doesn’t make Elsa your typical Disney fairy-tale baddie. She’s more a victim than a villainess, cursed with powers she can no longer control and forced for much of the movie to hide her true self. Menzel makes Elsa a sympathetic character, though one lacking the charisma of Bell’s Anna.

The animators’ rendered icescapes are gorgeous, though the 3D doesn’t add much. But it’s worth splurging for the plastic glasses because of the Mickey Mouse short “Get a Horse!” that precedes “Frozen.” To say too much would spoil the fun, but it’s simply amazing. If the cartoon were an attraction in a Disney theme park, I’d wait in the long, winding line to see it.

The movie, which opened Nov. 27, is rated PG for some action and mild rude humor

3-1/2 Stars (out of four)

 

Craig Marks is a cartoonist and editorial, sports and entertainment writer for the West Side Leader.

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