Frozen (2013) ☆☆☆(3/4) : A familiar recipe with sparkling icing

frozen01 Disney animation film “Frozen” is made with usual ingredients which can be expected from Disney animations based on fairy tales, and they have done it well while doing some different things within its conventions. Like other spunky princesses in recent animation films such as “Tangled”(2010) and “Brave”(2012), its princess heroine is determined to take care of her matter for herself despite her shortcomings and possible dangers, and the movie sprinkles her bumpy adventure with several beautifully icy sights as sparkling icing added to its familiar recipe, and I found myself enjoying them despite some reservation.

With Hans Christian Andersen’s famous fairy tale “The Snow Queen” as its inspiration, “Frozen” tells the story of two princesses who were once very close to each other but then have been estranged from each other since an unfortunate incident. Since she was young, Elsa was gifted with a magical power to generate ice and snow, and her parents naturally worried about their daughter’s ability, but her little sister Anna loved to have a fun with Elsa’s wintry power – and Elsa could not say no to her dear sister whenever she asked.

However, when Anna unintentionally got hurt by Elsa on one day, their concerned parents decided that Elsa should be separated from Anna, even though she meant no harm to her little sister. Because her parents had her memories associated with Elsa’s power erased, Anna was left in confusion and frustration while wondering why she could not talk with her dear sister any more, and Elsa was left in isolation while trying to find a way to control her power.

The time has passed, and Elsa(voiced by Idina Menzel), who now grows up enough to succeed her deceased parents, is still nervous about herself as the coronation day is coming. In contrast, while knowing nothing about her sister’s problem as before, Anna(voiced by Kristen Bell) is happy and excited to see the palace finally opened to the outside after long years, and she soon meets her potential Prince Charming as many foreign guests are coming to attend the ceremony.

frozen03 Everything seems to go smoothly at first, but Anna inadvertently gets her sister’s power exposed in public, and, frightened by others’ reactions as well as her uncontrollable power, Elsa hurriedly flees away from the scene. She decides that it is better for her to leave alone while freely being true to herself, and the movie gives a fantastic moment looking around the gradual emergence of her ice crystal castle on the top of a snowy mountain. This scene is also immensely aided by Idina Menzel’s fabulous singing voice, and the songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who wrote eight songs for the film, certainly deserves the recent Oscar nomination for their highlight song “Let it Go”.

Meanwhile, finding her sister becomes an urgent matter to Anna. Their Nordic kingdom which has been enjoying its summer days is suddenly hurled into a massive cold wave due to Elsa’s power growing beyond control, and Anna must find Elsa as soon as possible because it is getting colder day by day. On her increasingly difficult journey to the mountain area, she encounters Kristoff(voiced by Jonathan Groff), a young man whose ice-selling business is currently being threatened by this sudden change of weather. Yes, it won’t take a minute for you to guess that he will be the one she may eventually come to love, but our perky heroine is too active to be a typical damsel in distress, though she does depend on him a lot while going through her risky adventure featuring a pack of wolves, a stiff cliff, and a huge snow giant.

Although far less icy than Andersen’s original fairy tale, “Frozen” serves us with a fair amount of snow and ice on the screen, and the result is visually enchanting. While Elsa’s ice crystal castle and other wintry landscapes unfolded on the screen shine with their cold beauty, the movie is imbued with that chilly ambiance of Nordic fairy tales, and that is well exemplified by its opening musical scene showing a bunch of men harvesting ice on a frozen lake under the cold moonlight; despite its jolly work song “Frozen Heart”, this scene feels a little spooky at times due to the artificial quality shown from the faces of digital animation characters, but that somehow functions well as one of main fantasy elements in the story.

frozen05 The film also has many humorous moments to tickle us, and its humor mainly comes from Olaf, a talking snowman who cheerfully sings about his personal (death) wish to enjoy summer days in his hilarious song “In Summer”. Josh Gad, who was one of a few good things in disappointing biopic film “Jobs”(2013), is scene-stealing in his goofy voice performance, and some of the gags involved with Olaf’s separable body parts are fun to watch. The movie also has a bunch of lovable trolls who kindly took care of Kristoff during his childhood years, and I must say they sometimes look like stony Smurfs when they sing and dance.

Although its third act including grave danger, desperate running, and expected emotional climax feels shaky, “Frozen” works as a drama about the strong bond between two different sisters, and Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel are convincing in their voice performances as the sisters who still care about each other in spite of long years of estrangement. The co-directors/co-writers Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee also give us a nice, clever variation of that famous fairy tale cliché during their predictable ending, and you may be a little surprised by that.

2013 was notably a weak year for animation feature films despite several huge box office successes, and “Frozen”, which will probably get the Best Animation Film award along with the Best Song award in the upcoming Oscar ceremony, is one of a little better ones which can cheer us up and then make us hope for better things to come. This frosty animation film feels familiar on the whole, but it is well done with entertaining things to be appreciated, and my warm heart has nothing to complain about that.

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