Written by Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and others
Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
Starring Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad and more
Sometimes, even the most entertaining puzzle pieces don’t fit together very well.
“Frozen,” Disney’s latest animated offering, works far better as a collection of amusing and at times interesting characters than it does as a cohesive movie. You’ll have fun hanging out with the people (and magically created entities) onscreen, but the story they’re telling never gathers enough power to sweep the audience away.
The story is loosely based on the fairy tale “The Snow Queen,” though here the words “inspired by” might be more appropriate. There is a queen with ice powers, and the concept of getting a shard of ice stuck in your heart is a plot point, but the story is really about two sisters trying to find their way back to each other after regrettable circumstances drive them apart.
Anna, voiced by Kristen Bell, is a collection of carefully tied-together quirks that mostly manages to be charming. Though her face looks far too similar to Rapunzel’s – yes, I’m looking at you animators – her sheer awkwardness is refreshing to see in a Disney movie. Her sister Elsa, voiced by Broadway star Idina Menzel, is far more reserved but it struggling with so much she naturally draws the audience’s sympathies. Also, thanks to Menzel, it’s a treat to hear her sing.
It’s the tie between the two sisters that serves as the main emotional arc of “Frozen,” and the hesitant tenderness between them is the truest thing in the movie. I believed in Anna’s faith in Elsa more than I did any of the romances that sprang up, and Elsa’s desire to protect Anna was clearly the guide for every choice she made.
Josh Gad is charming as Olaf, a magically-animated snowman with a sunny disposition (pardon the pun), and Alan Tudyk makes the most of a very brief role as a character known simply as the Duke.
The romantic leads in the movie were less well developed, though their place in the narrative shows that Disney is attempting to experiment with their usual formula. I’m not sure how successful the results were – I spent more time trying to anticipate the plot mechanics than I did getting sucked into the story – but for a company as old as Disney any branching out should probably be applauded.
The songs are all catchy and well-done, and I’m already planning on asking for the soundtrack for Christmas. They don’t fit into the movie quite as organically as the ones in “Tangled” did, but that’s a relatively minor quibble since nothing else quite fits, either.