directed by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee
(Walt Disney Pictures, 2013)

Disney's 3-D animated fairy-tale's got all the right stuff, with two princesses, two love interests in the form of a prince and a poor boy, and sorcery in the form of powers that allow one of the princesses -- Elsa, the eldest daughter of the king and queen of the tiny but lovely kingdom of Arendelle -- to summon ice, snow and even blizzards with a mere thought. It's adorable, breathtakingly beautiful and quite funny. From the people who brought you Wreck-It-Ralph and Tangled comes another classic, with lessons about family and trust and love that are timely and refreshing.

Princess Elsa is either blessed, or cursed, with the ability to create and control anything frozen. She can fashion palaces made of ice and construct mountains of snow, as well as call up storms. But her powers pose an unintentional and deadly threat to family, especially her sister, Anna. Her well-intentioned but sadly misled parents decide to isolate Elsa from the rest of the world, for the sake of everyone's safety. The overprotective parents are subsequently killed in a shipwreck, leaving Elsa to become Queen of Arendelle on her 21st birthday.

Being sheltered from the world and her powers has only served to increase Elsa's emotional fragility. When a simple slip-up causes a terrible consequence, a shattered Elsa runs away from the kingdom, which is immediately wrapped in an arctic-style mass of cold air that refuses to budge ("polar vortex," if you will). Only Anna can save everyone. She sets off to do so, accompanied by a local youth, his loyal sled-pulling reindeer and a magically animated snowman.

There's a ton of singing. Elsa, voiced by Indina Menzel, gets the best number with the memorable "Let It Go." The rest of the songs are cute but are more like standard Broadway fare than anything else. Still, they're pleasurable enough and they help the movie whoosh along like a well-greased sled down a mountain. Kristen Bell is the voice of Anna, turning in an affecting performance whether she's speaking or singing.

Love interests in the form of Olaf (Josh Gad), an ice cutter with the scenery-chewing reindeer friend, and Hans (Santino Fontana), a handsome prince who definitely has more going on than meets the eye. An interesting assortment of magical beings, including the aforementioned communicative snowman and rock trolls, provide comic relief. There are dark moments and plenty of action sequences. The depiction of snow and ice is so realistic it will make you snowblind just watching it.

Truly stunning, even arresting in places, Frozen can be read as an empowerment film, especially for girls: in spite of not exactly knowing how to cope with the real, outside world; in spite of not knowing exactly what we want out of life, the bonds that we forge with others, especially our sisters, can help us survive any challenge. It isn't knowledge of magic that's the remedy but the workings of the human heart that eventually save the day. Polar vortexes were never so much fun.

review by
Mary Harvey

8 February 2014

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