Frozen

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UK Release Date 6th December 2013
Director Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Starring Kristen Bell
Runtime 108 Minutes
Certificate PG
Reviewer Si
Reviewed 5th December 2013

I’ll put this right out there from the off. I am probably not the right person to review Frozen. I’m not a huge Disney fan and the thought of anything remotely musical outside of Singin’ in the Rain brings me out in a cold sweat. But we’re professionals here, oh yes.

Brought to you by the same team that handled Tangled (which I didn’t see), Frozen is Disney’s rough take on the Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson (which I haven’t read). See what I mean about my qualification for reviewing this? There is a light for me though, it was written (and co-directed) by Jennifer Lee, she of Wreck-it Ralph, which I did see and thoroughly enjoyed.

We pick up the tale with sisters Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) playing in snow created by elder sister Elsa, who is blessed or cursed depending on how you look at it. The frivolities take a poor turn when Elsa accidentally hits Anna in the head with a snow bolt and the parents have to intervene to get help from some friendly trolls to cure the girl. Being royalty, they take the troll’s sage advice about bringing up their borderline dangerous child a bit too literally and hide her in the royal castle away from everyone, including her doting sister. One ill-advised voyage in a storm later and the orphans are left to fend for themselves. Well, emotionally anyway, they are still princesses.

The fortress left to them by their parents starts to fall apart on the occasion of Elsa’s coronation some years later when she is forced to open up (the castle) and let other people in. Amongst the influx of well wishers, Anna finds a fiancé and well, it all goes a bit wrong, leading to Elsa freezing the entire kingdom and retreating to the North Mountain. Anna sets off in pursuit and collects the usual rag-tag band of helpers on the way.

This will be well documented everywhere but for the record, the animation in this film is stunning even by Disney’s standards. In terms of characters, it’s a perfect blend of the hand-drawn work that Disney is rightly lauded for - in this case used as a base and then built up into 3D computer animation. It’s truly wonderful to see how well the old and new can be blended in this way. Check out the image above of Prince Hans and Anna - entirely Disney but still cutting edge. The environments created are also jaw-droppingly beautiful. No still image will do it justice but witness the opening scenes of the ice workers sawing ice chunks up and loading them on to their sled. The ice and water effects are just magical and this continues throughout the entire film. Whatever money was spent on the snow consultant (yes, there was one), was money very well spent. I spent a good deal of the movie almost ignoring the story, just staring in wonder at the world that has been created.

Which to be honest, was just as well. Much as I adored the magical animation, I was less impressed by the story and characters themselves. Anna is great and Kristen Bell brings her to life well. The free spirit of the two sisters, she gets all the best lines and her frozen skirt is one of the movie’s few laugh out loud moments (you have to be there). The comedy sidekick comes in the form of completely detachable snowman Olaf (Josh Gad). Sounding mostly like Mort Goldman from Family Guy, I obviously had my Disney suspicions about that voice and the large carrot nose but I suspect that was more me than the movie. He is superbly animated and his constant interactions with love interest (and reindeer affectionado) Kristoff’s loyal reindeer Sven are always great fun. Which brings me on to my favourite thing about the movie and probably one of the most disappointing aspects. It says much about all the other characters that the one with the most personality by far is the mute reindeer. Sven is super. First introduced to us as a calf, his body language and hugely expressive face are a joy to watch and he easily outshines the other characters.

I should mention the tunes as this is technically a musical. All of the cast have impressive voices and for somebody that doesn’t get on with musicals, I didn't feel the songs interrupt the flow of this one - they were actually pretty good. The tunes hover between full on show tunes and more Shrek like Avril Lavigne (is she still about?) style numbers. Never as catchy as the tunes in Shrek or The Lion King but certainly not out of place.

I did enjoy Frozen, despite my reservations, but it needed to be funnier and the bad guys needed more personality. The screening I went to had a good number of excitable kids in attendance and although they all behaved (a great sign of an enjoyable movie as well as good parenting), they didn’t spend a huge amount of time laughing or booing the bad guys which I thought was a shame. The film’s message is well delivered and won’t surprise anybody who’s seen a Disney movie before but the way it’s delivered is a genuine surprise and the filmmakers should be roundly commended for this, though I can’t discuss it for fear of a spoiler (or two). Frozen will do well over the holidays (it nailed its opening weekend in the States in some style) and you won’t be able to escape the winter themed merchandising but over time I suspect people will realise that stunning animation apart, they’d always rather watch The Lion King.

Check out the trailer here.

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