After a long period of mostly comedic tales of fantasy and talking animals, it’s nice to see Disney is once again embracing its own traditions. While Pixar hasn’t dealt with many movies that involve musical numbers and princesses falling in love, Disney thankfully has gone back to the well for “Frozen.” And it’s a pretty fantastic little tale that embraces the Disney tropes while re-inventing the Disney princess imagery, as well.
Rather than one Disney princess, there are two this time, and both are on opposite spectrums of the world. The writers for “Frozen” manage to build two very powerful and utterly independent young woman, both of whom crave love and affection, but aren’t dependent on it. They’re not helpless damsels, but they’re weaknesses have been their idea of what love is, and how it’s supposed to change your life. What “Frozen” explores beyond the power of love, is how you must also step lively around what you think might be love. There’s the danger of falling in love with love. When young sheltered princess Anna meets the prince Hans, the two fall in love literally over night and are committed to marrying. But Anna’s sister Elsa doubts she’s even aware of what love really is.
When Anna meets the valiant Kristoff, he too mocks her for falling in love in a matter of hours, and warns her about the dangers of rushing in to such a serious commitment. Elsa and Anna are sisters, both of whom have bonded through their years, in spite of Elsa’s amazing power over ice and snow. When Elsa nearly kills her sister during horseplay, the powerful troll doctor Grand Pabbie alters Anna’s memories to erase the knowledge of Elsa’s powers. In response, Elsa is sheltered for many years and taught how to control her powers, while Anna grows up hungry for love and affection, desperately trying to reach out to her reclusive sister. When the time comes to crown Elsa the new queen of Arendelle, Elsa refuses to grant Anna the permission to marry, and accidentally gives her city eternal winter. Leaving the city in charge of her husband to be, Hans, Anna ventures out to find Elsa, and help bring Summer back to the world.
Along the way Anna is able to experience the world as Elsa does, and eventually meets the geeky but heroic Kristoff, who agrees to take Anna to see her sister. Along the way, the pair bond and find out that their world is much more vast and dangerous than either of them could ever have figured. The world that Disney paints for audiences is rather fantastic, with small bouts of fantasy and magic that are always adorable and thankfully never overbearing. The troll village that becomes a great help to Anna and Kristoff adds a nice touch of heart, while talking snowman Olaf is a great sidekick. The musical numbers are the most vibrant and memorable Disney has produced in years, with some truly excellent and emotional songs that help advance the story and provide exposition to the dilemma both sisters face during their lives.
The voice performances are outstanding as well, including Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell, both of whom have remarkable chemistry, and work well on their own. Bell seems to have a blast playing the spunky and outrageous Anna, and you’ll have a difficult time not being charmed by her character’s utter enthusiasm and heroism. “Frozen” has every opportunity to be overzealous, saccharine, and melodramatic, and thankfully displays restraint, delivering a touching and entertaining fantasy adventure about love, and how it can be both enriching and dangerous. For a movie I originally wrote off as generic, “Frozen” is the surprise animated gem of 2013.