Frozen | B
The House of Mouse has many rooms, and many gift shops, and many shopping mall boutiques; each boutique has many shelves that are in constant in need of filling. Frozen is fresh meat for the Disney Princess Factory, a rapacious industrial beast that churns out endless wishes and fairy tale homilies and fills the very air we breathe with a thick, shimmering cough-inducing cloud of pixie dust.
Every last facet of this shiny tale has been calculated for maximum marketing impact, from the dual heroine’s frequent costume changes to the cuddly soft sidekicks. The snow globe potential alone is staggering.
Yet despite the hard sell of the advertising, the Disney formula remains pretty dang delightful. If every element feels calculated and focus-tested, it’s because Frozen has spent a near eternity in the wilds of development hell, stumbling through the decades in various stages of pre-production, re-imagining and revision.
In fact, Disney has been unsuccessfully attempting to adapt Hans Christian Andersen’s classic The Snow Queen since Walt’s era, way back in the ’40s. In all that time, no one was able to find a way to thaw the chilly disposition of the title character and make her presentable to modern audiences.
Screen team Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with Shane Morris and a host of others, have finally cracked the ice, bridging the gap between traditional fantasy and the neo-feminist mantra that has driven recent productions, such as Brave. Here, Disney offers up not one, but two princesses to warm the cockles of our hearts.
Refined Elsa (Idina Menzel) and her feisty younger sister Anna (Kristen Bell) are heirs to the peaceful Scandinavian realm of Arendelle, a lush green wonderland surrounded by spectacular mountain views. The elder daughter has been mysteriously blessed (and cursed) with the amazing ability to conjure all forms of cold and ice, but when she accidentally injures Anna, the royal family is forced to virtually seclude her behind the castle walls.
Anna never gives up on her big sis, who eventually ascends to the throne and seems poised to live happily ever after, until a flare-up of her powers leaves Arendelle shrouded in endless winter.
Distraught, Elsa retreats to a frosty fortress in the hills and begins believing the hype that she may indeed be an evil witch. Once again, Anna refuses to abandon her big sis, especially when interlopers start trying to seize the crown. She sets off to rescue the ice queen from her loneliness, with help from a dashing foreign duke (Alan Tudyk), sweet and brawny ice block dealer Kristoff (Johnaton Groff) and cuddly, slightly dim magical snowman Olaf (Josh Gad). He longs for a warm sunny day, even though that can’t end well for him.
The menagerie of sellable commodities also includes a benevolent clan of rock trolls and a gallant reindeer sidekick, but they are all rendered in such lovely detail it’s hard to grouse.
Not only does the movie look great with its scenes of glistening, freezing majesty, but it also sounds absolutely terrific. The score is a total throwback to the glory days of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s musical treats, like The Little Mermaid and Aladdin.
The show tunes are energetic and captivating, if not entirely memorable, until the platinum-voiced Menzel belts out “Let it Go.” The soaring, swooning ode to self-empowerment will soon enough be heard echoing in every high school drama audition room from coast to coast.
If Frozen seems intentionally Broadway-bound, and the movie seems destined for a long afterlife as promotional juggernaut, it at least has abundant life while on screen. Most of all, you’ll probably enjoy it — and your daughters will love it.
Frozen is in theaters now and is rated G with a running time of 95 minutes.