'Frozen' stars Idina Menzel as the voice of Elsa, top, and Michigan native Kristen Bell as the voice of Anna. (Disney)
Despite it’s chilly title, “Frozen” is a bundle of winter warmth, a delightful and dazzling display of Disney animation at its finest.
Graced with the wonderful vocal talents of Kristen Bell (a native Detroiter) and Idina Menzel, this is also the most successful Disney musical in years, featuring bright new songs from the husband and wife team of Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lope. Broadway, clear a stage, because this is coming.
Actually, the only complaint with the movie is that the singing fades toward the film’s end as story and action take over; still, as complaints go, it’s pretty minor.
A re-imagining of the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale “The Snow Queen,” the film starts off with two young princesses (it is a Disney movie, after all). The older girl, Elsa (Menzel, when she grows up) has the magical ability to freeze things and produce ice and snow.
Unfortunately, this leads to an accident in which her sister Anna (Bell) is injured. So Elsa’s parents decide to isolate her — and indeed the whole family — so news of her power won’t spread. The sisters, once very close, are kept apart.
But after the girls’ parents perish and Elsa grows up, she must be crowned and made queen. At her coronation, Elsa loses control of her power and ends up freezing her entire kingdom. Afraid she has become a monster, Elsa flees to the mountains, where she builds herself an opulent castle of ice.
Some want to hunt Elsa down and destroy her, but Anna sets off to rescue her sister. Along the way she teams up with a socially graceless mountain man, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), and his reindeer pal, Sven. And then (again, it’s a Disney movie) they also enlist a come-to-life, absurdly optimistic snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad).
Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, the film’s crisp, well-worth-it 3-D comes as no surprise — it’s a Disney film, but it’s produced by Pixar honcho John Lasseter and the visuals are superb throughout. It also helps that the underlying themes here — isolation, fear of one’s own self, devotion, freedom and sacrifice — are reflected so beautifully in the songs.
Menzel and Bell duet about their sense of release in “For the First Time in Forever,” and then Menzel blows the roof off with the ecstatic freedom declaration “Let It Go.” And then there’s a wonderfully dizzy tune sung by a tribe of trolls (don’t ask, just enjoy) about everyone’s imperfections called “Fixer Upper.”
Just to make sure you know it’s Disney — as if there’d be a question — “Frozen” is preceded by a don’t-miss-it Mickey Mouse cartoon called “Get a Horse.” It’s an inventive mix of hand-drawn and computer animation and an absolute blast. Uncle Walt would be proud.
“Frozen” is a winter wonder of a family film, the sort of movie you hope for during the holiday season. Well, it’s here, go see it.
Rated PG for some action and mild rude humor
Running time: 108 minutes