Forget the eight forgettable tunes and Disney’s Frozen finds a pleasant home in the ranks of Disney’s animated “princess” musicals. The songs may place it closer to Tangled than The Little Mermaid, but there’s wit and whimsy in this 53rd Disney cartoon, a distant cousin of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairy tale The Snow Queen.
Broadway star Idina Menzel voices Elsa, the girl with the gift of ice about her, cursed with an X-Men-like ability to freeze things. It’s great for entertaining her baby sister.
“Do the magic, do the magic!” little Anna insists. Until it all goes wrong.
Which is why Elsa can’t play with Anna any more, even after Anna grows up to have the voice of Kristen Bell.
Elsa’s powers reach the point where she’s a danger to their kingdom of Arendel. But fleeing to the North Mountain won’t help, and Anna sets her mind to venturing out to find this Snow Queen, bringing her home and lifting the curse. Because “only an act of true love can lift the curse.”
Bell plays Anna as a girl who blurts, giving every line reading a cute teenage-girl/Christopher Walken cadence, especially “Wait, WHAT?” Bell also sings, for those who don’t know her background, and more than holds her own with the formidable Menzel (Wicked, Enchanted).
A moving montage early in the film shows Anna’s enduring connection to Elsa, even after they’re separated because of Elsa’s dangerous powers. It’s set as a duet, Do You Want to Build a Snowman?
Josh Gad is an enchanted, chatty snowman named Olaf who “loves warm hugs,” and who sings an ode to a season he’ll never know, In Summer.
“Forgettable” may be too harsh a label to slap on the tunes by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (Winnie the Pooh, with Avenue Q and Book of Mormon connections), though it’ll take the entire Disney indoctrination machine to make even the best songs — For the First Time in Forever, Let It Go — stick in the Disney songbook.
But the co-directors, Surf’s Up vet Chris Buck and Wreck-It Ralph writer Jennifer Lee, make sure the sight gags work and the jokes — cracks about yellow snow and the like — land laughs. A goofy, dog-like reindeer hangs around with the hunk, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), who helps Anna in her quest.
Alan Tudyk voices a fine, foppish if generic villain.
And the magical 3-D production design will make you forget all about those earlier movies about the prehistoric squirrel and his woolly mammoth pals.
Frozen isn’t on a par with Disney’s best musicals or even its best recent animated offerings outside of the Pixar banner. Wreck-It Ralph and Tangled were both better entertainments.
But if they’re determined to find a new princess and make her sing, they could have done far worse than Frozen. And thanks to the delightfully retro new Mickey Mouse 3-D short Get a Horse that precedes it, this “nice try” heralds bigger, more inventive things to come.