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With: (voices) Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk, Ciarán Hinds
Written by: Jennifer Lee, from a story by Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, Shane Morris, based on a story by Hans Christian Andersen
Directed by: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
MPAA Rating: PG for some action and mild rude humor
Running Time: 108
Date: 11/27/2013

Frozen (2013)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Snow Day

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Based on a tale by Hans Christian Andersen, as was Disney's great The Little Mermaid (1989), the new Disney animated feature Frozen almost recaptures the spirit of the greatest of Disney films. It has a beautiful, spunky princess and some very nice, catchy musical numbers. But what it lacks is a certain warmth.

The traditional quality of the story and the music recalls, and was crying out for, that wonderful old hand-drawn Disney style. Yet because of the underperformance of terrific hand-drawn movies like The Princess and the Frog (2009) and Winnie-the-Pooh (2011), Disney has balked and headed for computer animation. But even with Pixar's John Lasseter in the executive chair -- and despite the achievement of last year's terrific Wreck-It-Ralph -- Disney still doesn't quite have it down.

However, some of the beautiful, icy, snowy backdrops undoubtedly look better in CG, suggesting that the ultimate Frozen would have been a combination of hand-drawn characters and CG backdrops.

It begins with two sisters, princesses. The eldest is Elsa, who has a kind of snow power; she can freeze just about anything she touches. While playing with her younger sister Anna, she accidentally gives her brain freeze. Some trolls revive Anna and take away her memory of the incident, but afterward, Elsa locks herself in her room, fearful of her powers getting out of control.

The girls grow up, and coronation day comes. Anna (voiced by the delightful Kristen Bell) can't wait to finally meet some people, while Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) is fearful and reluctant to show herself. Anna meets a handsome prince, Hans (voiced by Santino Fontana), and falls in love. When she asks for her sister's blessing to marry, Elsa loses it, accidentally freezes the kingdom, and disappears into the mountains where she builds an ice castle for herself.

Anna goes after her with the help of a kindly ice deliveryman, Kristoff (voiced by Jonathan Groff), his faithful reindeer Sven, and a talking snowman, Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad), created by Elsa. There's a kind of bad guy, a Duke (voiced by Alan Tudyk), who doesn't do much other than complain and try to raise dissent. Frankly, Disney has been known for their great villains, and the two main bad guys in Frozen aren't very interesting.

Adapted and directed by Chris Buck (Tarzan, Surf's Up) and Jennifer Lee (a writer on Wreck-It-Ralph, making her directing debut), Frozen sometimes moves a little too quickly... the jokes require a lighting-fast payoff, such as a sudden punch or the sudden snatch of a carrot. The humor seems rather forced into place. Olaf, in particular, is one of the lesser Disney sidekick characters; he's not exactly annoying, but he's also just not very funny or memorable.

It's mostly disappointing given the overall lackluster state of animated movies this year, especially after such a great selection of them last year. But since it's mostly inoffensive and does have its wonderful moments, I'm giving Frozen an overall pass.

Note: I have since seen Frozen a second time, with my son (who adores it), and I'm bumping the rating up to 3 stars. I should also mention that when I attended the press screening, I was about five minutes late and agitated due to being stuck on a broken train for nearly an hour. I also missed the Mickey Mouse short, Get a Horse!, which I hope to see sometime soon. After seeing Frozen again in a more relaxed state, I was not surprised to find that I enjoyed it more.

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