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Disney’s ‘Frozen’ proves surprisingly entertaining

By Christopher K. Conner

On initial presentation, Walt Disney Animation Studio’s “Frozen” looks like it will be the typical princess verses evil relative kind of story common in the Disney archives. It doesn’t take long for this film to ditch that expectation.

The movie’s heroine, Anna (voiced by Kirsten Bell), is the second daughter of the King and Queen of Arendelle. Her older sister Elsa (Idina Menzel) was born with sorcery that allows her to summon and command ice and snow. When a late night play session ends with Elsa accidentally hitting Anna in the head with her powers, the King takes the frigid Anna to be cured by a troll shaman.

Fearing that the next accident may not be so easily cured, the troll and the King decide that Elsa must refrain from using her powers entirely. Removing all memory of Elsa’s sorcery from Anna, the two girls are isolated from each other and everyone else to prevent Anna ever knowing about her sister’s abilities.

Many years later, the King and Queen are lost at sea and the girls are left alone in their castle until Elsa is old enough to assume the throne herself. When she comes of age the gates are finally opened and Anna hopes to relieve her years of loneliness.

The awkward and clumsy teen immediately falls in love with Prince Hans (Santino Fontana) who is visiting for her sister’s coronation. When she presents him to her sister and asks for Elsa’s blessing for them to get married, Elsa refuses. In the argument that follows, Anna removes one of Elsa’s gloves and her sorcery leaks out causing a snowstorm in the middle of summer.

Elsa flees to the mountains, finally free of the restrictions she imposed on herself to keep her powers secret, but causing the entire kingdom to freeze. Some among the visiting dignitaries want the queen to be put to death for the sorcery, but Anna thinks the entire situation is her fault and goes after her sister. Anna leaves Hans in charge and goes to find her sister.

Anna enlists the aid of Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his reindeer Sven to take her higher into the mountains. When they encounter the animated snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) Anna starts to remember some of her forgotten past.  The party of four continues the search for Elsa and finds her in an ice citadel she has created.

Fulfilling the fate that their parents feared, Elsa accidentally freezes Anna’s heart. Believing only an act of true love can cure her, Kristoff rushes to take Anna back to her fiancé arms, hopefully in time to save Anna before she freezes solid.

Wracked with grief over hurting her sister, Elsa is captured and will soon be put to death, while her sister is starting to freeze solid. Kristoff, Sven and Olaf all try in their own ways to save Anna, but none fully understand what act of true love will save her.

From a plot perspective “Frozen” sets up the audience to expect the standard Disney story, but manages to take a few left turns along the way that make the tale different and in some ways unexpected.

If there was a weak spot in “Frozen,” it was the musical parts.  There was such a difference in talent between Kirsten Bell’s weakness and Idina Menzel’s strength that it made Bell’s lack of voice much more evident. The songwriting did little to help Bell, as the songs written for Anna were decidedly weaker than those for Elsa.

Vocals aside, “Frozen” had a good story, good characters and a good mythology to work with. My son was less than pleased that there wasn’t more of the snowman Olaf and less of the sisters, but my daughter loved it just as it was. For me, once I got past the musical parts, “Frozen” was surprisingly entertaining and managed to catch me off guard in a few places. That makes the film a winner, in my estimation.

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