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‘Frozen’ another brilliant addition to the Disney vault

Staff Writer

Published: Monday, December 2, 2013

Updated: Monday, December 2, 2013 22:12

Full of style, charm, and sheer musical brilliance, Walt Disney Animation Studios 53rd animated feature film “Frozen” is nothing less than an absolute triumph. Quite possibly the studio’s best effort since “The Lion King,” “Frozen” with its fantastic Broadway style musical numbers and colorful characters stands as not only the best animated film of the year, but the best family film of the year, period.

Loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairy tale “The Snow Queen,” “Frozen” tells the story of sisters Elsa (Idnia Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell), princesses of the land of Arendelle. Elsa has the ability to create snow and ice at her own will. Unfortunately she has difficulty controlling her powers and after her coronation as Queen her secret is discovered and she flees to the mountains plunging all of Arendelle into an eternal winter. Anna sets off to find her sister and along the way enlists the aide of ice merchant Kristoph (Jonathan Groff), Sven his reindeer and Olaf the snowman (Josh Gad) on her quest to console her sister and end the unnatural winter.

The film walks a fine line between comedy and drama, balancing each perfectly. A very likable cast of characters, including minor ones such as the forest trolls and Oaken the merchant make the film easy like. Kristen Bell brings a wonderful sense of energy and spirit to Anna, similar to Mandy Moore’s Rapunzel but on a greater level. Josh Gad’s Olaf the snowman is an immediately lovable comic character that never overstays his welcome.

The song list is fantastic. From the charming “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” and “Fixer Upper”, to more elaborate fare such as “For the First Time in Forever,” the Broadway style tunes are fantastic and while they don’t quite live up to the works of the late lyricist Howard Ashman, they remain some of Disney’s best songs in years.

One particular song, Elsa’s “Let it Go” absolutely steals the show. Idnia Menzel absolutely nails the show-stopping number, which is sung as Elsa creates her miraculous ice palace. The stunningly beautiful sequence is not only the standout highlight of the film, its also one of the very best sequences ever produced in the storied history of the studio.

Following up on his work with Disney’s Oscar winning short “Paperman,” composer Christophe Beck combines traditional orchestration (with clear Germanic and Nordic influence) with timely choral pieces to create one of the best scores of the year.

The animation is, as expected, top notch. “Frozen” adopts a style similar to that of “Tangled” but more stylized with more elaborate settings, gorgeous ice and snow effects and absolutely brilliant costume design.

“Frozen” isn’t without its faults though. The villain isn’t all that memorable, his “demise” even less so and the films climactic confrontation in general could have been a bit more dramatic. One song “Love is an Open Door” with its modern style and unimpressive lyrics feels out of place with the rest of the film’s otherwise excellent numbers.

Also of note, the short film that proceeds the film “Get a Horse!” starring Mickey Mouse is an absolute delight with a throwback 1920s animation style and a fantastic twist that you’ll have to see to believe. Funny, nostalgic and yet daringly original, you’d better believe this one will be a contender come Oscar season.

And about that title, believe me no one is as infuriated as I that the film isn’t titled “The Snow Queen”. But the truth is, much like “Tangled” before it, through the use of a gender neutral title like “Frozen,” coupled with a brilliant marketing campaign that masked the film as a run of the mill screwball animated comedy, Disney has been able to trick your average young boy into seeing a quality piece of entertainment made with class and heart of the highest quality. After over 15 long years of the likes of Dreamworks, Sony and a flurry of other third rate studios flooding the market and lowering the genre’s bar with poorly made, lowbrow and pop culture infused abominations, isn’t that the most important thing?

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