By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — An animated princess is nothing new on the toon landscape. But Frozen defrosts two princesses for the price of one.
Loosely inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s traditional fairy tale, “The Snow Queen,” Frozen is the tale of two royal sisters and their problematic relationship.
Upbeat Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) and brooding Anna (Kristen Bell) are princesses, the daughters of the King and Queen of the Norwegian kingdom of Arendelle.
As a child, Elsa discovered that she had the magical ability, willy-nilly, to create snow and ice instantly, thus converting any environment into a winter wonderland.
That included their enormous residential palace, inside of which the sisters could go sledding or build a snowman.
The girls were raised in isolation, then lost their parents in a shipwreck, after which teenager Elsa took the throne.
But at her coronation, Elsa inadvertently revealed that she had the dark power to freeze everything around her, which she had long concealed, guilt-ridden after hurting and nearly accidentally killing her younger sister years ago.
Consequently, Arendelle has been cursed with eternal winter, and Elsa has fled the palace rather than wreak any more havoc.
Thus did the Snow Queen set up anonymous housekeeping in the snowy mountains.
Meanwhile, Anna — joined by mountain man Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and Sven, his silent reindeer sidekick — tries to track Elsa down, hoping to end the snowy spell, even while Anna engages in a troublingly speedy courtship with a visiting prince.
And let’s not forget Olaf, the snowman whom scene-stealing Josh Gad turns into the film’s comedic highlight.
Frozen is visually stunning, tossing off one photo-realistic ice landscape after another, a highly effective delivery system for its thematic concerns: female empowerment and sisterly bonding are on the menu, as are conformity and tolerance. There’s certainly nothing superficial or condescending about the subject matter of this child-targeted feature.
Directors Chris Buck (who co-directed Tarzan and Surf’s Up) and Jennifer Lee (who co-wrote Wreck-It Ralph) conjure moments that recall female-protagonist toons such as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Brave, and Tangled.
Not a world beater but a welcome addition to the genre, Frozen registers as a pleasant, calculated stepping stone to the inevitable Broadway musical, with eight original, tuneful songs by marrieds Robert Lopez (co-creator of “Avenue Q” and “The Book of Mormon”) and Kristen Anderson-Lopez that glisten with clever lyrics.
So we’ll build a snowman out of 3 stars out of 4.
As animated musicals go, Frozen may not give you or your kids chills, but it’s frosty and tasty and sweetly satisfying.