Writer: Casey LeeWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
"Tangled", "Wreck-It Ralph"
If you have somehow been living in a frozen cave these past few years, you might not have known that Walt Disney Animation Studios have been on the road to recapture the magic of its Disney Renaissance classics and update its look for the era of 3D animations that was sparked by Pixar. While having to find its feet again and stumbling over a few blocks with "Tangled", the studio was steadily walking in "Wreck-It Ralph", and is now ready to take its stride with "Frozen". Take note, Pixar, because Disney is going to beat you at your own game soon.
Anna (Kristen Bell) and elder sister Elsa (Idina Menzel) are the two princesses of Arendelle; a fictional kingdom inspired by Norwegian influences, inseparable as children until Elsa's innate powers to control ice and snow accidentally gives Anna a brain freeze. While the damage done isn't fatal, it requires that Anna's memories of Elsa's powers be changed to something less supernatural. In fear that Elsa's powers would only grow stronger as she gets older, the royal family decides to cloister Anna in the castle from everyone in the kingdom, including should- have-known-better Anna, who grows up with no recollection of why her once closest sister has distanced herself over the years. When a tragic voyage takes away the king and queen, Elsa is nervously thrust onto the throne upon her coming of age that could spell potential doom for the kingdom if her powers are revealed, while Anna seeks affection to make up for her many years of loneliness.
Based, as loosely as the terms gets, on the Hans Christian Andersen's fairytale "The Snow Queen", because the only the elements borrowed for "Frozen" is just the ice and magic. Don't think for a moment you know what you are going into, even if you have watched the trailers a dozen times, because what you've seen is merely the tip of the iceberg of co-director Jennifer Lee's written tale that is not constraint by the usual beats of previous Disney princesses as suggested, but breaks the encased conventions that defined them with surprises as proof that Disney has finally distilled a new formula. Lee takes a leaf or two in defining the princesses from the most beloved of Disney's classics (and Pixar's more recently and similarly themed "Brave"), and then expands them further with their relationship to the meaning of true love and family that starts off heartbreaking (not as strong but in the vein of that opening in "Up") before it goes through a heartfelt adventure and ends with a heartwarming note.
While Lee was handling the writing aspects of "Frozen", it wouldn't have worked without the visual eye of director Chris Buck who worked closely with the animation department. As much as we can describe the intricate details and texture of the sharp ice and soft snow, all that needs to be said is if that one scene of Elsa constructing her ice palace while belting out her most defining anthem on the big screen doesn't make you stun by its magnificence, then nothing is going to impress you because you are most likely a dead cold corpse.
"Paperman" composer Christophe Beck returns this time to compose the entire feature with a riveting Nordic chorus, but the main standout for "Frozen" undoubtedly comes from the soulful songs written by 2011's "Winnie the Pooh" songwriting duo Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who seemed to be bring back some of the traditions of Alan Menken, right from the beginning with the song about frozen hearts. Unlike in "Tangled" though, these numbers are made to be connected with the characters and the story that is also well-timed; something of a lost art after the 90s. While Idina Menzel's vocal prowess shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has seen her on "Glee" or "Rent", it is Kristen Bell's turn as Anna where she demonstrates not only her range of vocal emotions, but also a surprisingly sweet singing voice that makes her able to stand shoulder to shoulder in their duet.
With enjoyable characters like Olaf the Snowman, voiced by Josh Gad with his own amusing musical of his ignorant hopes to experience summer, the trolls and the gentlemen on the fore, Kristoff and Hans, to top it off and you have a Christmas story to tell all wrapped up and tied off with a ribbon for perfect presentation.
"Frozen" will be remembered as one of the classical equivalents of the Disney Renaissance for the generation of children who never grew up with the hand-drawn classics and definitely needs to be seen by anyone who has been yearning to be able to relive a Disney classic on the levels of "The Little Mermaid" or "Beauty and the Beast". Its release for the Christmas season couldn't be more apt for parents to take their children to see it, and they should go back watching it again if they ever caught themselves singing "Do You Want to Build a Snowman", if not only to catch that after-credit scene they missed the first time.Cinema Online, 10 December 2013