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Frozen (2013)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Hyperion Avenue Freeze-Out"
3 stars

2013 will most likely not go down as a landmark era for filmmaking but for fans of animation, it has been an exceptionally fallow period. Most of this year's offerings have been forgettable at best and flat-out awful at worst, the contribution from the once-reliable Pixar was a crushing disappointment and even the advent of a new film by Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki was tempered severely by the announcement that it would most likely be his last. To judge by the early reviews, it would seem as if "Frozen," the latest effort from Disney Studios, has turned the tide around with some observers calling it the best bit of Disney animation in years. It is a definite improvement over such recent Mouse House fare as "Bolt" and the obnoxious rip-off "Planes" and I suppose that a case could be made for it being the best animated film of the year (though I have yet to see the Miyazaki as I write this). That said, it is still an uneven enterprise that misses as often as it hits and which never comes close to approaching the greatness of the true Disney classics.

Set in the faraway kingdom of Arendelle, "Frozen" opens with the revelation that Elsa (Idina Menzel), the eldest daughter of the king, was born with the ability to magically conjure up ice and snow at will, an ability that cemented a special bond between her and her sister, Anna (Kristen Bell), until an accident involving those powers nearly costs the younger girl her life. Anna survives but Elsa is so horrified over what she has done that she locks herself away inside the castle so that she won't cause any further harm to her sibling, who has no memory of the incident and who does not understand why the sister she was so close to no longer wants anything to do with her. Years pass and on the day she is to assume the throne, Elsa reluctantly opens up the long-locked gates to the royal castle for the coronation and is reunited with Anna. The closeness between the two remains but when the sheltered Anna swoons for the handsome prince Hans (Santino Fontana)--even impulsively accepting his marriage proposal that very night--it causes a rift between the two that causes Elsa to lose control of her powers and plunge the entire kingdom in eternal winter--or what the citizens of Minnesota commonly refer to as Indian summer--before running off to live in total isolation in the mountains.

Feeling responsible for what has happened to Elsa and to her flash-frozen kingdom, Anna sets off on a quest to find her sister and bring her back home in an effort to set things right. Helping her on her journey is Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), a hunky and free-spirited ice dealer who has just seen his entire business model destroyed thanks to the sudden meteorological shifts. In a development that will no doubt shock many viewers--even the younger ones--Anna and Kristoff start off on the wrong foot but as their journey progresses, they seem to have more in common than first anticipated and Anna finds herself wondering if maybe the seemingly ideal Hans isn't the perfect guy for her after all. Eventually, Anna and Kristoff, now accompanied by a wacky talking snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad), reach Elsa but the reunion between the two sisters does not go as well as hoped for and leads to the kind of situation where only an act of true love can possibly save the day and bring a happy ending to those who deserve it.

Loosely based on the Hans Christian Anderson short story "The Snow Queen," "Frozen" has a lot of things going for it, at least in the early going. The visual style is clean and engaging, though the 3D fails to add much of anything to the proceedings other than the requisite $3 surcharge to the ticket price. The vocal casting, for the most part, is pretty much spot-on and is clearly more concerned with putting the right voices in the roles than in hiring people famous enough to get on all the talk shows to promote the film. More significantly, the story seems more concerned with developing a genuine and emotionally recognizable relationship between the two sisters than in trafficking in the frantic action sequences and ironic, self-referential humor that have become all too familiar in animated films of late.

The problem with "Frozen" is that at about the halfway point, the film seems to lose its nerve and falls back into the same old traps that have plagued so many other movies of its kind. The relationship between Elsa and Anna gets shoved to the back-burner for one elaborate action sequence after another--at one point, Anna and Kristoff find themselves doing endless battle with a particularly abominable snowman. Instead of trying to wrap things up on the same kind of human note in which they began, it has the characters racing against yet another ticking clock while deploying one would-be shocking plot twist after another. The songs, with the exception of Elsa's centerpiece number "Let It Go," are fairly unmemorable and the film would have been a lot stronger without them. (At times, it feels like we are watching the Broadway version of the film in which songs have been artlessly jammed into the narrative for no good dramatic reason.) The biggest problem, however, is the singularly unappealing presence of Olaf, the wacky snowman. In a film that makes an effort to deal in human emotions, Olaf is so overtly cartoony in every sense of the word, thanks in no small part to the obnoxiously wheedling vocal turn by Gad (who, it should be said, is no Jackie Vernon, even in Vernon's present condition) that he only serves as an ill-advised distraction to the proceedings.

"Frozen" never quite turns the corner to become the grand entertainment promised by the opening scenes but if it does miss that mark, it is only a near-miss. Little kids will no doubt enjoy it immensely and there are enough entertaining moments to ensure that older viewers will not actively resent the entire enterprise as they did with the likes of "Epic" or "Turbo." However, if you do go--and if you have children, you are pretty much obligated by law to attend--be sure to get to the theater in plenty of time because the pre-show animated short that Disney has offered up this time around is pretty brilliant. I don't want to say anything about it--I don't even want to reveal the title for fear of giving any of it away--except to note that it is a visually dazzling and absolutely hilarious work that looks to the future of animation while simultaneously paying homage to its storied past. It may only be about seven minutes long but trust me, this short is worth the admission price, even with the 3D markup, all by itself.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=23986&reviewer=389
originally posted: 11/27/13 08:24:15
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User Comments

4/07/20 bored mom An unconventional classic with two appealing heroines. The songs don't suck like Tangled's. 5 stars
6/15/19 Pun-nut butter jelly time You won't find a better movie Elsawhere. It deserves to be put Anna pedestal. Hans 4 stars
11/11/15 Danielle I was bored with this movie. :/ 2 stars
10/04/15 WALTER Critics called Frozen The best Disney movie since THE LION KING. 5 stars
10/06/14 Dominic The world's greatest movie since The Lion King. 5 stars
10/04/14 Haley S. This movie had great animation, but it had too many plotholes and poor character depth. 2 stars
9/01/14 Mario is the Best THIS MOVIE SUCKS!! WORST DISNEY MOVIE EVER!! And the most overrated. 1 stars
7/15/14 SunsetShimmerChan This movie is a great film! It is a great modern day Disney musical film! 5 stars
7/13/14 dr.lao Nothing but an excuse to make a Broadway musical. I came wanting to see an actual movie. 2 stars
5/22/14 KC Can't help it, love this movie! 5 stars
3/03/14 KingNeutron A couple too many songs, but major plot twist- and Olaf was cute+funny. Marketed to 12 yo's 4 stars
2/03/14 alice DISNEY'S BACK BABY ! :D 5 stars
1/20/14 Del This movie is a simple metaphor: 'Love thaws a Frozen Heart' 4 stars
1/19/14 Charles Tatum Wonderful, much better than you've heard, best ani of the year 5 stars
12/28/13 Joanna Whitmire WHY is Elsa deemed less evil than Hans? 2 stars
12/04/13 Bob Dog Loved the old school Broadway songs, hated the scary puppet 3D animation and clunky story. 2 stars
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  27-Nov-2013 (PG)
  DVD: 18-Mar-2014

  06-Dec-2013 (PG)

  DVD: 18-Mar-2014

Directed by
  Chris Buck

Written by
  Shane Morris

  Kristen Bell
  Idina Menzel

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