Genre: CG Animation
Director: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Cast: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk
RunTime: 1 hr 48 mins
Released By: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Official Website: http://movies.disney.com/frozen
Opening Day: 28 November 2013
Synopsis: From the studio behind "Tangled" and "Wreck-It Ralph," Walt Disney Animation Studios presents "Frozen," the most daring comedy-adventure ever to hit the big screen. When a prophecy traps a kingdom in eternal winter, Anna (voice of Kristen Bell), a fearless optimist, teams up with extreme mountain man Kristoff (voice of Jonathan Groff) and his sidekick reindeer Sven on an epic journey to find Anna's sister Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel), the Snow Queen, and put an end to her icy spell. Encountering mystical trolls, an amazing and comedic snowman named Olaf, Everest-like conditions and magic at every turn, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom from destruction.
Walt Disney Pictures’ celebrated reputation is often entwined with its impressive history of animated musicals: mention “The Little Mermaid”, “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King”, all Oscar-winning films with extraordinary songs that have lingered as quintessential childhood memories in the minds of many.
It’s almost a return to full form this time with 2013’s holiday animated feature “Frozen”, penned and co-directed by Jennifer Lee (co-writer of “Wreck-It Ralph”) alongside Chris Buck (“Surf’s Up”). Following the trend of last year’s Scottish fairy tale “Brave”, where a feisty flame-haired princess rebels against family pressure and social expectations in order to live life on her own terms, “Frozen” is adapted from Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Snow Queen”. It features a pair of princesses from the fictional country of Arrendale who are, rather expectedly, as different as night and day: Coolly reserved and classically beautiful, Elsa (Idina Menzel, Broadway stalwart and occasional “Glee” guest star) is born with the seemingly limitless gift of being able to manipulate ice and snow, able to produce it with a wave of her hand, while her little sister Anna (Kristen Bell) is ordinary but naturally vivacious and plucky.
A childhood accident that leaves Anna aesthetically scarred with a lock of blond hair in her auburn locks convinces Elsa that her powers must be hidden in order to prevent further harm. Yet the more the truth is concealed, the less control she has. Elsa withdraws both emotionally and physically, alienating Anna and creating in her both a strong independence and a yearning for love and attention. Things take a turn for the worse with their parents’ passing. On the day of Elsa’s coronation, an argument with Anna – who is insistent on marrying Hans (Santino Fontana), a prince she met merely moments ago – agitates her to the point where she reveals her long-concealed powers to the entire city and visitors.
Terrified, Elsa flees into a distant mountain, letting loose the full extent of her talent in the construction of a new ice palace to retreat into. Meanwhile, guilt-ridden and left with a country languishing in eternal winter, Anna travels into the cold to make peace with her sister, enlisting the help of a woodsman in the unfortunate business of selling snow, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), together with his highly intuitive but non-speaking reindeer Sven and the adorable snowman Olaf (Josh Gad). In the middle of it, Anna gets iced in the heart, a fatal injury that can only be resolved by (what else?) an act of true love… but what does that look like, and is it what everyone imagines it to be?
The digital effects are top-notch, and this isn’t just in reference to the characters’ hair. Donning the 3D glasses in a typical cinema (that is, non-IMAX) gives an experience that is nearly IMAX quality. Snowflakes almost seem to fall out of the screen; the wintry landscapes seem to reduce the temperatures palpably by a few degrees Celsius. It’s a highly immersive experience, but what could pull you back during the show is when the characters breaks into song. When done well, it’s seamless; otherwise, you feel almost immediately removed. There aren’t showstopping numbers that could even think of standing alongside classics like Aladdin’s “A Whole New World”; the songs are mostly enjoyable, almost Broadway-friendly, such as the duet between the sisters entitled “The First Time in Forever” and Olaf’s entertaining but bittersweet “In Summer”. But disappointingly, the love song “Love is an Open Door” is highly mediocre.
With the exception of “Mulan” and arguably “Brave”, this animation features the most powerful and independent lead female characters from Disney in recent times. It’s a refreshing change from past fare, with the studio recognising that making a kiss from a prince a do-or-die thing could use some updating and inspiration from other young adult role models, like Katniss from “The Hunger Games”. Elsa, in particular, is admirably talented and perhaps overly powerful, hindered only by a lack of confidence and overwhelming fear of rejection. One can feel her self-actualisation unfolding when Menzel belts out the moving epic solo “Let It Go”. Anna’s determination shines through despite her neediness and immaturity. There is some element of dependence on the men in the film – Kristoff was essential out in the wilds – but when it comes down to it, both sisters relied on their own courage and wit to overcome the odds.
Bell leverages on her sprightly voice as Anna, who never lets the energy or pace flag and Groff is an impressive singer, but both are clearly outclassed by the solid prowess of Menzel, who is by far the best of the lot and ups the musical ante.
While not especially funny or romantic, the clever plot turns and the eventual twist at the end rounds up this wintry tale with a polished finish.
(One of the best animated musicals from Disney in recent years, “Frozen” eschews the formulaic fairy tale plot and promises to enthrall with dazzling visuals and a commendable soundtrack)
Review by Wong Keng Hui