Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
November 26, 2013
**1/2 (out of four)
To repeat: The time has come to can it with the princess stories. Really. Disney’s latest animated musical, “Frozen,” makes nice statements about sisterly bonds and romantic motivations; why must this be done in the shadow of a palace?
That’s not the only question worth asking about a film (inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen”) whose songs triumph over its story. In a prologue, young princess Elsa (Idina Menzel) uses her unusual powers to create ice and snow and play with her little sis, Anna (Kristen Bell), who delightfully swoops and tumbles—until she gets hurt and their parents insist Elsa Freezerhands hide her abilities forever. It’s not until years later, after the king and queen have drowned and Ms. Freeze will be crowned, that her secret slips out of the questionably effective gloves that keep her skills under control. Why? Because she’s ungloved and unsettled when Anna gets engaged to Hans (Santino Fontana), whom she met earlier that day.
When the couple ask if they can say something crazy, I really thought they were going to follow it with, “Call me maybe?”
The adventure that follows is ripped straight from the fairy tale playbook of an ostracized monster and angry townspeople, with Elsa’s voluntary retreat to a self-made ice castle feeling like a reverse of the Rapunzel framework in “Tangled.” Sorry, the notion of a girl who can make ice—and people unhappy about an unseasonably chilly summer—hardly rejuvenates the ordinary. For obligatory and not very funny comic relief, there’s a goofy ice salesman named Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) who swears all men eat boogers, his pet reindeer Sven and a talking snowman named Olaf voiced by Josh Gad (“The Rocker,” “Jobs”), who in much of his other work seems to think he’s playing an animated snowman anyway.
When anyone breaks into song, however, “Frozen” makes you forget the typical shots of grand ballrooms and purty dresses or the silliness of people running from cold a la “The Day After Tomorrow.” Written and co-directed by “Wreck-It Ralph” co-writer Jennifer Lee (who resorts to butt jokes and steals an “Arrested Development” punchline), the film sometimes becomes a catchy tale of sibling miscommunication and hearts in need of some warmth. On that note: Count on many youngsters to walk out wondering, “Mommy, I love you, so why is Chicago so freaking cold?”
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U
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