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From left: Anna, Olaf, Kristoff and Sven the reindeer in Disney’s “Frozen.” Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios
From left: Anna, Olaf, Kristoff and Sven the reindeer in Disney’s “Frozen.” Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios
ArtsRancho Santa Fe

Disney’s magic is in full display with ‘Frozen’

Beautiful animation, engaging characterizations, excellent voice acting, and melodious music make “Frozen” a memorable, poignant treat for the whole family. 

The kingdom of Arendelle has two princesses: Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel), the latter of whom can create ice and snow. However, Elsa has been suppressing her cryokinetic abilities due to her sister nearly getting killed once.

On the day of her coronation, she loses control of her powers and flees into the mountains; unfortunately, her emotions blanket the kingdom in a never-ending winter. As a result, people now see her as a monster.

Anna, the fearless optimist, doesn’t believe her sister is anything but a good person, so she must journey through the freezing landscape with mountain man Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his reindeer sidekick Sven, as well as the comical snowman Olaf (Josh Gad), to set things right. The question is: can Anna save Arendelle from this winter and find Elsa? To make matters worse, Elsa fears no one, not even her sister, can do anything to help her.

The story, which is loosely inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Snow Queen,” has that magical Disney depth I haven’t felt since the 1990s, and I was hooked from beginning to end. I never lost interest in the drastic measures Anna took or the tribulations Elsa faced. Every event throughout this epic quest falls into place at the right moment, taking the audience on a compelling journey they’ll not soon forget.

When it comes to the animation, “Frozen” achieves a perfect score in my book. The animators render the various characters and environments — fjords, mountains, glaciers, and forrests — with such immaculate detail, rivaling Pixar’s best efforts. In the case of Elsa’s cold powers, “impressive” doesn’t even begin to describe the spectacular nature of the ice and snow that she creates; if anything, I think “incredible” would be more accurate.

And don’t get me started on the music, which is nothing short of marvelous. Christophe Beck’s score, along with Robert and Kristen Anderson-Lopez’s catchy songs, deliver on its promise to not only drive home the adventure that Anna and her allies undertake, but also bring the emotional fear growing in Elsa’s heart into sharper focus.

Bell, Groff, and Gad handle their singing parts well, but it’s Menzel who takes the cake; it’s impossible not to be blown away by “Let It Go,” which showcases the Tony Award-winning actress’s powerful belting technique.

Oh, and by the way, I wouldn’t be surprised, much less embarrassed, if those musical numbers reach the children’s ears and, before you know it, their vocal cords. After all, I have fond memories of singing to tunes like that when I was their age.

Animation and music aside, what really makes “Frozen” so memorable is that it creates characters we can relate to and, therefore, want to see what’ll become of them.

The relationship between Anna and Elsa is as genuine as I’ve seen in a live-action setting, and watching those themes of family and love versus isolation and fear touched my heart in more ways than one.

It was also refreshing to see Kristoff undergo a transformation from a regular guy to a hero with a purpose. And boy, Olaf’s dreams of finding warmth have just made my appreciation of snowmen even greater. But to have your animated characters come to life, you need a top-notch voice cast to pull off such a feat, and “Frozen” does just that.

Kristen Bell earns top marks for instilling a spirited sensibility in the clumsy yet well-meaning Anna. Idina Menzel brings a graceful vulnerability to Elsa, the Snow Queen, combining her fear of losing control with her desire to be free to create a layered character for the ages. Jonathan Groff rises to the challenge of making Kristoff both a normal person and a hero, and succeeds. Josh Gad is downright funny in his role of Olaf the Snowman, whose sense of humor indicates a heart that doesn’t physically exist.

Take your folks and friends to see “Frozen” once it arrives in theaters, if only to appreciate what it means to love and be part of a family, as well as experiencing that timeless Disney magic once more.

MPAA rating: PG for some action and mild rude humor.
Running time: 1 hour and 48 minutes
Playing: In general release