Call me what you will, but animation (except for SOUTH PARK) has never been my favorite genre. There have been wonderful exceptions, such as BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, TANGLED, and the first half hour of WALL-E, and yes, I did shed a tear during TOY STORY 3, but more often than not, I get a sugar overload and strained eyes.
So, I'm happy to report that Disney's new FROZEN is a pretty terrific film. Sure, it has some cloying non-human characters just waiting to get packed into a Happy Meal, and what would a Disney Princess be without those creepy Margaret Keane-esque bug-eyes? But, for the most part, this is a shimmering, wintry saga, complete with some memorable, Broadway-caliber tunes and a girl power message to boot.
Based very loosely on Hans Christian Andersen's THE SNOW QUEEN, FROZEN tells the tale of two Princesses, one, Elsa, who possesses the power to freeze things at will and her sister, Anna, who is separated from her sibling to stay out of harm's way. Their "Let's Build A Snowman" number is arguably the best in the film and beautifully lays out their special bond. Once apart, Anna strives to reunite with Elsa in order to not only save their relationship, but to save the kingdom, which Elsa has turned into a frozen nightmare.
I won't spoil any more of the plot, as it's filled with wonderful twists, and every shot is a mini-masterpiece. Hauntingly lit and flawlessly composed, the experience of watching this is one big gaping smile. Now, it's not perfect. The last act is music-free and could have used a reprieve of its signature song, and you'd have to have been deprived of fairy tales while growing up to not be able to guess where this is all leading to, but the journey is quite remarkable. Such Disney staples as non-human comic relief feel a tad strained at times (the Trolls never really caught on for me, and Sven the reindeer followed the cute Disney handbook rules to the letter). Strangest of all was the opening music, which evoked THE LION KING chanting, yet this film is set in Scandinavia and the scene involved burly men procuring blocks of ice from a frozen fjord. Random.
Still, Olaf (well-voiced by BOOK OF MORMON star Josh Gad) is a great creation, a snowman who longs to experience Summer. Stealing every scene, his big moment, "In Summer" is on a par with "Under The Sea". Just watching him come in contact with heat is one of the true joys of this holiday season. Kristen Bell does a great job of giving neurotic nuance to Anna, and Idina Menzel sings the hell out of her big number and convincingly walks the tightrope of making a somewhat villainous character sympathetic. When she unleashes her powers at the big ball, I couldn't help but think of CARRIE at the prom, minus the pig's blood and the dead Gym Teacher, of course.
FROZEN is preceded by a fantastic short, GET A HORSE, which mixes black and white animation with dazzlingly colored CGI. A must-see in 3D, this is an amazing technical achievement, and the less you know about it, the better.
FROZEN deserves all of the accolades it will undoubtedly receive (a certain animated Oscar winner), and is a feather in the Disney cap. If only it would have remembered to be a musical all the way through. Oh well, they can't all be BIGGER, LONGER AND UNCUT.