The short of it is that Frozen is the best Disney musical since Aladdin.
Growing up I was a sucker for the great Menken/Ashman Disney Renessance movies: The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. None of the musicals since, not even The Lion King, have been able to capture that magic.
Like The Little Mermaid, it is loosely based on a Hans Christian Anderson story. It is about two sisters: Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell). These princesses are close to each other, but Elsa has the ability to freeze things. After accidentally hurting Anna, their parents decide to wipe her memory of Elsa's powers and teach the older Elsa to hide her powers from the world. This causes a rift between the sisters as they grow up with Anna not understanding Elsa's distance and Elsa held back by her secret.
Without giving much of the plot away, circumstances force Elsa to flee to the mountains. Anna must leave behind her love-at-first-sight fiancee Prince Hans (Santino Fontana) to search for her sister. Together with with a working class ice merchant Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his trusty reindeer Sven, and a magical snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad), they must climb the mountain to save (in more ways than one) Elsa.
There is a great deal to admire about this movie. The visuals are just beautiful. The design of the characters is consistent with traditional 2D Disney animation, but they made the right call by going computer animated. The ice effects, with all of their translucent textures and subtle reflections give the move a tangible quality that you would not have been able to mimic in hand drawn cells.
And the music is top notch. "Let it Go," Elsa's ballad of liberation is beautiful and powerful.
But each of the numbers is fun and moving. You cannot underestimate the power of good music. I am convinced that Randy Newman's awful soundtrack to The Princess and the Frog is what caused that movie to fail the way it did.
Not to mention that the story is both moving and funny. I love the way this story explores the relationship between sisters, something I don't think has been really developed in a Disney princess movie. But Olaf, Sven, and Kristoff bring the right amount of laughs to the story. Olaf is particularly funny with his inability to grasp how his desire for Summertime could be his undoing.
But my favorite part of the movie is the theme. Like most films of this kind, it is centered on true love. But what impressed me most was that Frozen does not stay down at the level of mere sentiment or even high romance. That a movie aimed at children would try to instill in them the fundamental idea that love is not a feeling but a choice… I think that is a profound statement to make.
In the classroom, I have already used Frozen as a concrete example of Christian love. Anna, Elsa, Kristoff… all of the characters have to confront the idea of love and sacrifice. And our faith reminds us that love is putting the needs of others before your own and that this love must be expressed in some kind of sacrifice.
I left the theater moved and delighted.
And isn't that what we are looking for in a fairy tale?
4 and 1/2 out of 5 stars.