Let's make this easy: If you can answer "yes" to any of the following questions, you can rest assured that watching Disney's "Frozen" should produce a satisfying experience this holiday season:
Do you like musicals?
Do you like animated movies?
Do you have a strong affection for the Disney brand and/or its derivative properties?
Do you really love Broadway-style musical numbers that culminate in dramatic vocal duels between two or more characters?
Do you have small children (or a significant other) who will make your life miserable until you take them to see the latest animated Disney musical?
Do you like funny snowmen?
If, however, you cringe when a character tries to burst into song, "Frozen" is probably not for you.
"Frozen" is the latest addition to Disney's animated-musical genre most recently occupied by 2010's "Tangled." And if "Frozen" believes in one thing, it is in those Broadway-style vocal duels. Despite some very poignant themes, the film never seems to earn the degree of drama its music suggests. "Frozen" behaves as if it is emotionally investing, but often it feels like it is getting its ice cart in front of its horse.
"Frozen" is a tale of two sisters who live in a faraway Scandinavian kingdom called Arendelle. Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) is a red-haired firebrand, gifted with pluck and spunk, and Elsa (Idina Menzel) is gifted with a supernatural power that lets her freeze whatever she touches.
As children, Elsa almost kills Anna with her power by accident, so their parents separate the sisters from each other and from society in general for most of their childhood.
When Elsa comes of age and becomes queen, the castle doors are thrown wide, and within 24 hours, Anna is engaged to a man she just met, while Elsa's ice powers are exposed to the community, and the new queen flees into the wilderness, leaving a frozen tundra and a permanent winter in her wake. In desperation, Anna heads off into the wilderness after her sister, eventually teaming up with a sentient snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad) and a backwoods ice salesman named Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) to try to bring Elsa the Ice Queen back home.
It's a nice story that mines themes of alienation, and Elsa's self-made ice castle and all its inherent themes feel like an animated cross between Superman's Fortress of Solitude and Johnny Depp's castle in "Edward Scissorhands." Tack on Anna's love-at-first-sight subplot, which offers a subtle critique that undermines a few well-tred themes from Disney's own past, and there's plenty for viewers to think about in between the songs, which, sadly, don't feel all that memorable. Luckily, Olaf the snowman is there to inject some humor and life in between the more dramatic moments.
It's hard to say whether the world of "Frozen" will compare with Disney's other long-celebrated fairy tales as the years roll on, but for this season, parents and children will probably be happy to add the new film to their resumes.
"Frozen" is rated PG for some frightening imagery (such as when Anna and company get chased by a Yeti).
Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photojournalist who appears weekly on "The KJZZ Movie Show" and also teaches English composition for Salt Lake Community College. You can see more of his work at woundedmosquito.com.
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