The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



Chalk up another victory for Disney. The company has the best animated film of 2013 with Frozen. That's quite an accomplishment, considering the year also gave us the cheerful Monsters University, the hilariously inventive Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, and Hayao Miyazaki's elegant, ambitious The Wind Rises. All worthy films, but Frozen is the one I suspect people will return to again and again over the coming years. It's got a timeless magic that may well help it evolve into a classic.

Very loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson's “The Snow Queen” (which also inspired a much less successful 2013 animated film, Snow Queen), Frozen is the story of Elsa (Idina Menzel), a princess in the kingdom of Arendelle. Blessed – or maybe cursed – with the gift of snow magic, Elsa is forced by her worried parents to hide her abilities after she accidentally harms her younger sister, Anna (Kristen Bell). As an adult, Elsa's magic is unintentionally triggered by Anna, casting Arendelle into eternal winter. She runs way off into the mountains to avoid causing any more harm to her sister or her subjects. Her absence opens a door for the Duke of Weselton (Alan Tudyk) to take over the kingdom, so to prevent this, Anna heads out to find her. Along the way, she receives help from a good-hearted mountain man named Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer sidekick Sven, and, later, a snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad), brought to life by Elsa.

Frozen has many of the hallmarks of the Disney classics. It is stunningly animated, with meticulously detailed settings. The lush visuals convey not only the vastness of Arendelle and its surrounding environments, but also the majesty of the ice castle Elsa makes for herself to hide away in. Every flake of snow and every hair on Sven's body is exquisitely rendered. Best of all, the style of animation really lends Frozen an ambiance all its own. The movie also has memorable musical numbers, perfectly performed by the cast. Each song is catchy and effectively integrated into the plot. Be prepared to buy the soundtrack CD afterward and have it playing on repeat.

There are, however, two things that really make Frozen special. The first is that it's a more unusual kind of story. During the initial scenes, it appears that the plot will follow a well-worn Disney fairy-tale track, with the introduction of a beautiful princess, a dashing prince, and a comic villain. Later on, there's a reference to a “true love's kiss,” which, of course, is perhaps the biggest cliché in the Disney playbook. Frozen proceeds to subvert your expectations, though, utilizing these elements in uncommon ways to create a powerful theme of sisterhood. The other ace in the hole is the vocal performance of Josh Gad as Olaf. Gad delivers one of those quintessential turns – like Eddie Murphy as Donkey or Ellen DeGeneres as Dory – that elevate the entertainment value into the stratosphere. Every time Olaf comes on screen, there are big laughs, partly because he's a funny character, but mostly because the actor delivers his lines with comic mastery.

In recent years, Disney has seen its animation domination challenged by the likes of Pixar, DreamWorks, and Blue Sky. They're stepping up their game by stepping outside the box. Last year's Wreck-It Ralph was an inventive delight, and Frozen follows boldly in its footsteps. This is a family film that will earn repeated viewings for generations to come.

( out of four)

Frozen is rated PG for some action and mild rude humor. The running time is 1 hour and 42 minutes.

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