The last time Disney released a Yule-themed movie, we got a CG Jim Carrey grimacing through Robert Zemeckis’ A Christmas Carol. Four years on and the Mouse House’s latest Christmas parcel sticks with the CGI (though, notably, not mo-cap). Yet Frozen finds the studio on firmer ground, despite the film’s abundance of slippery surfaces.
Walt Disney had an abortive go at adapting The Snow Queen in the 1940s, complaining the sorceress was impossible to warm to. More than 60 years later, Wreck-It Ralph writer Jennifer Lee (who co-directs with Tarzan helmer Chris Buck) confidently hits upon a simple but effective fix-it: give the ice princess a sister.
Elsa (Idina Menzel) is the future sovereign of Arendelle, but her ability to freeze anything she touches has her locked away for years, much to the confusion of power-free sibling Anna (Kristen Bell).
Disaster strikes when Elsa accidentally puts Norway into a deep freeze, and with nary a hairdryer in sight, it’s up to plucky Anna, mountain man Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his carrot-loving, voiceless reindeer Sven and comedy snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) to defrost the world before it’s too late.
If ever there was a ‘Disney fairytale’ checklist, Frozen would tick all the boxes (feisty princess, comedy sidekick, romantic entanglements). Between its saccharine moralising and predictable resolution, there’s much for the cynical to roll eyes at. But relief comes in the film’s modern sensibilities as, refreshingly, Elsa and Anna’s relationship outranks any tired romance.
The stage-show-esque musical numbers (courtesy of Tony-winning songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez) are another plus, particularly when Menzel juices up showstopper ‘Let It Go’.
OK, so Frozen is anything but original, but the visuals are crisp and mesmerising. And in Anna, it boasts a triumphantly single-minded female role model to make past Disney princesses blush.