Thursday, December 5, 2013

Frozen [2013]

MPAA (PG)  CNS/USCCB (A-I)  ChicagoTribune (3 Stars) (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McAleer) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (C. Lemire) review
AVClub (K. McFarland) review

Frozen [2013] (screenplay and codirected by Jennifer Lee along with Chris Buck, story by Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Shane Morris inspired by the fairy tale "The Snow Queen" by Hans Christian Anderson [IMDb]) is an overwhelming positive positive story about two sisters Elsa (voiced by Idena Menzel) and Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) growing-up as princesses in a fairy-tale Scandinavian kingdom named Arendelle.  Elsa's older and destined to become queen.  That destiny/responsibility itself could make her more reserved than her younger and more openly joyful sister.  However, Elsa's also born with a gift/curse -- she finds that she can make snow and ice at will.

At first, Elsa finds this strange gift of being able turn things into ice and snow to be a lot of fun.  Yet playing one day with her fun-loving younger sister Anna, she gets distracted and accidentally freezes Anna's head.  Oh dear, did she accidentally kill her? Well the girls' father, the King (voiced by Maurice LaMarche), takes Anna to some trolls who heal her, which they do, but they also give Elsa and the king a warning: "It's still relatively easy to unfreeze a brain, but it's much harder to thaw a frozen heart."

This warning sets off a more or less inevitable cycle of family dysfunction: (1) the girls' parents become overprotective of their daughters and Elsa in particular is locked-up so that she can't ever use her special ability again, not that she'd want to, because (2) Elsa herself feels enormously guilty for having nearly killed her little sister.  Finally, (3) to "protect" Anna from the effects of this terrible accident, their (regal) parents ask the trolls to cast a spell on her so that she has no memory of what happened to her.  So Elsa grows up guilty and fearful of her now bottled-up "power," and Anna grows up with no idea at all as to why she and her older sister Elsa are being "locked-up" in the Castle.

Things come to a head when the girls' parents eventually die and Elsa then is to be crowned Queen.  She's terrified that she might make an awful mistake that will hurt others, while Anna finally FEELS FREE.  And what does Anna do, now that she's finally "free?"  She falls in love with the first Prince, Hans (voiced by Santino Fontana), that she sets her eyes on.  Well, Elsa, already "with a lot on her mind" gets angry at this.  How could her little sister Anna be so irresponsible?  After all, they've just met, and ... no longer able to control the bottled-up power within her ... Elsa begins to turn everything around her into ice and snow and running away from her Castle, plunges the whole Kingdom into an Eternal Winter.

Well, needless to say, EVERYBODY is stunned.  Nobody's ever seen Elsa (or anyone else) EVER do this.  And Anna, who would have / could have actually known something about Elsa's power/gift/gift-now-turned-into-curse has had her memory erased and SO SHE TOO JUST DOESN'T UNDERSTAND.

So Anna then decides (wisely) to put-off her sincerely if very abruptly-announced wedding to Hans and to search-out her now lost and very distraught sister, who's literally put the whole Kingdom "on ice."  Much ensues ...

Among that which ensues is that Anna, who, in her memory, has never even stepped out of the Castle, meets in her search for her sistser a fair number of odd if generally helpful characters, including Kristoff (voiced by Jonathan Groff) a villager who used to make his living cutting and storing ice from the winter and selling it in the summer (but who wants ice now when it's always winter?) and his whimsical though still only grunting raindeer named Swen and then the utterly lovable but terribly naive talking snowman named Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad) who trying really, really, really hard to "fit-in" with everybody else hoping for an end to this unending winter, voices his "dreams of summer" as well and NOBODY has the heart to tell him what happens to SNOWMEN come the summer ;-)  The trolls also come back into the story and it all just becomes a lovely, lovely tale.

One of the aspects that makes the story so lovely is the reality that Elsa's special gift/curse is actually MOSTLY a lovely one.  She can make all kinds of things that one could only imagine out of ice and snow.  It's just that she herself has trouble seeing this potential gift as anything but a curse.

This is, of course, a Disney story, so it has to end well.  But it really is a lovely, lovely story about growing-up and also coming to see things that may initially seem as curses as gifts. 

Good job folks, very good job!

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