Kristen Bell voices Princess Anna, a spirited idealist who wants nothing more than to form a relationship with her estranged, disconnected older sister Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel). However the monarch carries a dark secret, with dangerous, uncontrollable powers in her fingertips, disallowing her the chance to get close to anyone. Therefore when Anna falls in love with Hans (Santino Fontana), this triggers the destructive supernatural forces within Elsa, who then flees her kingdom in turn for a life alone, isolated deep into the forest. However Anna is determined to bring her sister back home and prove she isn’t the cold-hearted witch the locals believe her to be, setting off into a snow storm alongside burly adventurer Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his loyal reindeer Sven – and Olaf (Josh Gad) a talking snowman they happen to pick up along the way.
If there is one thing for certain, and this comes with the territory as far as Andersen is concerned, is that the story is so enchanting, dynamic and yet so dark, providing this film with an unpredictable undercurrent that compliments the narrative well, counteracting against the magical romanticism that also exists. There are various twists and turns in the plot, while the villain of the piece, in some respects, is Elsa – and this works incredibly well as she’s an anti-villain of sorts, creating a confliction of emotions within the viewer as we sympathise and fear her in equal measure. She doesn’t want to be evil and she resents her powers, making for an empathetic villain, playing on the usual Disney antagonist.
It’s very witty too, with so much in here for an adult audience, even if at times you’ve got to disregard some of the schmaltz aimed at the younger members of the audience (‘only true love can defrost a heart,’ etc). The vast majority of the humour derives from Olaf, who is a classic, comic creation, as a sidekick that could mean as much to a new generation of children in the same way those before them grew up loving the likes of Timon & Pumbaa, or Jiminy Cricket, for example. It’s no surprise that the film drastically improves when he enters in to proceedings – he’s funny and sweet, and best of all, he’s a snowman who naively longs for the summer. Bless his little frozen feet.
Another masterful creation is Anna, who is so affable and endearing, and most importantly, she’s flawed – clumsy and awkward in her demeanour. It’s encouraging, also, to continue to see strong leading roles in children’s animations be female, following on from the likes of Brave and Tangled. It’s also great to see a voice cast picked on their performance credentials in such a field, rather than simply opting for big names to draw in the punters. Sometimes films of this ilk can be accused of hiring actors for their reputation – but in this instance, much of the cast are theatre performers from Broadway, and their presence and strength, vocally, benefits this production. Particularly where the songs are concerned – which, though hit and miss, do hit often enough to ensure you spend your journey back home humming, whether you like it or not.
Frozen may be traditional and conventional, but it embraces such an approach. There is always room for innovation in animation with films such as Wall-E and Up, for example, but there’s also a place for some good old-fashioned storytelling. This is simply charming cinema, and to counteract the film’s title somewhat, it sure does leave you feeling rather warm.