FROZEN (Rated PG)
Just in time for the holidays, Disney delivers classic visual beauty in “Frozen,” an animated film infused with so many fitting musical numbers that it could mark the origins for yet another big Broadway musical production from the Magic Kingdom.
Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s timeless fairy tale “The Snow Queen,” the tale of two princess sisters in “Frozen” is familiar, but the Disney touch adds some twists and turns to make it more interesting for audiences old and young alike.
As young girls, Princess Elsa and Princess Anna, residing in the imposing royal castle of the Nordic kingdom of Arendelle, are constant companions and playmates until a fateful accident reveals older sibling Elsa’s dark secret of the magical power to turn things into ice.
The sisters grow more apart, and then tragedy strikes Arendelle with the accidental death of the King and Queen, leaving now young adult Princess Elsa (voiced by Broadway “Wicked” star Idina Menzel) in line to succeed as the new Queen at a ceremony that draws diplomats and royalty from afar.
The coronation affords Princess Anna (Kristen Bell) the opportunity to reconnect with her sibling, but the joy is short-lived when Elsa removes the gloves that have managed to keep her ghastly magical powers in check.
Suddenly, the joyous occasion of Elsa’s ascension to the throne results in catastrophe as the peaceful Nordic kingdom is quickly covered in snow and ice, resulting in a depressing state of perpetual winter.
The disgraced Queen Elsa flees the kingdom for a mountain hideaway, an ice palace suited to her dark powers.
Knowing that her unnatural gift is not a force for good, Elsa seems resigned to her fate and won’t fight the evil power.
The warm and loving Anna will not give up so easily on her beloved sibling, and so she sets out to find her sister and bring her back.
Along the way, she encounters the hunky ice-seller Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) who kindly offers to help navigate the treacherous mountain passes.
Pulling Kristoff’s ice wagon is the very expressive reindeer Sven, a trusty sidekick who thankfully does not speak but conveys plenty of emotion and comic relief with knowing shrugs and sighs.
On the other hand, Olaf (Josh Gad), a buck-toothed snowman magically brought to life, is an incessant talker who provides an abundance of one-liners. He’s also a sun worshipper oblivious to the dire consequences of his wish for solar relief from Elsa’s ice age.
A fairy tale story, naturally, requires a villain, which would outwardly appear to be Queen Elsa, but she’s more a victim of a cruel fate, though she seems to adapt all too easily to her dark magical power.
Then, there’s the scheming diplomat Duke of Weselton (Alan Tudyk) who mostly frets about the loss of trade opportunities, while the initially charming Prince Hans (Santino Fontana) proves to be a conniving fortune hunter.
The duke and the duplicitous Prince Hans set out on their own quixotic expedition to find Queen Elsa, and though their intentions are less than honorable, they do not emerge as figures of over-the-top villainy and evil.
These wretched bad guys are merely accessories to the plot, as the main conflict arises between the two sisters, who were once close-knit best friends and could regain that cohesive familial bond if the power of true love is allowed to emerge again.
The ice palace that becomes Queen Elsa’s sanctuary from her Scandinavian homeland is a visual sight to behold.
Enhanced by the power of 3D imagery, the frozen castle evokes the stunning retreat of a super villain that would seem fitting for a “Batman” or “Superman” movie.
At its core, “Frozen” is a formulaic fairy tale with the obligatory happy ending. For family fun, we wouldn’t have it any other way. But there are enough twists and surprises on the road to eventual happiness to sustain interest for everyone.
What’s magical about “Frozen” is the marvelous use of cartoon technology to deliver a visual treat rooted firmly in the old tradition of Disney’s feature-length animation.
An added bonus to the 3D viewing of “Frozen” is that the main feature is preceded by the classic Mickey Mouse cartoon “Get a Horse,” which has been cleverly rebooted with an infusion of new scenes combining old and new animated techniques.
Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.