AT this time of year, many of us are mentally preparing for the long winter ahead with resignation more than anticipation.
The Disney movie Frozen is likely to help. It's about a sorceress-princess who accidentally puts her kingdom in a deep freeze. It is a stressful situation for the villagers... and we can relate. But on the plus side, snow and ice has never looked more beautiful onscreen.
Like The Little Mermaid, Frozen is a loose adaptation of a story by Hans Christian Anderson. Young princess Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) has been obliged to live in isolation in her castle with her elder sister Elsa (Idina Menzel). Anna doesn't know it, but Elsa is the reason for the enforced solitude. Elsa is a sorceress capable of conjuring elaborate ice formations with a flick of her wrists. (Her cinematic relatives include X-Men's Iceman and The Incredibles' Frozone.)
When her secret is uncovered during her coronation as queen, Elsa accidentally puts the entire kingdom in a deep freeze and exiles herself to a nearby mountaintop. So it falls on little sister Anna to rise to the occasion and take on a mission to find Elsa and try to reverse the magic.
Anna's motivations are not entirely selfless. She has fallen in love with a handsome prince Hans (Santino Fontana) and she seeks a little happily-ever-after action. Ironically, a partner in the mission to save the kingdom is the humble ice merchant Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), a likely lad whose best friend is a reindeer named Sven, whose business is obviously at risk in an eternal-winter environment.
With Frozen, Disney synthesizes its back catalogue of musicals (including Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin) with its Pixar partnership. The animation here is truly stunning, and is only enhanced in its 3D form.
For comedy, there's the character of Olaf (Josh Gad), a living snowman, created as a childhood playmate for Elsa and Anna and now a plucky partner on Anna's mission.
The musical aspect of the show constitutes Frozen's most salient weakness. The songs by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez occasionally deliver full impact, especially Let It Go, sung by Menzel with the same empowered intensity the actress brought to the showstopper Defying Gravity in the Broadway musical Wicked.
Otherwise, the songs tend to be more poppy than the enduring Broadway-like songbooks of Disney musicals past.
Frozen is a lovely seasonal diversion for the family. But is it a classic on the order of Aladdin and The Little Mermaid? Not so much.