"Frozen" makes a sparkling run for about 100 minutes, then stumbles briefly in its murky resolution.
It's a good movie - very good in fact. But not great.
Disney's latest is an intoxicating blend of dynamite tunes, nail-biting action, knock-out visuals, wise-cracking hilarity and a storyline that feels both elegantly classic and edgily contemporary.
Anna, voiced by Kristen Bell, looks at her sister, Queen Elsa, voiced by Idina Menzel, in the Disney film “Frozen.”
Loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's "Snow Queen," "Frozen" focuses on two royal sisters, one of whom has an unexplained ability to turn what she touches to ice - a dangerous power that grows stronger as she ages.
Having shut out her younger sister because she fears hurting her inadvertently, the ice-wielding Queen Elsa finally flees the kingdom altogether - but not before accidentally ushering in a permanent and pervasive winter.
Younger sis Anna goes after her, assisted by a talking snowman and a handsome ice salesman (his bad luck) whose appeal conflicts with the brand-new fiance Anna left behind to oversee the kingdom; they find Elsa, but she has even less control than before over her deadly power.
The eventual solution to this problem, muddy and unsatisfying as it is, might be clearer if we were ever told how Elsa acquired the ability in the first place; I have a feeling that, as with Pixar's "Brave," a good deal of backstory got omitted in the final print.
Except for this flaw, which would be less bothersome if it didn't figure so strongly in the climax, "Frozen" is pretty much an instant classic.
Its computer-generated animation is on par with anything done by this reliable studio - or by Pixar, for that matter.
In some scenes, a general color scheme unifies the visuals; in others, contrasting hues - blue and red, green and pink - complement and magnify one another in ways that set "Frozen" well above your average animated feature.
The same can be said for its tunes, composed by husband-and-wife team Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. Show-stoppers include "Fixer-Upper," "Love Is an Open Door" and "For the First Time in Forever" - with gorgeous vocal work by Broadway veteran Idina Menzel ("Wicked") and TV star Kristen Bell ("Veronica Mars").
"Frozen" gets many chuckles out of the aptly named Olaf, a helpful snowman who remains perennially cheerful despite his tendency to fall apart; as one detached body part bounces past, he implores, "Grab my butt, will you?" And he also has the inimitable line, "Well look at that - I've been impaled!"
The movie's previews frontline such gags, giving the impression of fast-paced mayhem a la "The Emperor's New Groove;" but while "Frozen" is indeed smart and modern, its story arc feels more like a well-aged fairy tale and is very much character driven. How many kids' films can you name that focus on the love relationship between two sisters?
So "Frozen" sets the standard in this new subgenre - and a pretty impressive standard at that.