Before the main feature, the usual short Disney film is shown. "Get a Horse" begins with what looks to be a very old Disney cartoon, featuring Mickey Mouse in the days before he wore his signature white gloves, a la "Steamboat Willie". My son was concerned at first, as he wasn't interested in watching such an "old fashioned" cartoon. I had a feeling that some Disney magic was afoot, and I was right. Just tell your kids to hold on-- the piece leaps forward into the 21st century before you know it. Those of you who see it in 3D will probably enjoy it even more than I did in our 2D screening.
Frozen is loosely based on the Hans Christian Andersen story The Snow Queen. Although I read the derivative, weak novel Winter's Child a few years ago, I'm not overly familiar with the mythology of Andersen's fairy tale. So if the connection between Disney's script and Andersen's work is tenuous at best, I wasn't aware of it. The story definitely received the "Disney treatment", but in this case I think that was a good thing.
While the two main characters are royal females, I wouldn't characterize this as a typical "princess movie". Yes, there are pretty dresses, magic, a handsome prince and anthropomorphic characters, but there's much more than that. The story of Frozen is very enjoyable, adventurous and wondrous. Even with all the skirts running about, my normally girl-adverse son really enjoyed himself. Of course he covered his eyes during any of the very low-key romantic parts, but that was not the main focus of the story. A fellow third grade friend of his joined us in our row, and both boys really had a great time with it.
Disney and/or Pixar is famous for humorous sidekicks, and there are a couple in this feature. Olaf is a magical snowman who oddly dreams of experiencing summer. I enjoyed his comic relief, unlike some other sidekicks in recent years, some of which I found to be quite distasteful. The Princess and the Frog, Brave and Treasure Planet come to mind. Another buddy character is Sven the reindeer, cohort to Kristoff, a local ice peddler. He acts more like a canine than a reindeer at times, and there were moments when he reminded me of Maximus the horse in the 2010 movie Tangled. Like Maximus, he didn't have the magical gift of speech, but his body language and facial expressions more than took care of that. I didn't enjoy him as much as I did Maximus two years ago, but he was fun.
As far as the PG nature of the film-- I suppose it received that rating because of some tense, exciting moments in the movie. There's one chase scene involving glowing-eyed wolves, but it's very short and far less foreboding than the evil bear scenes in last year's Brave. Exciting, climactic moments happen more than once along the way, but they aren't overdone in my opinion. Lives are certainly in jeopardy, but it's handled in a very family-friendly manner.
The romantic elements of the story are very chaste. My son didn't care for those moments, much like the grandson in The Princess Bride. I'm sure he was thinking, "Can we skip this part?!?" But truly, romance is not the main theme of the movie. For the most part the language was pretty clean. There are a few "What the...?!?" moments, and Olaf references his "butt" more times than I'd prefer. My son got several laughs out of the butt references, though. And I could have done without one particular nose-picking joke,
but it was quick and we moved on.
There are several musical sequences, most of which were well done and in the usual Broadway-like style. However, they really could have skipped the number involving the rock trolls. It seemed unnecessary, and I found it annoying. But overall I enjoyed the soundtrack and performances. "The First Time in Forever" was particularly nice.
While this isn't my favorite animated film of all time, I certainly can give it my endorsement. Even though it garnered a PG rating, I'd feel comfortable taking grade-school children to see this. It was an enjoyable way to spend part of my Thanksgiving weekend. It had a fine script, compelling music and incredible animation. In recent years I never thought I'd say it, but I think Disney Studios may be catching up to its partner/competitor Pixar. This one certainly trumps the last four films that Pixar has produced. They were able to create an animated feature that I actually enjoyed, as opposed to the mere toleration I've felt with Pixar lately.
So if you head out to the movies on this holiday weekend, consider Frozen for you and your family. And let me know what you thought-- was it a rollicking good time, or did the experience just leave you cold? That certainly was not the case for me. The only ice to be found was on the screen, and certainly not on my row of the theater.