In its attempt to hold onto its claim as audiences' go-to supplier of animated family fun, Disney doesn't quite manage to stick the landing with their latest, Frozen.
Still, this story concerns two royal sisters, introverted Anna (Kristen Bell) and extroverted Elsa (Idina Menzel). After a childhood accident in which Elsa's magical powers nearly kill Anna, the elder Elsa locks herself in the family's castle in an effort to never harm her sister again. Years later, Elsa, by now the queen, loses control of her magic and flees into the neighboring mountains, leaving Anna no choice but to join forces with a townie ice salesman Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) in order to save her.
Upon first viewing, it is easy to point out the film's numerous flaws. Quite a few jokes, including one involving the size of a man's feet, feel shoehorned into the script for the sole purpose of receiving the obligatory it's-not-just-for-kids praise that Pixar films receive. The soundtrack also lacks originality, managing to sound like Katy Perry album filler for the film's entire run time.
But give Frozen the credit it is due: The story ends up in a surprising place that will catch many viewers off guard, but its main strength is the cast. Disney remains the sole animation studio that still believes in casting performers on the basis of talent and suitability rather than name recognition. Bell and Menzel (Broadway's Wicked) bring emotion to their roles as siblings with diametrically opposed temperaments, while Josh Gad (Broadway's The Book of Mormon) steals the movie as Olaf, a talking snowman.
At the tail end of 2013, we are finally given the year's best animated film. Parents, you never have to watch Despicable Me 2 again.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Paupers and princesses."