Princess Elsa (Menzel) can create snow, and as a child she accidentally injures her sister Anna (Bell). She tries to control her gift, but when her power is revealed at her coronation, she flees in panic — plunging the kingdom into eternal winter. Anna must go after her and find a way to undo the spell.
Disney has always taken a fast and loose approach to adapting classic fairy tales, adding dragons to Sleeping Beauty, talking crabs to The Little Mermaid and dancing teapots to Beauty And The Beast. But their adaptations also have distinct phases: there were the early, faintly Germanic fantasies; the lacklustre ’80s and the feisty ’90s princesses. Now we’re in the Tangled era, notable for big Broadway numbers, large quadrupeds that act like canines and adjectival titles that don’t mention the heroine.
The result here is that a story about two sisters — powerful, scared Elsa (Idina Menzel) and good-hearted Anna (Kristen Bell) — is planted in, and occasionally obscured by, an almost entirely male supporting cast. The emotional moments are powered by the bond between the manga-looking, wasp-waisted sisters — their eyes literally bigger than their stomachs — but the comedy comes largely from the buddy relationships between the guys, heroic ice-harvester Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), dog-like reindeer Sven and sentient snowman Olaf (Josh Gad). It’s a division of labour that leaves the very funny Anna playing second fiddle and Elsa’s struggle to either control her powers or revel in them sidelined for long stretches, undermining the finale.
Thankfully, the jokes consistently land, particularly those involving cheery, innocent snowman Olaf, and the snowy, icy animation is impeccable. The big songs are also appropriately stirring: Idina Menzel belts Let It Go like it insulted her mother and Gad’s In Summer is a cheery, comic ditty straight out of The Book Of Mormon’s playbook. There is even one plot turn that qualifies as radical in fairy tale terms and perhaps signals a more daring way to approach these films. Given how closely most of this entry resembles the beats and tone of Tangled, it feels like Disney Animation should take more such risks, to add more individual identity to the craft.
The plots all over the place, but there are a lot of laughs and some strong action beats along the way.