Widely hailed as a return to the classic animated features of yore, Frozen
arrives as an uncomplicated triumph of traditionalism, for better or worse. A musical-theater retelling of classic Hans Christian Andersen tale The Snow Queen
, hidebound Disney preservationists were worried the decidedly modern title foretold the goofy revisionism of 2010's Rapunzel fan-fic Tangled
. But there's a far easier explanation for the name change: Once again, it's all about the princesses. Kristen Bell's Anna takes center stage as a rambunctious royal eagerly awaiting the social possibilities accompanying her older sister's imminent coronation. Orphaned at a young age and isolated by a sibling whose flourishes of wintry magic are only restrained through staunch emotional unavailability, Anna thrills at the prospect of first love: One lyric snickers, "Why have a ballroom without any balls?" Compared to the pandering messiness of most kids' movies, there's plenty to excite the family-friendly faithful. Widescreen 3-D visuals sculpt an endlessly inventive setting of ice palaces and snowcapped peaks, the original songs written by veterans of Avenue Q
and The Book of Mormon
soar and tickle as needed, and snowman sidekick Olaf giddily beats back the encroaching melodrama. It's the sort of Disney film even Disney barely makes anymore, as majestic and problematic as a sudden snowfall, and, like all blizzards of youth, we'll mourn its passing.