Movie: Frozen; Director: Chris Buck; Studio: Walt Disney Pictures; Rating: PG; My finding: 3 out of 5 stars.
"Frozen" is classic Disney. And that's a very good thing.
In an oversaturated film era where each entry tries so very hard to differentiate itself from the masses, what is often left over is a story with lots of ambition built on top of very weak fundamentals.
Luckily, Disney's history of transforming fairy tales, in this case Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," into something modern children can get behind is among the strongest in the industry.
And the kids of North Dakota will definitely benefit from this winter tale, even if it technically takes place in the summer.
It begins in the mountainous north, obviously a stand-in for Scandinavia, where rural workers sing as they carve the ice out of a lake to take it down south to sell.
And that's when we meet little Kristoff (voiced by Jonathan Groff) and his baby reindeer Sven, as they struggle to try to cut and transport much smaller ice pieces than the rugged men of their village.
It was a perfect opening to set the cold mood.
But the real stars, as in many a classic Disney film, are the princesses. These are the princesses of Arendelle, a beautiful kingdom at the bottom of a mountain range and next to a fjord, but not all is normal here.
Elsa (Idina Menzel), the older of the pair, has the magical ability to create snow and ice from her fingertips. This amazes her younger sister, Anna (Kristen Bell), who always lovingly begs her sister to build a snowman with her. With Elsa's magic, winter can take place in the comfort of their own ballroom.
But one night, Anna gets a little ambitious and jumps into the air as her sister creates frozen mountaintops for her to hop on just a little too quickly. And when Anna falls, Elsa tries to create a soft landing but instead freezes little Anna.
The solution is to take her to the trolls of the forest who can cast away the freezing death by removing all memories of the magic, but keeping the joy.
Elsa is told she must keep her magic under wraps and becomes a
shut-in, devastated by the fact that she nearly killed her little sister.
So, what once was a happy little royal family full of fun and innocence slowly devolves into a life of hiding away from everything.
That is, until Anna's coronation as queen when she reaches the proper age.
The film interweaves the love between the sisters and Anna's hurt that her best friend, her sister, had chosen to shut her and everyone else out of her life.
When disaster reveals Elsa's secret at her coronation, though, is when the real story begins. And it begins with Elsa exiling herself into a self-made super-castle of ice high on the north hill, a place where, surely, nobody would ever find her again.
And, she thinks, a place where she can do no more harm.
With Arendelle frozen in Elsa's wake, though, a confused and hurt Anna seeks out her sister, with the help of a now-grown Kristoff and Sven, to reunite and save the town.
The story is solid and the characters, while far too innocent to be of significant interest to the adults in the audience, are developed beyond what you would often see in recent children's fare.
My biggest qualm, though, is that the sound of the music has changed from the movies of my childhood. Whereas older films had the classic sounds of song and dance, this film's musical numbers seem to drift toward the modern pop music, and the overall final product seems all the less for being firmly entrenched in the now.
Being far off Broadway nowadays, it's not easy to tell if the change of sound presented here reflects a general change in stage productions that Disney so readily emulates in its products.
Of great delight to the children - and to parents, too, if they're filling in a few missing lyrical cues that the children won't yet appreciate - is Josh Gad (famous for Broadway's hit "The Book of Mormon" and an occasional columnist for USA Today) as Olaf, the talking and ever-optimistic snowman, created in a happy bit of Elsa's magic. The snowman dreams of lounging upon a beach and doing whatever it is that frozen things do in the sun.
None of the other characters have the heart to tell him, but by the end we're all fairly sure he knows. But, sometimes things in life are worth melting for.
It wouldn't be Disney without the intermixing of happy memories and a much colder present, and "Frozen" has risen the recipe to new heights to surely become another childhood classic.
(Flint McColgan is a staff writer for The Minot Daily News. His movie reviews appear in Thursday's Arts &?Entertainment section.)